Chumming for Insights: A Social Take on Sharknado

For a brief moment the term Sharknado took the social universe by storm. If you haven’t heard about the Syfy channel original TV movie let us inform you. The biggest actor attached to the film is Tara Reid. With an estimated budget of $1 million, the marketing push behind this Made-For-TV movie must have been incredibly low. Yet, at one point during the movie’s first air the term “Sharknado” hit 5,000 Tweets per minute and became a trending topic. According to Nielsen, approximately 12.3% of all Tweets related to TV were about Sharknado on the day it aired – twice as many Tweets as the next most Tweeted TV event, the return of Derek Jeter in the Yankees vs Kansas City game.

Companies spend millions of dollars promoting hashtags in commercials and yet this movie with a budget less than many companies spend on a single commercial was able to become an instant sensation. In the end, it is results that matter and in this case, the results are viewers. Sharknado was able to achieve an impressive 1.37 million viewers. To compare, NBC during primetime on the same day maxed out at 1.15 million viewers. So how does a small cable channel like Syfy get more viewers than the big boys like NBC?

While Twitter was the dominant focus of the conversation for Sharknado, we thought we would look at how that conversation translated on to other social channels. Was Sharknado spreading like wildfire on Tumblr the way it was on Twitter? Were people blogging about it and discussing it on WordPress and Disqus?

Let’s take a look at Sharknado Social Media:

The white line in the graph is when the first air of Sharknado happened.

These graphs show that, outside of Twitter, conversation about Sharknado acted mostly as expected, except for on Tumblr. WordPress and Disqus saw their peak of activity after the movie aired. People were likely using the long form nature of WordPress blogging reviews followed by Disqus comments to further the discussion, which is typical for these sources of data.

But the really interesting graph is the Tumblr graph:

There are a couple of interesting things to note about how Sharknado conversation happened on Tumblr:

  • The initial spike on July 7th, which is due to a teaser animated GIF that got picked up and reblogged 3000 times an hour.
  • The spike in activity on July 10, which marks the release of the official trailer for Sharknado on YouTube and it’s spread on Tumblr. Tumblr users picked this up and shared it at an impressive 5,500 posts per hour at its peak.
  • The consistent stream of posts related to Sharknado since the air. While all other networks, including Twitter, have seen a significant drop-off, Tumblr is sharing Sharknado related content more after the initial air than before it.

What this means is that social conversation online doesn’t just happen where you intend for it to, and it doesn’t just happen where you are looking. Analyzing the conversation across social networks gives you a full picture of the social conversation and gives you greater visibility into results of your marketing push. Rumor has it Sharknado has a sequel in the works, our bet is that you’ll find the first glimpses of it’s virality on Tumblr and you’ll see it last there until the first glimpses of Sharknado 3.

Observations On Disqus: The Spread of Words

Marketers and communicators all share a similar goal: to become part of the conversation. Comments in reaction to blogs and news stories are a fantastic place to discover the topics that are driving conversation. To dig deeper, we recently looked at public comments from Disqus, the world’s largest discussion platform, to see what was getting online chatter at the end 2012. With 70,000 comments published on Disqus every hour, you can find insights and conversations that can’t be found elsewhere.

What we found is that communicators often use a language set that the audience does not share.  In discussion, most common denominator language dominates.

Let’s look at a couple of Disqus data science examples.

The Fiscal Cliff

Social Media Discussion of Fiscal Cliff

At the end of 2012, one topic that dominated mainstream publications and political blogs was the Fiscal Cliff, when a series of tax cuts for the United States were expected to expire at the end of the year. Since this was a topic of contention between the Democrats and Republicans, you would have expected this to be a passionate point of conversation during the Elections. As it turns out, this wasn’t exactly the case. When did the Fiscal Cliff talk start? The day after the Election. And the discussion was couched in broader terms than just the acute “Fiscal Cliff” crisis. So while Washington operates and speaks in continual crisis mode, the public thinks of these challenges in broader, more systemic terms.

Disqus Conversations on Taxes and Medicare

 While the Fiscal Cliff wasn’t a hot topic until after the election, taxes and medicare saw consistent conversations before and after the election.

