Social media allows people to voice their opinions and spread their ideas to an audience on a scale that was unimaginable a few years ago. An idea propagated on social media by multiple sources can gain momentum, reach critical mass, and culminate in real world change.
The Egyptian Revolution is a recent example of this phenomenon. Today, we are in a similar situation. The Occupy movement in social media has become so closely intertwined with events in the real world that the two are hardly distinguishable. Here, we take a closer look at how the Occupy movement advanced through actions on Twitter.
Adbusters, the anti-consumerist magazine, initiated the “Occupy” idea in June just on the heels on the Egyptian Revolution. However, it only gained traction on Twitter in the later half of September. The agitation in the social media space helped solidify plans for the Occupy Wall Street protest that occurred on September 17th, 2011. This day is considered widely as the start of the Occupy movement.
We analyzed retweet data from Twitter between September 15th, 2011 and November 29th, 2011. We looked for all retweets that mentioned “occupy” and related terms (even #occupyklout). The chart below shows the number of retweets per day over the 75-day period. The peaks in activity correspond, unsurprisingly, to important events in the timeline of the movement.
The table below shows the number of retweets on days that Occupy events occurred. It is interesting to note that in some cases, the rise of Twitter retweets follows a real-world event, while in other cases it precedes real-world events.
|Date||# of Retweets||Event|
|9/17/2011||70,307||The first day of the Occupy Wall Street gathering that an estimated 1,000 people attended.|
|9/24/2011||59,084||At least 80 arrests are made by the NYPD after protesters begin marching uptown, forcing the closure of several streets. Soon after the arrests, videos begin to appear around the web.|
|10/01/2011||118,290||Protesters set out to march across the Brooklyn Bridge. The New York Times reported that more than 700 arrests were made.|
|10/05/2011||116,305||Joined by union members, students, and the unemployed, the demonstrations swelled to the largest yet with an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 demonstrators marching from lower Manhattan’s Foley Square to Zuccotti Park.|
|10/15/2011||257,894||Tens of thousands of demonstrators staged rallies in 900 cities around the world.|
|10/25/2011||103,462||Police cleared and closed an Occupy Oakland encampment. An Iraq War veteran from the U.S. Marines is in critical condition after “being hit in the head by a police projectile.”|
|10/26/2011||244,228||Hundreds of OWS protesters marched near Union Square in support of Iraq War veteran and Occupy Oakland protester Scott Olsen.|
|11/15/2011||394,463||NYPD began to clear Zuccotti Park.|
|11/18/2011||144,007||Occupy movement protesters on the UC Davis campus are pepper sprayed.|
We also looked at the top content based on retweet count. The average Klout score of these users is about 65.
|Content||# of Retweets||User||Klout Score|
|0 Bankers Were Arrested After Purposely Crashing Our Economy. Nearly 1,000 Have Been Arrested for Speaking Up About it. #OccupyWallStreet||5874||TheNewDeal||67|
|NYC authorities clearly feel #OWS eviction is just and reasonable. That’s why they are doing it at 2am and barring all press.||4427||gzornick||58|
|█████ ████ everything ███ █████ is█████ ████ fine ████ ███ ██████ love █████ █ your █ ████ government http://t.co/cFIdfbcW #ows||4235||wikileaks||73|
|#occupyoakland attacked by 500 cops in suprise assault. tear gas, rubber bullets, shotguns, flash bang grenades. Many injured.||4126||occupyoakland||72|
|If Fred Phelps has the right to verbally abuse people going to their son’s funerals, then #OWS has the right to sit in the middle of a park||3797||MarthaPlimpton||69|
|The world needs to know that Oakland PD is tear gassing the elderly, the disabled, children, and the press. #PoliceState #OccupyOakland #OWS||3370||AnonymousWiki||51|
|After cops raided #occupysf and tossed their stuff in the dump, garbage workers returned it to the protesters, saying “we r 99 % too”||3336||NaomiAKlein||66|
|#OWS and #OccupyWallStreet are blocked from Trending topics. But its great to know that twitter lets #MyDickIn3WordsOrLess take first place||3098||SweetOnPeacexx||53|
|#OWS Fact: More people have now been arrested for protesting financial crimes than the # of bankers arrested for committing those crimes.||3008||xeni||72|
So who were the catalysts of this massive movement? We discovered the top influencers by looking at Twitter users whose Occupy-related content was retweeted the most. The table below shows the top users and the number of times their content was retweeted. Incidentally, the average Klout score of these users is about 73.
Many of the top influencers are groups of people, such as the hacktivist group Anonymous (@AnonyOps, @AnonOps, and @YourAnonNews). We also find prominent figures driving the movement such as filmmaker Michael Moore and Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont. But the true power of social media is that you don’t have to be a famous director or a U.S. senator to be heard. Lesser-known individuals such as Liza Sabater and Allison Kilkenney were instrumental in driving action not only in social media but in the real world as well.
The Occupy movement demonstrates that with social media, a small group of influencers can generate and spread an idea that reaches thousands of people, who in turn amplify the idea to millions of others. Klout aims to be a tool for measuring influence. But beyond that, Klout enables people to find the right channels to make themselves heard and to find the right people who will take their ideas further.
So go ahead, spread an idea. Start a movement!