Social Nets Explode Around Jackson Death, Memorial

Michael Jackson’s memorial service continues to drive a heavy portion of the online conversations occurring on message boards, blogs and social networking platforms nearly 24-hours after its conclusion.

However in terms of Web chatter, the service is unlikely to match the online buzz tracked immediately following the music legends’ death on June 25, according to Nielsen Online’s BuzzMetrics service.

As of 2:00 p.m. EST on Wednesday (July 8), BuzzMetrics found that roughly four percent of online discussions were Jackson-related, up from 3.02 percent on Tuesday, the day that friends, family and fans gathered in the Staples Center in Los Angeles to remember Jackson.

Those numbers may not sound like much, but BuzzMetrics purports to track discussions of all stripes across the Internet, on message boards, on blogs, in user groups and on social networking platforms. For example, on June 26, the day after Jackson’s death, 7.5 percent of online discussions revolved around the Thriller star, the biggest number BuzzMetrics has tracked since launching this service in 2008, according to Julie Enzweiler, research director for Nielsen Online.

Enzweiler said that while data for only 60 percent of all messages tracked by BuzzMetrics is currently available for July 7, and a little more than half a day’s messages have been tracked for July 8, these figures are likely to hold up when all the data is compiled. The memorial buzz is expected to follow the pattern seen upon Jackson’s death, when the number of discussions peaked the day after the event before trailing off.

Jackson’s memorial on July 7 resulted in a huge traffic day for many news Web sites which streamed the event live. According to Nielsen’s TagCrowd service, which plots the most commonly found keywords found in various online discussion, over four percent of Michael Jackson discussions on Tuesday specifically mentioned CNN—which had partnered with Facebook to enable users to comment on the memorial service while streaming it live on

However, among social networks, Twitter was referenced in Michael Jackson discussions more frequently than Facebook (1.9 percent versus 1.7 percent, per Nielsen). And perhaps not surprisingly, on Twitter itself, the terms “MJ” and “Michael Jackson” were the most commonly listed terms of the day on Tuesday, based on Nielsen’s analysis—particularly early in the day.  
“Most of the tweeting was going on before the service,” explained Enzweiler, as many at-work Web users were scrambling to find ways to watch the memorial, and participate in discussions about Jackson as much as possible. “You had people trying to find places online to view it, people recommending sites, saying things like ‘did you know that CNN has a Facebook feed?’ Things like that,” she said.

But perhaps even more noteworthy was the amount of Jackson-related discussion on social networking platforms that occurred as viewers watched the proceedings on TV—and concurrently remarked on the networks’ coverage. It seems that the two behaviors—watching and commenting—are no longer separate activities for many. “The interesting thing is that [online discussion] is not just this one dimensional aspect anymore,” said Enzweiler. “There was a great blend of social networking and traditional broadcast occurring.”