Occupy Twitter: Data Reveals Passion

Emily Chambliss

Support for the Occupy Wall Street movement has been growing.  Not only have celebrities (Mark Ruffalo, Roseanne Barr, Russel Simmons, Susan Sarandon, Yoko Ono, Alec Baldwin) shown their support, the movement also has corporate support from Ben & Jerry’s. Even Kanye West has come down to Wall Street.

I remember moving to Bushwick five weeks ago and seeing “OccupyWallSt.org” tagged on Morgan Avenue. I didn’t think anything of it.  I didn’t go to the website. I really didn’t register it at all.

But online buzz about Occupy Wall Street grew. I saw Facebook posts and news articles about it. Some of my acquaintances were talking about it IRL. There were videos floating around depicting police officers macing protestors and tackling them with predictable excessive force. It wasn’t until my best friend was arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge along with 700 other people when it suddenly hit me: We have to measure this.

The next day, I enlisted the help of my fellow data analysts to monitor Occupy Wall Street.  We wrote tracking queries and let the data populate.  Here’s what I found looking at data gathered from September 10th to October 10th, a date range I chose because it shows when online activity really started to pick up.

Just as they did during the Arab Spring movement, people have once again turned to Twitter as the most popular venue to share information about Occupy Wall Street. Other networks had less volume of mentions about the movement, so I chose to focus on Twitter.

The Twitter Buzz chart shows volume of mentions by day.  Unlike typical social media patterns, Twitter mentions always peaked on Saturdays and steadily declined for a week.  This decaying pattern repeated several times revealing an atypical trend.  Typically, we see mentions peaking mid-week while people are pretending to be working.  My interpretation of this uncommon trend speaks to the immense passion the supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Rather than tweet at the convenience of their desks, they used their weekend time to spread awareness of a cause they truly believe in.

The mass arrest of protestors on the Brooklyn Bridge caused an immense spike in Twitter activity on 10/1 that remained significantly high until 10/6.   This event marked the tipping point in social media awareness about the movement that has continued until the present.

I averaged the number of mentions per day for the first three weeks, which also corresponded with major Occupy Wall Street events (see red numbers on the Twitter Buzz chart).  In the first week, average mentions per day were an unimpressive 18.8 mentions per day.  Not many people were talking about Occupy Wall Street.  After the start of occupation on 9/17 and up until 9/23, average mentions per day increased by a whopping 2,004%. The following week had a 97% increase over the week prior, and the week after the Brooklyn Bridge arrests saw a 216% increase in average mentions per day.

Since the week following the Brooklyn Bridge arrests, daily Twitter mentions have decreased, but they remain high compared with the weeks prior to 10/1.  Although we didn’t see a spike in activity last weekend that would have followed the weekly trend, we may see a resurgence of activity in the weeks to come.

Let’s just say its exciting time to be a social media data analyst!


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