The protests happening in Ferguson for the last couple of weeks did not dominate Facebook, the way it did Twitter. In mid-august, Facebook users talked about the Ice Bucket Challenge twice as much as they did the Ferguson protests, according to data USA TODAY show has obtained.
From an analysis by a social analytics company based in Minneapolis, among 100,000 Facebook public timelines in the United States, only 3,250 mentioned Ferguson in their posts between August 9 and August 20. This is just about 3.3% of the Facebook users sampled, while 7.7% or 7,073 Facebook users were mentioning the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on the same period.
Facebook users were engaged in the ice bucket challenge for 2.4 times more than the Ferguson protests. An engaged user is described as someone who shared a link on the topic, commented on it or liked a post with the keyword. This analysis somewhat confirmed a theory that Twitter users are more likely to read about Ferguson than Facebook users.
Facebook has released data about how much their users talk about certain events such as the World Cup, the Olympics, or the Royal Wedding. Facebook has not released data on Ferguson activities. On the other hand, Twitter continues to dominate social network sites when it comes to breaking news. Additionally, the company is adding more tools that will allow people to see how often and how much a topic is being talked about.
According to Reverb, a tool used by journalists, Ferguson was mentioned more than 14.5 million times between August 9 and August 20. Protesters and journalists tweeted images of marches, Vines videos of police activities, and photos of gas masks, smoke, and arrests as the protests escalated into tear gas and looting. These content were being retweeted thousands of times.
Facebook saw little discussion on Ferguson in the next days after the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenage black on August 9 in Ferguson, Mo. This incident is the reason behind the protests in the city. Instead, Facebook is filled with discussions about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and friends challenging one another to either donate to research on the disease or pour a bucket of ice water on themselves.
How exactly do the two giant social networks differ in breaking news?
In Twitter, it’s easy to see what the rest of the world is discussing most about – from MTV’s VMA to a sporting event to Ferguson protests. Users can also set trending topics based on a selected location aside from being able to see what their followers are tweeting or retweeting.
Facebook has a different system on what users see in their news feeds. The company uses a ranking algorithm which makes a user’s news feed more relevant to him based on his past activity.
Simply put, even if Ferguson was being discussed on Facebook, a lot of users still didn’t see the posts or mentions of the protests. Facebook does not respond to breaking news as quickly as Twitter where a single tweet can reach thousands in an instant.