Movement life cycle

 Through data collected from Google (News, Search and Youtube) our analysis examines the longevity and sustainability of public interest and action (online engagement) associated with the BLM movement of Summer 2020.
 

Google Trend Index on 'Black Lives Matter'

Google search index is a normalized number reflecting the popularity of search requests. Index is scaled to 0 to 100 with 100 being the highest frequency within a time range.

Source: Google Trends (topic - Black Lives Matter)

We extracted a time slice from May 25th to June 25th, 2020. During this period, the protest life-cycle of the Black Lives Matter movement went through the "growing" stage (May 25th - June 1st), the "peak" stage (June 2nd - June 7th), and the "aging" stage (June 7th - Now) within a month. (Learn more about our terminology here.)

What drove the rapid growth of the Black Lives Matter movement in its early stage? Highly visible, social media activities (like #blackouttuesday) led to spikes in attention early on. Around the same time, many people nationally and globally joined mass protests, which helped spread the message into the mainstream. However, as momentum slowed, as seen in the aging stage, the public started to speak less about Black Lives Matter. 

Fortunately, the voices were not disappearing but instead stabilizing. Though the general public were moving on, reinvesting their focus to other pertinent social issues (COVID-19, etc.), or "burning out", some were continuing to engage with Black Lives Matter online. We suspect this group of people better represents the population of people who are more likely to invest their efforts into advocating for long-term, anti-racist changes. In our Twitter Analysis, we were able to see the changes in trending topics related to Black Lives Matter between the different protest life stages.

Life Cycle

The life cycle of the 'Black Lives Matter' movement
from May 25, 2020 to June 25, 2020

Short-term, viral social media activities mobilized the most people and brought this movement to a historic peak. However, in the long run, most people dropped from the online conversation within the one month period, but some people have continued engaging with the movement through the end of June.

 

GEOGRAPHY

DC has the most impressive score despite being a small REGION.

Other states to note were:

Vermont, Oregon, and Washington

Interpretation of Engagement Rate:

A higher value means a higher proportion of all queries, not a higher absolute query count. So a tiny country where 80% of the queries are for "bananas" will get twice the score of a giant country where only 40% of the queries are for "bananas".

Geographic Distribution in 'Black Lives Matter' Google Query

Geographic Distribution in 'Black Lives Matter' Google Query

Google Trends by Geography

BREONNA TAYLOR

PROTESTS

12 months

  • Worldwide (G): Oregon, DC, Washington

  • US only: DC, Washington, Oregon​

Since 5/25

  • Worldwide (G): US, Canada, UK

  • US only: DC, Washington, California

DONATE BLM

​12 months

  • Worldwide (G):  US, Canada, UK

  • US only: DC, Connecticut, Washington

    • Note: 3 States had 0 search interest (ND, SD, WY)​

POLICE BRUTALITY

Our geographical data was collected through Google Trends. Google search requests are anonymized, categorized, and aggregated into a normalized value between 0 to 100. 

 

According to Google: A score of 100 indicates the geographical location with the most popularity as a fraction of total searches in that location, a value of 50 indicates a location which is half as popular. A value of 0 indicates a location where there was not enough data for this term.​

 

Due to the computation of the engagement rate (value), less populated states more easily get higher values. With that in mind, the dynamic map above shows how this movement spread across the nation. Learn more about Google Trends data here.

 

For our research, we chose eight keywords (related to trending Twitter hashtags during the same period) to analyze: “George Floyd”, “Breonna Taylor”, “protests”, “protests near me”, “Black Lives Matter”, “donate BLM”, “donate Black Lives Matter”, and “police brutality.” We counted the top three U.S. states and top three countries (worldwide) based on keyword popularity (Google Trends value) over the last 12 months and between May 25, 2020 till June 23, 2020.

 

Some insights include:

  • Washington state had particularly high search popularity for the term “protest”​

  • Majority of search keywords were most popular (top 3) in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom during the periods we analyzed (within 12 months and between May 25, 2020 till June 23, 2020)

  • Overall, Washington DC had the highest engagement rate for most of the days.

  • From the data available, three states (North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming) had low to negligible search popularity for the keywords: “donate BLM” and “donate Black Lives Matter”. 

    • This could be due to these states’ low population, and thus a reflection of the Google Trends search popularity value calculation. However, it is still important to note these states’ low to negligible search popularity during the one-month period from May 25, 2020 (for both keywords) and for the past 12 months AND from May 25, 2020 (for “donate BLM”). Further research and consideration should be made to this insight.

 

References (order of appearance)

Lee, J. (2020). Search interest in George Floyd  [Visualization]. Flourish. https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/2700383/​

Google. (n.d.). FAQ about Google Trends data. Trends Help. https://support.google.com/trends/answer/4365533?hl=en&ref_topic=6248052

spread the word

Chelsie Lui, Jin Pu, Mikayla O'Reggio

Data Strategy Fellowship Program, ParsonTKO & TechSoup 2020

All Rights Reserved.

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