Saturday 01 October 2016

Tweeting the 57th Presidential Inauguration

Last week, the world watched as Barack Obama was sworn into his second term as President of the United States. Although ceremony attendance at the 57th Presidential Inauguration was roughly half that of 2009, Twitter conversation during the ceremony increased more than 13 times, from 82,392 tweets four years ago to 1.1 million tweets in just over one hour last Monday.

A Crimson Hexagon analysis of Inaugural Twitter conversation found that only 4 percent of tweets were negative or “not interested” in the day’s events ­­– an unusually low percentage on a platform where criticism often goes viral. Instead, around 34 percent of tweets focused on the ceremony’s performances or speakers, while the historical nature of an African American president being sworn in for a second time (and on Martin Luther King Day no less) accounted for about 11 percent of tweets. “Sasha and Malia,” “the First Daughters” and “Beyonce and Jay-Z” were among the inauguration terms that trended worldwide, speaking to the pop culture sensationalism that often drives Twitter conversations.

Both @WhiteHouse and @ObamaInaugural accounts live-tweeted the Inauguration Ceremony, posting key quotes from President Obama’s speech. According to Twitter, ceremony conversation peaked at 12:08 pm –  or 27,795 tweets per minute – when President Obama discussed the current divide between the Republican and Democratic political parties, saying, “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.” Equality messages also played well on Twitter, with a @WhiteHouse tweet about gay rights receiving almost 7,000 retweets to date.

While many in DC braved the cold weather and crowds on the National Mall, the @EdelmanTechDC team monitored Twitter conversation in real time. The team used proprietary Edelman software called Flow140, which graphs clusters of conversation in real time and identifies “Patient Zero,” or the user(s) who most influence conversation and inspire retweets.

As could be expected, celebrities’ tweets and traffic from @BarackObama and @WhiteHouse had a great deal of influence on Inaugural Twitter conversation. But @EdelmanTechDC also found lesser-known users who played a role in driving #inaug2013 messages. Take @Christiana1987 who – with fewer than 6,000 Twitter followers – quickly earned more than 2,300 retweets for a tweet celebrating the significance of President Obama’s second inauguration falling on Martin Luther King Day.

Members of the 113th Congress – 93 percent of whom have a campaign and/or official Twitter account – also tweeted during the Inauguration Ceremony. In fact, a number of members tweeted their prime views of the President from their seats on the U.S. Capitol.

Ever-growing Congressional presence on Twitter and the increased volume of Inauguration Ceremony tweets speak to how far Twitter has come as a participatory medium since 2009. This time around, Twitter was a fabric of the in-person Inauguration experience, as well as the shared experience via TV coverage. While we don’t know who will be the 45th President of the United States or what his or her key messages will be, one thing stands true: our nation’s capital will roll out the red carpet again on January 20, 2017 and Americans – and the world – will document and share their experiences in real time via the popular social networks of the day.

Image credit: wallyg

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