Impact of a Twitter meme

I started a Twitter “meme” on Friday, #mundanemetal. Idea was a bit of fun on a Friday: substitute a word or two in a rock song title for something more mundane, as in “Boat on the Water” instead of Smoke on the Water, the Deep Purple Classic. “Stairlift to Heaven” as an alternative to the Led Zeppelin masterpiece and the one that started it all when I heard by wife singing it on her way up the stairs: “Highway to Hull”, Hull being perhaps about as mundane a notion when compared to Hell.

Anyway, I tweeted a few more examples, posted a blog about it, and updated the hashtag on the What the Trend site…followers and others ran with it and it went on all day Friday. It didn’t quite go viral and as far as I know it never actually “trended” on Twitter. But, here’s the interesting thing. I did it purely for fun and perhaps got a wee bit carried away. Some people seemed to enjoy the Friday diversion but it had a side-effect too in that I presume most of my followers hanker after my relatively serious science and technology news and views rather than a tedious stream of spoof rock song titles. Of the 14632 Twitter followers for @sciencebase on Thursday (having seen 34 new people join the sci-tech party in the previous two days, there were 3 who jumped ship as the #mundanemetal meme panned out and another 4 the next day. That said there was a dip of 3 the day before the meme too…so conclusions are difficult.

However, Saturday after some more normal science and technology tweets Sciencebase was up 8 and so far today we’ve added 35. Total at the time of writing is 14668 and TwitterCounter reckons we’ll gain 23 tomorrow and have reached 15000 by the beginning of March at the current average rate. That’s a lot slower a rate of increase than at the time we were nominated for a Shorty Award early in January.

The point not being to brag about the number of followers I have, just to point out that creating an off-topic meme on Twitter can actually negatively impact on your followers but after the noise dies away things seem to go back to normal pretty quickly. Of course, if I’d created an on-topic twitter meme, things may have been different. But, I am a chemist, so what other kind of music would I reference than metal?

Author: David Bradley

Freelance science journalist, author of Deceived Wisdom. Photographer and musician.