At 09:20 this morning Sir Alex Ferguson retired after 26 years in charge of Manchester United. The club, and the manager, are respected and supported far from the city of Manchester, and reaction was quick to spread on Twitter. In many analyses of event and how Twitter reacts to them, the focus is on volume – just how many people are talking about an issue. But more interesting than this is what people are saying.
There is a hypothesis that when there is ‘breaking news’ (at least on Twitter), most of the discussions convey the same information – people either retweeting the original message or people conveying the same information to their followers that lots of others are doing at the same time. So in this case immediately after the announcement, whilst they may use different words, we would expect people to be conveying the simple message: Sir Alex Ferguson has retired.
But is this true – what did people actually discuss on Twitter in the first hour after his retirement was announced?
What we did
We captured every Tweet that clearly discussed Sir Alex Ferguson during the first hour after his retirement was announced shortly before 09:20 this morning. Using Datasift, we captured all Tweets that included the terms “Alex Ferguson” or “#fergie’ or ‘#mufc’.
In total we captured 95,312 Tweets in the first hour of discussion on Twitter – or about 26 Tweets every second.
What we found
First some basic stats about the discussions on Twitter in the first hour after the announcement:
- 68% of people discussing the retirement were male (16% were female and the remaining 16% had genders that could not be determined from Twitter)
- With 4.3% of all discussions, the news was actually discussed most in Manchester; London came second (3.8%). The global impact of the club is reflected with Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and South Africa being in the top 10 locations for discussions
- 22% of Tweets were people retweeting other people’s content; the remaining 78% were original Tweets
- The most retweeted account was the club themselves. This was followed by a number of accounts in Indonesia (UtdIndonesia and detiksport). The most mentioned UK news provider during the first hour was SkySportsNews.
With only 22% of Tweets as clear retweets, there was a lot of original Twitter content being produced. So what were people actually discussing:
- Just over one third of Tweets (34%) were simple statements that Sir Alex Ferguson had retired
- The next largest group (26% of Tweets) were reflecting on their own experiences or thoughts – memories of the club and what Sir Alex’s time there meant for them
- A further 14% of Tweets were thanking Sir Alex for what he had done for the club or indeed for their own experiences (a trend started by the club themselves in their announcement)
Some topics were less popular but noteworthy:
- 360 people (0.7% of all Tweets) were wishing Sir Alex luck in or sending their best wishes for his future
- 53 people (0.01%) were worried that Sir Alex might have died
So the first hour on Twitter was an interesting place, and the discussions were more varied than just retweeting or repeating the simple fact of Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. In fact a significant proportion of Tweets were reflecting on what his role as manager had meant to them and the memories they had of his time with the club. This kind of reflection and content is altogether more interesting than mere retweets and statements of fact and shows Twitter at its best – connecting personal experiences and opinions to larger events.