Social media listen plots impact of Costa cruise disaster

Social media listen plots impact of Costa cruise disaster

A social media ‘listen’ conducted exclusively for Travolution by digital marketing specialist Shorthose Russell has suggested the impact of the Costa Concordia tragedy may be less serious than feared.

The results of the test underline the dominance of Tripadvisor-owned Cruise Critic which saw the vast majority of posts and chatter about cruising associated with the sinking of the ship.

Costa Concordia hit rocks off the Italian coast on the evening of January 13 and has since lain stricken on its side. It could be there for up to 10 months as salvage work continues.

To date 17 people have been confirmed dead and 15 are still missing and the ship’s captain has been arrested and is awaiting trial on manslaughter charges.

Shorthose Russell retrospectively conducted the listening exercise over the period January 6 to 27, finding two spikes in activity relating to the ship on the 14th and again on the 27th.

This secondary spike coincided with news of an €11,000 compensation offer to survivors and appears to have been a major topic of interest among dedicated cruisers on Cruise Critic.

Analysis of which forms of online media featured the most chatter revealed microblogging (Twitter) represented the vast majority of posts (3,269).

This initial burst of activity largely consisted of people signposting their followers to news of the disaster as awareness of what had happened became more widespread on the Saturday morning.

Many posts related to people blaming the captain for the accident, Shorthose Russell said.

Interestingly the level of chatter returned to pre-incident levels very quickly before the upturn on January 27, suggesting interest quickly waned despite the 24-hour rolling news coverage.

In terms of influence traditional media outlets, social networking and forums came a lowly second third and fourth behind Twitter while video and photo-sharing sites were, maybe surprisingly given the visual nature of the incident, in a distant sixth.

However, a more detailed analysis of activity on individual sites placed Youtube in second behind Cruise Critic.

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Shorthose Russell said that when disasters like the Concordia sinking happen, video content is becoming increasingly important, as was demonstrated last year when right wing gunman Anders Behring Breivik ran amok in the Norwegian capital Oslo, killing 69.

What was thought to have limited the impact of this content in the Concordia incident is the relatively older demographic of cruise customers meaning they are less likely to be equipped to take video; however, some footage has emerged and been widely shared online.

Looking at the sentiment of the online chatter, the Shorthose Russell analysis found just 5.29% was rated ‘negative’, with the vast majority being ‘neutral’ – a reflection of the sort of sentiment included in most tweets about the disaster.

Negative sentiment was skewed by a post on Huffington Post about the Concordia sinking that prompted a heated row between Italian and German posters.

Positive sentiment was limited (just 0.16), but largely consisted of posting heartfelt message of support and condolence.

The exercise also looked at what was being said more generically about cruise holidays.

Here a similar pattern of volumes of mentions was found, except the secondary spike on the 27th was far more pronounced.

This was almost entirely down to Cruise Critic and a debate about compensation – clearly a hot topic of debate among experienced cruise customers.

Again, Cruise Critic was far and away the most influential site and similar levels of positive and negative sentiment were recorded, although 90% was rated ‘neutral’.

Peter Joyner, Shorthose Russell head of public relations, said what was notable by its absence was negative sentiment expressed about cruising from outside of the established online cruise community.

Although he said this does not rule out the likelihood that previously held negative views were endorsed by the incident, just that the disaster did not prompt people to express and disseminate them online.

“What we seem to have picked up here is that for those people who don’t cruise the incident hasn’t prompted them to go online and express their fears and negative feelings about cruising.

“Among those who do cruise it has not put them off in the slightest but clearly, as we saw from the increased activity around the compensation issue, how the cruise line reacted to the event appears just as significant as the event itself.”

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Shorthose Russell launched Delve last year, the UK’s first social media listening agency which is accredited to use technology developed by US-based Alterian.

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