Braving a cesspool of tweets to reveal three big ‘movements’ in social media conversation

Braving a cesspool of tweets to reveal three big ‘movements’ in social media conversation
(Photo: Michael Nagle / Bloomberg)

The social media platform has identified three trends after analysing billions of tweets.

For some, Twitter is a toxic space, revealing the very worst in humanity. A place where ministers previously espousing “fear fokkol” bravado reinvent themselves as Mr Fix, who fix little except fixating on social media.

And when they tweet that they have “arrived in Ukraine” to score cheap “likes” from their followers, as if that means they would finally fix something, they attack “disruptive” journalists for having the temerity to question why a public representative in sheltered employment would tweet so tactlessly, against the backdrop of Russia’s war crimes, the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, and Vladimir Putin’s trigger-happy fingers threatening nuclear Armageddon.

For others, it’s a democratic space of information and debate – a space where timelines can mostly be tailored to the user’s wants and where ideas can be challenged and information disseminated.

The platform released its third annual Twitter Trends Report this week, revealing the three biggest “movements” in conversation: Finance Goes Social, The Great Restoration and Fan-Built Worlds. These were identified after an analysis of billions of tweets between 2019 and 2021.

It examines shifts in finance and the Covid-19 pandemic to the popularity of virtual worlds, revealing ways that marketers can capitalise on these trends.

“An idea becomes conversation becomes a seismic cultural shift. And if you want in on what’s next, listen to what people on Twitter are saying right now. To help you out, we analysed billions of Tweets over a two-year period to find three must-know trends about to go big,” the report says.

“From The Great Restoration to Fan-Built Worlds to Finance Goes Social, the talk on Twitter reveals the underlying shifts in power shaping where the world is going.”

The statistics and data points in the report are from Pulsar & Canvas8, for the period 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2021, providing a “sneak peek into the movements that will drive culture, no matter what business you’re in”.

Trend 1: The Great Restoration

The Great Restoration is a move among users that is about healing the planet by healing ourselves and rethinking climate change.

Within millions of daily tweets, Twitter says it recognises users are focusing on their personal health while increasingly calling out corporations to take the lead against the planet’s environmental crisis.

Terms such as “restoring” and “rebalancing” had a 64% year-on-year increase, and mentions of “greenwashing” (marketing spin to mislead consumers that companies’ products and policies are environmentally friendly) increased by 158%.

It says mass burnout has driven people to reprioritise their wellness over corporate serfdom, giving rise to trends seen at the end of 2021 and early 2022, such as the Mass Resignation in the US, whereas sustainability has become increasingly important.

“After decades of big business inaction, consumers are tired of carrying the load. The conversations on Twitter show the pandemic shifting perspectives.

“People are focusing on themselves and expect corporations to take the lead against massive planetary challenges,” the report says. “So, while folks are still talking about veganism and recycling, they’re also getting real about impact and accountability, too.

“Personal and planetary health are intertwined, but a better balance of responsibility is needed.”

The climate conversation is central to that Restoration, with corporate call-out culture in full swing.

“People on Twitter are talking about decarbonisation, emissions and other big issues that put pressure on companies.

“People are tired of being the only ones who care and an underlying ‘anti-trust’ is bubbling over. They need brands to make some real impact,” Twitter says.

Trends to watch: The report says people are talking about “climate mitigation” (instead of “the climate fight”) more than ever before, as it is a more achievable concept that focuses on slowing down environmental damage.

They’re also turning to ideas such as planet-friendly wellness solutions and cleaner, greener healthcare, while calling out corporations and holding themselves accountable.

What’s next? Twitter believes the fight for the climate will be “kinder”.

“Looking closer, we see this movement becoming more kind than militant. People want change, but in a holistic way – alternative fuels, fighting waste, healing, metaphysics. There’s an ethos of appreciation, instead of obsessing with everything wrong with the world, ‘the planet will restore when we do’.”

