Social media entered a unique phase during Blackout Tuesday. On June 2nd, for 24 hours, platform users across popular channels limited their posts to a symbolic black square, plus the hashtag #blackouttuesday, in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests sweeping the US following the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Blackout Tuesday had stemmed from a music industry initiative, #TheShowMustBePaused, which encouraged businesses to abstain from releasing music and other business operations on that day.
No doubt, it was a seismic event – but was the narrative of Blackout Tuesday really that simple? Data provided by LexisNexis suggests a more nuanced story. During its 24-hour period, Blackout Tuesday highlighted change within the social media landscape. Measured against the day before, the general volume of social conversation fell by 6%, suggesting platform users had heeded the campaign’s message to step back from superficial everyday chat and reflect on weightier societal events. Meanwhile, there was a spike for the #blackouttuesday hashtag, alongside a 5% rise for the #blacklivesmatter tag, suggesting that those who were still posting had their minds on the movement.
Demographics data provided by LexisNexis gives us a sharper view of those who participated via social media. For example, 25 to 34-year-olds were most likely to post with #blackouttuesday (while the #blacklivesmatter tag was more popular amongst younger users). Women were more likely to post the two tags (53% compared to 46% overall). And while 83% of #blackouttuesday posts had a static image (ie. the black square), 46% of #blacklivesmatter posts included a video.
But data from the immediate aftermath of Blackout Tuesday is perhaps most revealing. Instead of the logical resurgence, the drop in overall social traffic continued well after the 24-hour period, with a marked drop in activity still noticeable in July, showing the long-lasting impact of the campaign. Interestingly, the #blacklivesmatter hashtag dipped by 41% on June 3rd, and had just 18% of its former volume a week after the movement took place. This was likely due to social media users being asked to drop the #blacklivesmatter hashtag from their Blackout Tuesday posts. The black squares were perceived to be drowning out critical information being shared about the live protests taking place the same day.
The possible interpretations of this data are fascinating and far-reaching. Did the drop in #blacklivesmatter hashtags reflect an increased level of self-imposed scrutiny by social users when considering which hashtags were appropriate to use for their posts? Or was the message of Blackout Tuesday so persuasive that it encouraged social media users to abandon shows of virtual solidarity and engage instead with the real-life protests still active in cities across the world?
There’s a possible interpretation, too, that the ripples from Blackout Tuesday have spread further still - flowing into the relationship between the social media giants and big business. For example, could the one-day #blackouttuesday hashtag have added momentum to July’s Stop Hate For Profit campaign, which asked advertisers to boycott Facebook over its policy on censorship and hate speech?
Leading the field in social media analytics, LexisNexis helps brands make sharper business decisions based on social insights, identifying patterns, performance gaps and future opportunities. From the changes sparked by a political movement to the conversations happening about your brand, product and competitors, real-time social media monitoring and data intelligence tools can reveal the hidden insights and signpost the right direction forward. Even in a blackout, it’s the best way to see the full picture.
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