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Twitter 'tired' of Mandela

16 December 2013, 07:47Duncan Alfreds

Cape Town - The news of Nelson Mandela's death may have captivated the public discourse, but social media reveals that interest has declined quickly.

The outpouring of grief and commentary on social media platforms was verified by statistics provided by Twitter tracker Topsy.com, which showed that over six million tweets on Mandela were recorded on 5 December.

But this number was a peak and quickly dropped off, despite continued media coverage across online, print and broadcast mediums.

Even the funeral ceremony for Mandela on Sunday generated only 328 000 tweets, far below the peak, despite massive media coverage.
Viewed over the period of a month prior, tweets on Mandela added up to over 13 million, significantly higher than US President Barack Obama at 5.2 million.

However these numbers pale in comparison to pop star Justin Bieber who amassed in excess of 41 million tweets over the same period.

The death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden holds the Twitter record for an individual with a peak tweet rate of over 206 000 missives per minute, far above Mandela at a maximum peak of 95 000 tweets per minute.

Fickle social media

A Pew research study recently found that sentiment on social media can shift quickly. In the US, Twitter sentiment on same sex marriage shifted from 55% negative to 43% positive in a period of just one month.

The research noted that social media sentiment may match public opinion, but it was not a reliable indicator.

As an example, 64% on Twitter supported stricter gun control after the tragic mass shooting in Newton, Connecticut, but this sentiment has not been repeated in public opinion surveys.

In South Africa, despite huge social media sentiment against e-tolls, as well as political opposition, the programme was nevertheless rolled out.

There is still much debate on the value of retweets or likes on Facebook in terms of what value it offers to both brands and individuals.

"The value of Social Media endorsements is always been a hotly debated topic," Gordon Geldenhuys, head of Online Reputation Management at Acceleration Media told News24.

He said that the value of a social media endorsement was linked to the kind of business, rather than directly related to sales.

"There are good arguments for or against establishing a standardised value for social metrics such as value of a retweet or value of a Facebook like. However, many have arrived at the understanding that it's relative to the business and there seems to be growing consensus that the value of a retweet or a Facebook like has everything to do with the nature of the business itself."

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