10 of the biggest Twitter trending topics of 2012

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On Twitter, it seems like time passes incredibly quickly. Tweets stream past in seconds only to be replaced by more tweets, and worldwide trending topics shuffle along almost as rapidly. Sometimes, you can almost tell what’s happening without clicking any of the links to the trending topics — during the iPhone 5 launch, the phone’s features trended as well as its name as the iFans scurried to spread the news, and during the Olympics’ opening ceremony, you’d have been able to guess ‘Voldemort’ and ‘Mr Bean’ made an appearance even if you weren’t watching the show.

With such a rapidly changing stream of information pulsing across the world, it’s interesting to see exactly what the millions of Twitter users spoke about the most this year — and how the rate of tweeting sped up to spike to thousands of tweets per minute. Here are just a few of the most discussed topics on the social network this year.

#Kony, #Kony2012, #StopKony

Ah yes, the video that everyone had to share. Invisible Children’s ‘Kony 2012’ video gathered momentum in early March – just two days after it was uploaded on YouTube, five of the top worldwide trending topics were about the film, which aims to inspire collective action against Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony.

The video has since gained some 18-million views on Vimeo and over 94-million on YouTube. It acted as the catalyst for a worldwide protest and awareness campaign in Cover the Night, although the video was dogged by controversy over the way the organisation spent its funding, inaccuracies and oversimplifications of the nature of the conflict and the public breakdown of the film’s director.

#Sandy, #HurricaneSandy

The superstorm that devastated large areas of the Caribbean and part of the United States generated a lot of social media conversations, especially as survivors shared snapshots of the the devastation the hurricane brought. Between 27 October and 1 November, there were over 20-million tweets about the impact and aftermath after the storm.

It was a huge event for other social media sites too: at the time, it was Instagram’s biggest moment, with over 800 000 photos tagged with #Sandy uploaded to the service. Facebook reported that the most widely used phrases in updates from its US users on October 30 were all Sandy-related, the most common being “we are ok”.

#mandeladay, #mandela, happy birthday mandela, #madiba

On 18 July, former South African president Nelson Mandela turned 94. He also trended worldwide on Twitter as users like the White House, Richard Branson, a Kardashian and Twitter itself wished him a happy birthday. Others used Mandela Day to spend 67 minutes helping humanity in some small way, and tweeted about what they were up to.

On Mandela’s birthday, over 373 000 tweets mentioning his name, #madiba and #mandeladay were posted (according to analytics by Topsy). In total, in the weeks leading up to July 18, over 193 000 online conversations mentioned Mandela Day, with 15% of the global online population given the opportunity to see the posts.

#Olympics, #London2012, #openingceremony, #closingceremony, #usainbolt

The Olympic Games were always going to be big — but before the open ceremony even began, Twitter was seeing more tweets per minute than it did during the entire Beijing Games in 2008. By the end of the event, it had clocked 150-million tweets.

While everyone from Sir Tim Berners-Lee to the Olympic swimming pool was tweeting throughout the 16 day event, the biggest spikes in conversation occurred when Usain Bolt won the 200m sprint (80 000 tweets per minute) and when the Spice Girls performed at the closing ceremony (more than 116 000 per minute).  Bolt was also the most talked about athlete overall, while more than 250 000 tweets were posted celebrating Oscar Pistorius’ achievements as the first double leg amputee to compete in the Olympic Games.

#batman, #darknight, #aurora

While the latest Batman movie generated an impressive amount of online conversation, the massacre in a cinema during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, sent shock waves through Twitter as news emerged about the shooting which left 12 people dead and 58 injured.

The details spread quickly: while it’s difficult to isolate tweets about the shooting from tweets about the film, CNN’s version of the story was shared over 36 000 times on the day, and ‘batman’, ‘dark knight’ and ‘aurora’ were mentioned in 1.4-million, 822 000 and 519 000 tweets respectively.

#jubilee

You may or may not have heard that more tweets were posted about the Queen’s diamond jubilee than there were about the royal wedding. Take that, Kate and Will.

Okay, okay, so there are more Twitter users around now, and the wedding saw more tweets on a single day than the jubilee did, but the stats are still impressive. The jubilee peaked at 387 000 tweets on the day of the concert which featured the likes of Elton John and Paul McCartney, and amassed over 1.19-million tweets over the four-day weekend.

#obama, #romney, #vote

Twitter became a virtual hub for conversations about the US presidential election — from the early debates to the day Barack Obama found out he had been re-elected. The first presidential debate generated 10-million tweets, the final one garnered 6.5-million and election-themed tweets on voting day numbered 31-million.

Obama’s three word tweet and photo shared just after his victory was announced has become the most retweeted tweet in history, with more than 817 000 users retweeting the post. On the day the results came out, his Twitter handle was mentioned over 3.2-million times and while the votes were being tallied, Twitter pulsed at over 327 000 tweets per minute.

#SOPA, #PIPA

America’s proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) brought widespread online protests earlier this year — sites like Wikipedia, Google, The Pirate Bay and Reddit went black on January 18 to signal their stance against the legislation, and social media sites were flooded with opinions on the controversial bills.

Mentions of ‘SOPA’ on Twitter grew from 106 000 to 3.5-million in less than 24 hours, while tweets mentioning ‘PIPA’ were fewer, with 86 500 mentions escalating to more than 655 500 in the same time period.

Whitney Houston

When Whitney Houston died suddenly in her hotel room, the news spread rapidly on Twitter and the tributes poured in almost as quickly. More than 10-million tweets were sent about the singer’s death, and peaked at around 73 000 tweets per minute.

#stratos, #felixbaumgartner, #redbullstratos, #livejump

Where were you on Sunday 14 October? Chances you were glued to YouTube, watching a video that attracted over eight-million concurrent live viewers as it documented Felix Baumgartner’s free fall from the edge of space. And, of course, the mission trended worldwide on Twitter.

During the event, the official @redbullstratos account gathered over 20 000 mentions, and on the day of the jump, Baumgartner’s name was included in 708 000 tweets, #livejump was mentioned more than 619 000 times and ‘Redbull’ filled over 321 000 tweets.

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