Timing is everything when it comes to starting conversations. While the Election focused on what happened in the past four years and what would happen in the next four years, the day after the Election honed in on what was immediately down the road — the Fiscal Cliff.

Skyfall vs Breaking Dawn vs Twilight

Skyfall vs Breaking Dawn vs Twilight on Disqus

Moving from politics to pop culture, we were curious what would generate more conversation — a bunch of sparkly vampires driving Volvos (the movie Breaking Dawn, the fourth installment in the Twilight series) or the eponymous spy from England (Skyfall). We were initially surprised to see that Skyfall generated more chatter around its premiere on Nov. 9 than Breaking Dawn saw for its premiere on Nov. 18. However, when we took a closer look by adding the term Twilight into the mix, we found that Twilight created more chatter than Skyfall.

­Comments are an excellent barometer of buzz around upcoming events and launches. Even more than that, comments can help companies understand what terms people use about an event. In this example, if you were the studio marketer using content marketing to promote the release of Breaking Dawn, your odds would improve by using Twilight in your headline.

Movie Vs. Libya vs. Benghazi

While searching for popular movies on Disqus, we found an interesting spike for the term “movie” in mid-September, but couldn’t attribute it to a popular movie. After some digging, we realized that this was related to the movie “Innocence of Muslims,” the controversial spoof movie on the religion. While the movie was originally uploaded to YouTube in July, it aired on an Egyptian network on Sept. 9, which immediately created protests that quickly spread to Libya. On Sept. 11, four Americans including the Ambassador were killed in Benghazi, Libya. While the terms Libya and movie spiked immediately, Benghazi built up momentum more slowly over time spiking right before the election as it became part of the political debate between the two parties.

Buzz around current events doesn’t immediately spike right after the event. As new facts and information are disseminated, the current of conversation can change. In this scenario, a new and more specific term “Benghazi” did dominate the conversation, as it slowly became shorthand for the overall issue. What carries conversation is language that accelerates understanding and lowers the barrier for participation.

Ultimately, comments are windows into not only what people are talking about but also when topics tip over into public conscious and what the driving forces are behind when conversations peak. In the same way that communicators deploy search engine optimization to target searchers, they need to also incorporate conversation optimization strategies to become part of the conversation.

Rich Comment Data from Disqus Now Available Through Gnip

Imagine going to a dinner party and listening to the first thing each person said. You’d learn a few things, but you’d miss out on the meat of the conversation that happens in the give and take of the dialogue.

In the world of online public social conversation, blog posts are the monologue and comments provide the dialogue. Each is valuable on their own, but to see the complete picture, you need both. Conversations happen in comments, and it has been a huge struggle for brands to be able to keep up with comments to fill in their understanding of this key piece of the conversation.

I’m excited to announce that we’re making it easier to access these public conversations with the addition of the full Disqus firehose to our publisher portfolio. As the largest third-party commenting platform in the world with 70 million commenter profiles, the Disqus firehose provides coverage of more than 500,000 comments every day, spanning almost every topic imaginable and reaching over 700 million readers each month.

Comments last forever. They appear in search results and remain part of the discussion long after the day they were written.  With their staying power and depth of discussion, the commenting ecosystem provides an important — and different — social signal. Disqus further embodies this by allowing users to react to others’ comments with up or down “votes” creating significantly more engagement. The 2 million “votes” on Disqus each day provide insight into what comments are generating the most reaction.

Our Disqus API partnership provides authorized access for the first time ever to full firehoses of discussion content and interaction across the Disqus network. To the extent that any of this data has been available before, it’s been provided by technologies like content scraping/crawling that pulled pieces of the discussion, but did not guarantee full coverage in real time on a publisher-safe, consistent and reliable basis. Because this new service is being provided via a direct partnership with Disqus, with Gnip’s full firehose, you get low-latency streams that provide full coverage with the support of the publisher to ensure the availability of the data over the long term.

We’re thrilled to have data from Disqus available on our platform and can’t wait to see the amazing ways that our customers are able to apply it to their businesses. Email us at to learn more about Disqus and set up a trial so you can see the data for yourself.