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Why don’t we tweet what we Google? Can end-of-year lists tell us about the year?

Why don’t we tweet what we Google? Can end-of-year lists tell us about the year?

‘Tis the season that our favorite web companies release their annual data for the most mentioned, searched, downloaded and clicked content of the year.  But do these lists tell us the full story for the year?

2011 trends via Google

2011 trends via Google

This week, Google Zeitgeist got its annual update featuring the fastest growing searches of 2011.  Notice it’s for the fastest rising not the most searched. Anyway, according to the global list this year Apple and celebrities dominated our searches with the main news content coming from the death of Ryan Dunn, the case of Casey Anthony, and the events at Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

Twitter’s report, which was released last week, reveals that globally we were most interested in entertainment, sports, with a bit of news.  The execution of Tory Davis was the news story that generated the greatest number of tweets per second while Egypt was the most discussed.  The earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, and the British Royal Wedding also made the lists.

While we can’t compare the two data-sets by directly; Google Zeitgeist reports the fastest growing searches of the year and Twitter’s 2011 Trends reports the most mentioned topics on the site and the topics that generated the most tweets-per-second, we can look at the topics themselves.

What did we search for in 2011 that we didn’t tweet, and what did we tweet about that didn’t break Google Zeitgeist’s top 10?

Rebecca Black
Google and Twitter agree that Rebecca Black was the most prominent singer of 2011 on their platforms.  Google lists Black as the fastest growing search topic for the year globally.  Over on Twitter she is listed as the most mentioned music-related topic for 2011.

Which suggests that Rebecca Black’s Friday might just be the soundtrack of 2011…

Google+
Google’s data reports that Google+ was the second-fastest growing search term this year but Twitter tells us that we weren’t too active tweeting about Google’s new social network.  Twitter’s says that Google+ didn’t make any of their Hot Topics or their most tweeted-per-second lists.

Were we most interested in searching for G+ than we were telling our followers about it?

Ryan Dunn
Jackass and Viva La Bam star Ryan Dunn died aged 34 in a car crash in January 2011.  His name makes both Google’s list of the fastest rising global searches and Twitter’s list of actors.  On both lists he’s comes in at number 3 on their respective lists.

Casey Anthony
Casey Anthony was the 4th most searched topic of 2011 but we didn’t tweet about her case.  Google says Anthony generated search results during and after her six week trial as “the media watched her every move”, although she was not featured on Twitter’s lists of the year.

Battlefield 3
It was one of the most anticipated games of the year on Google search but not one of the most talked about on Twitter.  In 2011 we searched for Battlefield a lot (placing it number five on Google’s fastest rising searches) but we were more interested in tweeting about Guitar Hero, Duke Nukem Forever, and Mortal Kombat.

iPhone 5
Also highly anticipated but still unreleased, Apple’s iPhone 5 was the sixth fastest rising search but, again, people weren’t tweeting about it.  Twitter mentions that the term iPhone was one of the most tweeted technology terms of the year but this would include the iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, and earlier versions of the smartphone, not just the iPhone 5.  So including all these possible iPhone related tweets chances are we weren’t tweeting about Apple’s next generation smartphone to any great degree.

Adele
British singer Adele makes number 7 on Google’s list but on Twitter she wasn’t mentioned on their lists, suggesting her singing talents weren’t as appreciated as Rebecca Black’s.  Tantalisingly Google reports that Adele “never performed in the three countries where she’s most popular.”

東京 電力 (Tokyo Electric Power)
Google and Twitter’s lists agree that we searched for and tweeted about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami this year.  After the events users in Japan began searching for 東京 電力 (Tokyo Electric Power) to such a great extent that “Searches for 東京 電力 (TEPCO) rose so quickly and at such high volume that the keyword landed a spot on our fastest rising list, despite Japanese-language representing only 4.7% of total Internet users. ”

Although there isn’t a direct corresponding tweet, the earthquake and tsunami generated one of the greatest number (5,530) of tweets-per-second this year and was the third most tweeted story this year.  #japan was the fifth most used hashtag of 2011 and the second most mentioned country.

Steve Jobs
Following Job’s death in October searches for him peaked on Google.  The Apple co-founder doesn’t make any of Twitter’s Hot Trends for the year, although his death generated the 9th highest number of tweet-per-second (6,049).

iPad 2
Apple’s second generation iPad went on sale this year and searches for the device peaked in February after its release.  But like the iPhone 5 Twitter didn’t record which edition of the tablet was most discussed on the site, it only mentions that the iPad was the most discussed Apple device this year, beating both the iPhone and iPod.

404 – Not searched
The question isn’t whether these lists are accurate or valid, they are both to a degree, but whether they tell the full story of 2011.  In a year of economic disaster, political troubles in Europe, the occupy movement’s mass civil disobedience, and Wikileaks’ ongoing revelations it’s striking that we didn’t discuss or search for these online enough to make the lists.

Interestingly hugely popular events this year, such as the British Royal wedding didn’t made Google’s global top 10.  Nor did Osama bin Laden’s death, The Arab Spring, or Hosni Mubarak.  Gaddafi’s death wasn’t a popular search term either

These lists are valuable and entertaining but they, to borrow a phrase from the newspaper industry don’t represent a complete first draft of history and don’t tell us the full story of 2011.  Google doesn’t tell us what the most searched topics were, just which were the fastest rising.  And Twitter, too, doesn’t give us a single list of the most tweeted words of the year.

Both sites provide separate lists broken down by editorially chosen topics but not absolute numbers, until we get these we can never truly see what has been occupying our minds in the past year.

End-of-year lists, like all statistics, tell us as much from what they omit than what they include.

Now, let’s get started on 2012.

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  1. Pingback: Google crowns royal wedding as fastest-rising UK search of 2011 – Pursuitist | SPUNKL

  2. Pingback: looking for the listing of the listing of the most-Googled list in 2011? Here it is | only dreamin'

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