According to data given to the Wall Street Journal by Twitter, over 7.8 million tweets have mentioned the hashtag #Ferguson since August 9, the day a black teenager named Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, MO.
If that sounds lower than, say, the record-breaking number of tweets related to this year’s World Cup match between Germany and Brazil (35.6 million tweets) or the most recent Super Bowl (24.9 million tweets), keep in mind that number appears to only include tweets with the hashtag #Ferguson — therefore we can assume the total number of tweets is much, much higher.
(I reached out to Twitter to ask if a more accurate number is available and will update this post if I hear back).
This data is the first time we’ve been able to quantify what many journalists have noticed anecdotally — that Twitter has been indispensable for following the aftermath of the Ferguson tragedy. I wrote last week that Twitter’s outperformed Facebook in this respect, though both many commenters (mostly on Facebook), including Robert Scoble think people like me are just using Facebook wrong. So maybe I have the Facebook I deserve, it’s just not the Facebook I need.
But if that’s the answer, and I’m not using Facebook properly, then I’m far from the only one. According to Chartbeat’s Chief Data Scientist Josh Schwartz, Twitter’s share of traffic to Ferguson news stories was way above what it typically is compared to Facebook. That means Twitter’s not just good for news, but it’s good for news stories like Ferguson which expose some measure of social injustice.
This is an important observation to keep in mind when considering how many more people read news on Facebook than Twitter. As we’ve reported before, it really depends on what you call “news.” In fact, while a recent study found that more people share news on Facebook than ever before, it also found that the most shared “news” stories on Facebook for a number of high-profile outlets were quizzes and YouTube videos of beagles.
Perhaps a better way to put it is, Facebook is good for “content,” but Twitter is still king when it comes to journalism.