Menu Close
As the leaders were meeting at G20 the tweeters were tweeting their own thoughts on the global summit. Flickr/Palazzo Chigi , CC BY-NC-SA

From selfies to climate change: the #G20 debate on Twitter

The G20 Summit that brought many of the world’s most important leaders to Brisbane last weekend was also a major Twitter event.

Australian and international users expressed their concerns over the appearance of Russian warships off the Queensland coast, shared selfies from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s impromptu visit to Brisbane’s Caxton St nightlife hub and called for action on issues ranging from Ebola to climate change.

For this first G20 summit in Australia, local disruptions and global coverage of key Brisbane landmarks were particularly keenly anticipated, and the QUT Social Media Research Group (SMRG) turned its focus to mapping and tracking Twitter activity around this globally significant and locally disruptive event.

The Mapping G20 project developed a gazetteer containing the coordinates of buildings, landmarks, precincts and streets in Brisbane’s declared summit zones to map #G20-related tweets.

This allowed us to map not only the more than 1,600 geo-located tweets within the Brisbane area, but also a further 17,000 that mentioned locations in the G20 zone within the text of the tweet, resulting in a number of interactive visualisations of the Brisbane G20 Twitter map.

The Brisbane G20 Twitter intensity map. Author provided

From complaints about blocked-off roads to snapshots of the various leaders’ motorcades, the maps show the level of excitement around various locations and tracks the key events of the summit across Brisbane.

Obama’s UQ impact on tweets

The most tweeted-about location on the Brisbane G20 Twitter map was the University of Queensland, where US president Barack Obama spoke to an audience of 1,000 on Saturday.

In the lead-up to and over the course of the G20, UQ amassed 3,229 individual points (tweets) on our Twitter map of Brisbane, but the majority (65%) of these were retweets about Obama’s speech.

Other highly mentioned locations on the map were the Brisbane Airport (mentioned in 2,348 tweets, and the site of much delegate-spotting) and South Bank Parklands (mentioned in 1,270 tweets).

The most retweeted tweet on the Brisbane G20 Twitter map came from Queensland premier Campbell Newman, who welcomed Indian prime minister Narendra Modi to Brisbane City Hall on Sunday.

Within the broader G20 dataset, the two most retweeted tweets featured world leaders cuddling our national treasure.

The Economist’s tweet picturing Russia’s Vladimir Putin holding an “alarmed” koala garnered more than 2,000 retweets to become the most retweeted G20-related tweet, closely followed by the White House’s tweet of US president Barack Obama enjoying a “koalaty moment”.

As an extension to the G20 social media mapping project, the SMRG also developed the G20 Hypometer, a virtual live scorecard especially developed to measure Twitter conversation about the G20 Leader’s Summit and participating countries.

The G20 Hypometer is a simplified adaption of a social media analytics suite being developed at QUT to measure the “hype” around television shows, brands, sporting events and other themes.

It tracked real-time conversation around the Twitter hashtag #G20 (and other unofficial hashtags being used) and the leaders and countries mentioned within the data to create a running total of G20 interactions for each country.

It also generated the daily stats for each country and for the overall conversation around the official and unofficial hashtags, and identified emerging trending topics during the event.

G20 Hypometer.

Between October 23 and November 17, the G20 Hypometer recorded more than 1.02 million tweets that related to the G20, of which almost 400,000 referenced the US delegation in some form.

Obama’s speech at the University of Queensland alone peaked at 620 tweets per minute during his discussion of climate change and generated almost 20,000 tweets during the speech alone.

For hashtags, the early running was dominated by the #OnYourAgenda activist campaign, which sought to promote a number of topics to be discussed at the summit.

Later, the specific events of the day drove trending topics, with hashtags such as #Putin and #Ukraine becoming more prevalent as the event continued.

Towards the end, as the final communique was developed and implications for Australia’s own future policy agenda were debated, #climatechange, #auspol and #Brisbane also ranked highly.

In the coming weeks, the SMRG team will be delving deeper into the data collected during the G20 to identify key themes, influencers and locations.

A particular focus of our research will be on the reconfiguration of Brisbane’s urban space during the summit, the role that this rigorous zoning of the city played in an event that has been hailed by politicians and police as a remarkable success and how on-the-ground public reaction to the spatial disruptions brought by the G20 played out on social media.

Want to write?

Write an article and join a growing community of more than 175,100 academics and researchers from 4,818 institutions.

Register now