How Twitter is Used in Ireland
By Luke Abbott.
Discovery, the new planning and insights unit of Havas owned eightytwenty, have conducted extensive research into how Twitter is being used in Ireland. The key findings of the study indicate;
• As little as 160 tweets could get you trending
• Sports and Politics are the most popular topics
• Wednesday is the busiest day on Twitter
• 10pm to 11pm is the busiest hour each day
• Dublin & Cork users post almost half of all Irish tweets
This is the first time such extensive research has been carried out in Ireland and with it comes implications and opportunities for all brands using the social network.
Twitter Trends in Ireland
The first part of the study looked at trending topics in Ireland. Twitter uses an algorithm to decide what topics trend, while trying to explain that algorithm fully would be impossible, the purpose of this part of the research was to provide a better understanding of how it works. On the Twitter website they explain that the algorithm “identifies topics that are immediately popular, rather than topics that have been popular for a while or on a daily basis, to help you discover the hottest emerging topics of discussion on Twitter that matter most to you”. With this in mind the research into Twitter Trends examines the hours immediately before a topic trends to try and uncover some of the influencing factors.
The Discovery study took hourly logs of Twitter Trends between 4pm Monday July 8th and 7am on Sunday July 14th. A total of 1,340 trends were logged, although of these only 149 were unique highlighting that many trends lasted for several hours or disappeared only to trend again at a different time or on a different day. The 149 unique trends can be broadly categorised as the following;
We say broadly categorised as many topics could fall into several categories. For example during the timeframe of this research the Abortion Vote dominated both Politics and Current Affairs. In this case trends have been put into the most relevant category. The Other category covers random words and names of people that cannot be attributed to one person or event.
Given the proliferation of branded hashtags and branded Twitter accounts in advertising, it was surprising that none trended organically. This could be a signal that no brands were carrying out any major activity during this timeframe, or that it is more difficult for brands to trend. This could explain why Twitter provides a paid advertising feature called Promoted Trends. This allows brands to beat the algorithm and become a trend, but at a cost. When brands are trying to trend organically it’s also possible other factors play a role such as the time of day and the influence of the people tweeting about the topic.
How Many Tweets to Trend in Ireland
To uncover how many tweets it takes to trend Discovery examined three different trends, of Irish interest, and the volume of tweets in the hours before they trended. To illustrate how many tweets it takes to trend it is best to look at some examples;
On Tuesday July 9th Heuston trended at 6pm following a fatality earlier in the day at Kildare station that led to a disruption to services. The topic trended only once at 6pm and there were 160 tweets mentioning Heuston in the eight hours before it trended. We have selected eight hours as the accident occurred at 10am. The most influential tweeters during this time included @IrishRail, @Newstalkfm, @aaroadwatch and @thejournal_ie.
Later that same evening, as Ireland basked in its first heatwave for many years, BBQ trended at 8pm. In the eight hours prior to this there were 528 tweets mentioning the term. Amongst the most influential tweeters were @JOEdotie, @ThisisiRadio and @Bordbia as people were interested in various BBQ recipes to make the most of the sunny weather. The term trended two more times at 3pm on the Thursday July 11th and Friday July 12th at 6am.
One of the most contentious issues of the week was the Abortion Vote. This first trended at 3am on Thursday July 11th. This was the night of the vote in the Dail when the debate lasted until 4.50am. The topic trended 34 times up to Friday night at 8pm. In the preceding eight hours before trending the term featured in 705 tweets. Among the most influential tweeters were @rtenews, @independent_ie and @Colmogorman.
We suggested earlier that influence could play a factor in trending and it seems likely when you consider Heuston trended with just 160 mentions. When we looked deeper at the data and other Irish specific trends we found hahstags with even fewer mentions. These were #Bohs (143 tweets), #PhoenixPark (71 tweets) and Christians (72 tweets) all of which were news stories or events taking place that week. For example Bohs had played Dundalk, a series of gigs were due to take place at Phoenix Park and Fianna Fáil senator Terry Leyden had just referred to Hitler and Mussolini as good Christians. While these trended with fewer mentions there was at least one significant influencer who mentioned the term before trending; @NiallOfficial of One Direction mentioned Bohs, @Newstalk_ie mentioned #PhoenixPark and @thejournal_ie mentioned Christians.
