Social Media Couldn’t Stop Talking About These 5 Hot News Topics in 2015

By Kimberlee Morrison Comment

Republican Presidential Candidates Hold Third Debate In Colorado

One of the first use cases for social media was bookmarking and aggregating content.

Over the years, social has become a significant source of traffic for brands of all kinds and this year it became apparent that social is an invaluable source of referral traffic to publishers in particular. Indeed, for some publishers, Facebook drives more traffic than Google.

According to web analytics provider Parse.ly, some of the biggest stories of the year were discovered on social media. Let’s take a look at how some of the top news stories fared on social media in 2015.

Presidential Election: If we thought social media played a big part in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, it has become the new battleground for the 2016 elections, according to social marketing and analytics software provider Jumpshot. In fact, Jumpshot data indicated that Twitter and YouTube accounted for more than half of traffic to candidate websites.

Controversial Republican candidate Donald Trump generated more social engagement than either Democratic candidate during the December debate, according to Shareablee, and more than half a million mentions during the most recent GOP debate, according to Amobee.  

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Rachel Dolezal: While much of the conversation about race in America has centered around police brutality, when former NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal was outed for posing as an African American woman, the conversation became more about the psychology and definition of race. Parse.ly data indicates that more than 70 percent of referral traffic to related stories came from social. According to Amobee data, 75 percent of engagement related to Rachel Dolezal was around the phrase “transracial,” with more than 150,000 tweets in the days after the story broke in June.

Image courtesy of Aaron Robert Kathman.

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Caitlyn Jenner: There has been increasing awareness about transgender equality, and when Bruce Jenner reintroduced herself as Caitlyn, she became a huge part of the conversation. According to Amobee, 22 percent of all social transgender engagement was directly related to Jenner, and there was 35 percent as much engagement around Caitlyn Jenner when she was honored with a 2016 ESPY award. All told, Caitlyn Jenner related stories generated 3.9 billion social media impressions.

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Cecil the Lion: The internet has been pretty vigilant against trophy hunting and nothing was more emblematic of this than the reaction to news of Cecil the Lion being killed by an American hunter, Walter Palmer. According to Parse.ly, while the story attracted international media attention, it was unconnected to any other media trends and its virality was largely driven by emotion and outrage. The interest in the story lasted about 20 days and according to Amobee, resulted in a 124 percent increase in social engagement for American Airlines and more than 160,000 tweets using the #BanTrophyHunting hashtag.

Photo courtesy of Daughter#3 on Flickr.

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Ashley Madison Breach: Data breaches seem to get bigger and bigger, with hacktavists making an example of companies they believe are negligent in protecting user privacy. Ashley Madison, the dating website for people looking for discreet affairs became one such example this year, raising questions about digital security. Amobee compared the social engagement around Ashley Madison from June 19 to July 19 before the breach, to the post breach period of July 20 to Aug 19 and found engagement up 666 percent.

Likewise, when the data was publicly leaked on Aug. 19, there was 250 percent more digital consumption around Ashley Madison and 54 percent more engagement, compared to July 19 when there was just the possibility of a leak. With more traffic referrals from search than social, Parse.ly hypothesized that because of the salacious nature of the subject people wanted to read about the topic but didn’t want to be associated with the content on their social networks.

Readers: What stories captured your attention and took over your social feeds this year?

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