Trend 2: Fan-Built Worlds

Twitter says fans no longer just follow, they’re also calling the shots, making the rules, and creating worlds they want to be part of.

“With a 51% decrease in the use of the term ‘stanning’ [being an overzealous fan], this is an epic shift in power. In thousands of niche communities on Twitter, fans are building and creating – collaborating with artists and each other.

“Even more game-changing? Shared ownership. Fans having a genuine stake in what they’ve made. And getting paid for it.”

Twitter noticed a 994% year-on-year increase in mentions of “fan tokens” and twice as many tweet replies in the fandom.

“Fans come to Twitter to talk,” the report says. And they are looking at the conversation more purposefully. “They’re tearing down the wall between idol and fan, for more immersive experiences – while creating art and ideas for themselves and their communities. People are talking about building complex worlds through cosplay, role-playing games, and virtual marketplaces … leaving the superficial in search of real connection.”

Trends to watch: New metaverse worlds such as Decentraland, a 3D virtual world browser-based platform, which allows users to buy virtual plots of land as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and The Sandbox, a video game genre with a nonlinear structure that allows players to roam freely, allow fans to spend their time – and money – in niche virtual destinations with unique avatars, digital fashion drops, and endless expression.

Gaming was first to enter, the report says, and music’s coming in fast.

“But look out for ‘core’ aesthetics – entire worlds designed around shared passions like flowers or steampunk. Our basic need for belonging has come full circle.”

What’s next? Fans will be using their power to create value for themselves and their “tribe” through currency-driven membership, gamified marketplaces, and NFT collabs connecting across fandoms.

“They’re also lighting up the VR/AR conversation, staking claim in new metaverse communities.”

Trend 3: Finance Goes Social

Everyone is getting in on money matters, and they’re having fun, says the report. Communities of experts and ordinary people are freely sharing knowledge for all to see, with tweeting about finance among non-professionals and non-enthusiasts up by 78% year on year – and it’s not only about stock picks.

“The finance conversation has become part entertainment, part gaming, unapologetically social, and more open than ever before. With 75% growth, #FinTwit is driving a new cultural dialogue across Twitter.”

There were also 17 times more tweets about NFTs than about work from home in 2021. And researchers noted a 492% increase in the use of emojis in finance conversations, with the hottest conversation on Twitter being cryptocurrency.

Topics such as trading and virtual gigs in virtual worlds are also hotting up, while stablecoin (a cryptocurrency), NFT marketplaces, decentralised apps (dApps, digital applications or programs that exist and run on a blockchain), the token economy and decentralised exchanges are growing by more than 242%.

“From learning the basics to championing bitcoin and ethereum, folks want to be part of this new frontier… But this is just the start. Talk of #DeFi – decentralised finance – tells us this is part of the larger power-shift away from institutions. And looking closer, we see the next trends already starting to form.”

Trends to watch: Ordinary people are becoming more empowered about investing and speaking about entry-level products. Crypto could help the unbanked.

“And the fast acclimation to NFTs looks to have people thinking of them like stocks. Then there’s the increasing talk about crypto’s environmental impact. And overall reliability. So, as this conversation grows, keep an eye on sustainability and trust.”

What’s next? Twitter expects to see huge increases in talk about NFTs, decentralised exchanges and ways to put user-empowered communities to work.

Fast-growing conversation suggests the rise of people-centric decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs, organisations represented by rules encoded as transparent computer programs), safer investments powered by stablecoins, and fun, passionate communities entering this space will attract even more everyday people.

With hundreds of millions of tweets sent on Twitter every day, there’s a lot more going on Twitter than toxic conversations, memes and jokes. Twitter reflects what people are thinking, doing and feeling, influencing culture in the present and future. For marketers who want to get a sense of what is going on in the minds of their customers, peers and competitors, the Trends Report peels back some of the mind’s many layers. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

home delivery

Say hello to DM168 home delivery

Get your favourite newspaper delivered to your doorstep every weekend.

Delivery is available in Gauteng, the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Eastern Cape.