Further examination of trending hashtags was conducted to identify ones without any mentions by influential users. Within the Other category we found some possible examples, however many of these had a sizeable number of mentions globally. For example we identified #WhoMakesMeHappy trended on July 8th with just 121 mentions in the eight hours preceding trending and no mentions by influential users. However it did have over 76,000 mentions internationally. The volume of global mentions may therefore impact what trends locally.
Another factor that could play a role in trending is the proportion of original tweets to retweets. An original tweet should, in theory, carry more weight than a retweet. The former is original content with opinion and the latter is an action carried out to show support to the original tweet. From our own experience this could play a role as we have witnessed hashtag mentions far in excess of the numbers listed above in a short time frame, however with a high proportion of retweets and therefore it did not trend on Twitter. When we consider the hashtag #WhoMakesMeHappy trended with no influential users, a low number of tweets, but with 83% original tweets, it could suggest original tweets carry more weight.
Tweets by County
The second section of the study examined Twitter activity during the month of July. Looking at the 5% of tweets that were posted in Ireland and geo tagged (ie. The tweets carried data that identified where the user posted it from), it was possible to identify the counties where most Twitter activity comes from. It must be noted while these figures do not account for the number of users on Twitter who don’t tweet, the figures do indicate what counties most tweets come from.
Unsurprisingly most of the tweets come from the capital with over 36% originating here; this was followed by Cork on 12.7%. These two counties account for almost half of all tweets posted in Ireland in July. Following these two are Louth, Meath and Kildare; three counties that also experienced some of the highest population growth in the last census. The lowest tweeting counties were Roscommon (0.93% of tweets), Leitrim (0.46%) and Longford (0.28%).
Earlier in 2013 Twitter released data that indicated there are nearly 600,000 daily active users on the social network. With so many tweets coming from Dublin and Cork one would have to ask how many of those active users are based in those two counties.
Recent Ipsos MRBI data for Ireland indicates 27% of the Irish population over the age of 15 uses Twitter, this increases to 53% for 15 to 24 year olds and 46% of 25 – 34 year olds. When you consider the age of the average Twitter user, with the above data, we can identify that they are predominantly young and urban based.
Volume of Tweets per 1,000 People
When we take our sample size and extrapolate it across the population we can estimate the volume of tweets per 1,000 people in each county. This provides us with a local representation of Twitter activity. The table below highlights areas with a high volume of Twitter activity outside of the capital. The counties of Louth, Waterford and Monaghan have more tweets per 1,000 of the population than Dublin. Just behind the capital in terms of volume is Meath and falling outside of the top five counties were Carlow (3,845 tweets per 1,000 people), Cork (3,842 tweets), Wicklow (3,498 tweets) and Kildare (3,062 tweeets).
The counties with the lowest volume of tweets per 1,000 of the population only underlines the rural/urban divide in Twitter use. Longford, Clare, Westmeath and Kerry make up the bottom four counties. With such a young audience on Twitter one must question if such a low volume of tweets in these counties has been impacted by external factors such emigration. Limerick is the county with the fifth lowest number of tweets and behind it are Cavan (with 2,077 tweets per 1,000 people) and Laois (2,085 tweets).
When we look at both the volume by county and the volume per 1,000 people we see some counties appear in the upper section of both lists. These counties are Dublin, Cork, Louth, Waterford, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow. Geographically these can be broken down into two clusters. One is in east and consists of Dublin, Louth, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow. The second is in the south and consists of Cork and Waterford.
Average Tweets Per Day
The average number of tweets per day was measured over the month of July. The daily average was 818,224 tweets. In data released earlier this year Twitter reported an average of one million daily tweets. The Discovery research could differ due to a different reporting system used, as Twitter would have direct access to this data.
The busiest days of the week were Wednesdays which had an average of 868,964 tweets, this was followed by Tuesdays on 857,155 tweets and Mondays had 840,498 tweets. The least amount of tweets in July were sent on Saturdays (732,187 tweets), Fridays (785,162 tweets) and Sundays (807,493 tweets) while Thursdays are in the middle with 808,121 tweets.
Tweets Per Hour
Discovery also researched the volume of tweets per hour over a week long period between Monday July 8th and Sunday July 14th to identify the busiest periods on the social network. The below graph shows the peak time for tweets in July was between 10pm and 11pm when the number of tweets reached 58,462 an hour on average. Unsurprisingly the lowest number of tweets were recorded in the early morning between 2am and 7am. The fewest tweets during a single hour on Twitter in July, was in the hour to 7am on Monday July 8th when 9,807 tweets were posted.
