It’s been exactly a month since a few hundred protesters descended on the financial district’s Zuccotti Park and obtained its owner’s permission to set up camp for the foreseeable future. What started as Occupy Wall Street, a localized event to protest what the group refers to as the 1%, has since spawned into a massive worldwide movement, taken on by tens of thousands over countless cities and countries.
While Occupy Wall Street can attribute much of its virality to near constant media coverage over the past few weeks, it’s impossible to gauge its success without looking to Twitter. It all started with a single hashtag, #OccupyWallStreet, on July 15, 2011.
Though the movement didn’t pick up speed until sponsors like hacker group Anonymous began lobbying in August, the hashtag still managed 43,303 mentions before protesters even hit the streets on September 17. As a contrast, CNN only posted one article mentioning the movement before the protests began. Since then, Twitter’s role in Occupy Wall Street has increased exponentially. Mentions of the #OccupyWallStreet and #ows hashtags have grown nearly 5900% in the month since September 17, with over 2.6 million total tweets (2,605,021 at the time we did our research) under their collective belt.
And it didn’t stop there. Countless other hashtags spawned after #OccupyWallStreet, from a more 140-character friendly #ows to city-specific hashtags like #occupyportland and #occupyatlanta. Even spoof hashtags such as #occupycouch and #occupykitchen have made tens of thousands of impressions. If that wasn’t enough, scores of new accounts have also launched to spread up-to-the-minute news and announcements regarding the movement.
So what are they tweeting? From general news and scheduling to marching orders and calls to arms, #OccupyWallStreet is certainly a versatile hashtag. Whether it’s a warning that police officers are collecting at a marching destination, or photos of speakers and celebrity visitors, the twitter stream never stops.
It’s not all tweets, though. During the days before September 17 through the initial days of Occupy Wall Street, protesters decried what they termed a “media blackout” of the events at Zuccotti Park. They weren’t getting the coverage they thought OWS merited, so they looked to the world of amateur photographers, videographers and journalists to spread the word. Their weapon of choice? Live Stream. Countless tweets spreading links to live streams of the events at Occupy Wall Street were a resounding success. In fact, OWS’s official live stream has garnered over 155 million viewer minutes since it launched. To put that in perspective, that’s 3,588 times longer than the protests themselves have gone on.
Whether or not you stand behind Occupy Wall Street’s protesters across the nation and around the world, it’s hard not to appreciate what they’ve managed to do on Twitter and around the web to promote their cause. In fact, without social media, it’s hard to imagine that any of the world’s most recent protests and “revolutions” would have grown as fast as they did. How do you think social media’s role in politics and activism will evolve over the coming days, months and years?
Photos taken by Luke Kingma. Twitter analytics gathered by Big Fuel’s Aston Hunt.