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Seattle Times news librarian Gene Balk crunches the numbers

October 24, 2013 at 11:56 AM

Study: Seattle is top Twitter trendsetter in the U.S.

FYI-trendsDoes it seem like Seattle hasn’t spawned any pop-culture trends since the grunge era?

A new study says otherwise–at least in the realm of social media.

According to researchers at Indiana University, Seattle is the source of more trending topics on Twitter than any other U.S. city.

Take, for example, #ICanAdmit. This “hashtag” is used when tweeting something confessional. First popularized in Seattle, it went on to trend globally.

Or how about #YouWillNotBeTakenSeriouslyIf? Used when calling out foolishness in others, it too is a Seattle gift to the Twittersphere.

For the uninitiated, Twitter is a social networking site that allows users to post short text messages, or “tweets.”  If lots of people are tweeting the same topic–a word or phrase often identified by a hashtag (#)–it is said to be trending.   A topic becomes an official Twitter trend when it appears in a top-10 box on the site.

Twitter tracks these trends at both the national and local level.  Every major city has its own top-10 list, but many local trends have a short lifespan–they appear in a city’s top-10 box, and then fade away. Others, however, have legs; one city’s trend might suddenly pop up on top-10 lists in some far-flung places.

It’s these “traveling” trends that the researchers hoped to better understand.   They used a computer algorithm to monitor trending topics in 63 major U.S. cities over a 50-day period in 2013.   In total, the researchers tracked the paths of more than 11,000 trends, and a picture of how they spread between cities took shape.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Seattle emerged as Twitter’s top trend incubator: 1,187 Twitter topics that first became popular in Seattle went on to make the top 10 in other cities around the nation and the world.  We beat out No. 2 Los Angeles by more than 200 hashtags.

According to lead researcher Emilio Ferrara, not only did Seattle generate the greatest number of viral topics, but ours also have a distinct quality: “To my eyes, it looks like people in Seattle are very good at coming up with catchy hashtags for entertaining topics of discussion.” For example, #ElementaryConfessions–used when tweeting out embarrassing grade-school memories.

In New York, Los Angeles and other major cities, Ferrara observed that top-trending tweets, typically, related to “real world” events (such as #PrayForOklahoma or #Benghazi) or popular products.

Seattle had just one such trend: #XboxOne.

Chalk that one up to hometown pride.

Comments | More in Reports | Topics: social media, twitter


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