Twitter Users in Ireland
From this research we can assume the Irish Twitter audience is;
• Mostly active in Dublin and Cork
• Key spots of high activity exist’s outside of the capital in Louth, Meath, Kildare, Wicklow and Waterford
• A high proportion of users are aged 15 – 35
• Most activity occurs in the first half of the week
• Users are active from midday onwards
• The busiest time on twitter is from 8pm to 11pm
Brand Opportunities to Trend
For brands it is very difficult to become a trending hashtag on Twitter. For one, a brand would need the support of a number of highly influential Twitter accounts to do so. To do this the company would need newsworthy information that is of interest to these influencers. Adding a hashtag onto a campaign creative and expecting it to trend, or for large sections of the population to use the hashtag organically may be unrealistic.
Opportunities for Influential Media Accounts
This research could provide influential media Twitter accounts (such as those operated by radio stations, news publications, online publications and TV stations) with a potential new revenue opportunity. These outlets could offer tweets from their accounts, using a brand hashtag, as part of an overall advertising package. This would give brand campaigns an influential mention that would be necessary to trend. However to protect the integrity of the media account these should be used sparingly and as a value exchange with followers. By value exchange we mean ‘what do followers get in return?’ A straight out advertisement will not generate the sufficient volume to trend. This won’t guarantee trending either as there may also be other external such as the volume of tweets for all competing trends at a given time. This space will become more interesting in the coming years as celebrities continue to endorse products, how advertising watchdogs will look at these endorsements and what role Twitter could play in making or breaking products.
The Structure of Tweets
The structure of tweets could also play a role in trending. Any campaign should encourage followers to generate original tweet content rather than just retweeting an initial message. Therefore any campaign should use a mechanic that encourages followers to respond with an original tweet (for example with answers to a question) and include a specific campaign hashtag. However one area not examined in this research is the length of an original tweet. For example a 120 character tweet with an answer and a hashtag will include a greater degree of content than a 15 character tweet and, you would expect, more weighting to be given to the longer message. However, from agency experience, in a campaign competition, the lower the barrier to entry is the more entries you will receive. Thus the shorter the tweet to enter, the more entries that will be received.
The data above indicates that many Twitter users are under 35. This would suggest creating Twitter content that would be of interest to this younger audience could help grow followers and extend reach. However that is not to say some brands won’t have an older audience or wish to target a specific age demographic. In these instances an analysis of a brand’s followers should be conducted to get a greater understanding of who they are, they could be younger or older than expected and this would impact tweet content. This is one of many insight offerings we have at Discovery.
Best Time to Tweet
It would be foolhardy to suggest when the best day or time to tweet is because this is general market data. Trying to identify when brands should tweet should be examined through researching the followers of a brand. The data does suggest peak and off peak times, however the question is should a brand tweet at peak times and risk getting lost in the noise of competing tweets, or go for a less busy time? While off peak times (at 4am for example) should be avoided for brands, there might be an opportunity in tweeting late in the evening (9pm to 11pm) as few brands actually do this. To take best advantage of this, a marketing team member should be ready to deal with any interactions at the time.
Marketing Opportunities on Twitter
We know most users are aged under 35 and live in the main Irish urban areas. This would suggest the biggest opportunity for brands is in trying to reach this audience with marketing communications. It would also suggest that the Twitter platform is essential for any brands targeting this demographic. At Discovery we provide context around data to identify opportunities for brands, and this data provides us with a framework of content, structure, timings and demographics to make communications on the platform more relevant to followers and consumers. Further analysis can be conducted on a brand’s followers to highlight additional opportunities for brands. For example if your Twitter followers are younger than your average customer, then communications and campaigns on the platform should reflect this.
Marketing Limitations of Twitter
The biggest limitation of Twitter for brands is in trying to reach an older and rural audience. For brands who target this demographic Twitter is a less essential platform than other digital and traditional channels. To reach this audience brands will have to investigate other platforms and media to compliment Twitter activity.
Twitter advertising allows brands to beat the Trends algorithm by paying for a Promoted Trend, similarly a Promoted Tweet will appear at the top of a timeline for users in your defined target audience. As Promoted Tweets have a greater opportunity of being seen by users, this study would suggest ensuring campaigns are live during peak times because there is the potential for a larger proportion of the audience to be exposed to the message.