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The DNC’s record-breaking digital footprint: a look back

Numbers are in on social media’s reach: 4 million tweets on convention’s last day

CHARLOTTE, N.C. The tweets, posts and calls kept flying around Charlotte at a seemingly breakneck pace during the Democratic National Convention.

In fact, when President Barack Obama gave his acceptance speech at the DNC in Time Warner Cable Arena Sept. 6, Twitter saw the most tweets per minute ever on any political topic.

Amid all the intense use of social media and Wi-Fi, telecommunications companies reported no significant problems during the convention. Now that the DNC is over, here is a look at what some of the services experienced.

Telecom providers

In uptown Charlotte the first week of September, Verizon said it had more than 3 million voice calls and more than 42 million texts, downloads and other data connections during the three-day convention and the day before it started. That’s a 31 percent increase in voice calls and 22 percent hike in data connections compared to a normal week.

AT&T said that during peak time, its subscribers at the DNC consumed at least 50 percent more data on average than subscribers did during last February’s Super Bowl. But people also were apparently paying attention when Obama spoke: the number of voice calls on its wireless network inside the arena dropped to its lowest point for all three days.

T-Mobile had a 35 percent increase in voice traffic, 69 percent increase in data downloads and 66 percent increase in uploads in the Charlotte area during the DNC, compared to an average day in the city. And Sprint saw its biggest increase in voice minutes used in uptown Charlotte on Sept. 5, the day former President Bill Clinton addressed the convention.

Time Warner Cable

Ahead of the convention, Time Warner Cable unveiled TWC WiFi, a network of more than 90 hotspots around the city, part of an upgrade in uptown network infrastructure. The service was free to anyone from Aug. 27 through Sept. 7, and also was available at the arena.

During the week of the convention, TWC WiFi had 6,000 unique users, spokeswoman Melissa Buscher said.

The biggest spike in usage and users occurred during Obama’s speech, when the company saw a 34 percent increase over daily usage during the convention. That day, there were about 3,700 unique users.

The city’s social media map

During the DNC, Charlotte launched new software that let it monitor citywide social media usage more broadly than ever. The experimental social map, developed for use during the DNC, let the city seek out clusters or individual social media usage for topics related to city services and where the social media were being used. The map tracked usage on Twitter, Flickr and YouTube as the city tried to locate problems it could help handle.

Major topics varied throughout the week. For instance, Saturday centered on the protesters’ arrival, and Sunday focused on the protest and the heat. Monday’s top topic revolved around transit-related issues.

Tuesday’s major social media trend was about uptown protesters. That focus continued on Wednesday, along with Obama’s arrival in Charlotte and the change in venue for the president’s speech from Bank of America Stadium to the arena. Rumors circulated on Twitter that “UndocuBus” protesters who had been arrested would be deported, according to the city.

For the DNC’s final day, convention speeches were the overwhelming trend of the night.

Twitter just explodes

Finally, in the world of Twitter, the DNC was a real record setter.

The convention’s final day generated 4 million tweets about the DNC worldwide, said Elaine Filadelfo, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco company. That one-day total was more than double the number of tweets sent on any topic anywhere during election day in 2008.

It also was double the number of tweets mentioning the Republican National Convention on the RNC’s final day in Tampa, Fla., Filadelfo said. Of course, some tweets could be from Democrats critical of the goings-on, with the opposite holding true for the end of the DNC. Twitter doesn’t tally the nature of the content.

Need more numbers? The 4 million DNC tweets on the last day equaled the total RNC tweets for the Republicans’ three-day convention.

When Twitter calculated numbers for a few days before and after the RNC, the total tweets mentioning that convention hit 7 million. Final numbers are not in yet for a similar span for the DNC, although Filadelfo expects it to top 10 million.

At its highest point right when Obama’s speech ended, Twitter saw 52,756 tweets per minute on the DNC, the most ever for a political topic. At the RNC, the high mark was 14,289 tweets per minute during the end of Gov. Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech.

The prior political tweet record came in May, with about 7,000 tweets per minute when the president announced his support for gay marriage.

Twitter usage during the DNC shows just how strong political discourse can be on the service, Filadelfo said. And both presidential campaigns are well aware of the power social media has held during this election cycle.

But for a little perspective, Filadelfo said the record number of tweets per minute on any one topic stands at about 116,000. It came during the closing ceremony of this summer’s London Olympics – when the Spice Girls were singing.

Bell: 704-358-5696
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