Social Media Watch – The Tragically Hip Edition

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Legendary Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip played the final show of its Man Machine Poem Tour in Kingston, Ont. this past weekend, captivating audiences across Canada – 11.7 million tuned in to TV, radio and livestream broadcasts, according to CBC.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended the concert, sporting a Tragically Hip t-shirt and jean jacket, to see off the band and frontman Gord Downie, who was recently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

A photo of Trudeau embracing Downie went viral on social media and in news stories across the country. Tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts about The Hip received the most traction and engagement of any other posts from Trudeau’s accounts over the past week.

Prior to the show, Trudeau praised the band in an interview with CBC host Ron Maclean, discussing the band’s importance to Canadian music. During the show, Downie mentioned the Prime Minister on more than one occasion, specifically mentioning issues around Indigenous peoples.

Some reports suggested Downie was endorsing Trudeau, while others took it as a challenge for Trudeau and the Liberal government to take greater action to address the issue.

The transcript of Downie’s statement during the show reads:

“He cares about the people way up North, that we were trained our entire lives to ignore, trained our entire lives to hear not a word of what’s going on up there. And what’s going on up there ain’t good. It’s maybe worse than it’s ever been [ … But] we’re going to get it fixed and we got the guy to do it, to start, to help. […] It’s really, really bad, but we’re going to figure it out — you’re going to figure it out.”

Downie received an outpouring of support for using the nationally broadcast show as a platform to bring attention to Indigenous issues, so for this week’s Social Media Watch, we decide to take a look just how big an impact it had.

In addition to multiple trending topics throughout the weekend of the concert, social media posts about The Hip and Downie’s First Nations comments generated roughly 20 million potential impressions across Canada over the past week. Peak activity came on Aug. 21, the day after the show, where there were 38,000 captured posts. From Aug. 19-26, there have been a total of 104,034 social posts related to The Hip.

What’s really telling is that Canada has about 14 million daily Facebook users, so when we look at the impressions generated, we can conclude almost everyone in the country who used the Internet or social media came in contact with the story in some way. 

For the week of August 21, The Hip were among the top image, news, video, and general searches in Canada.

We looked at CTV to demonstrate an example of the impact the story had on news and social exposure for Indigenous issues. CTV tweeted a link to a story about Downie’s call-to-action for Indigenous support in the north following the concert, which generated 69,450 potential impressions. Prior to that, the last time CTV tweeted about an Indigenous story was on May 17 related to First Nation children living in poverty on reserves — a tweet that gained 51,000 potential impressions.

This suggests that the Downie story exposed an additional 18,450 people to the issue or increased support by 34 per cent.

Whether or not The Hip was endorsing Trudeau or calling him out to take action, one thing is certain: people paid attention. People responded. And Indigenous issues are once again at the forefront among Canadians and in Canadian politics.

– Jeff Blay, Communications and Digital Coordinator,  Enterprise (jblay@enterprisecanada.com, @JeffBlay) and Adam Schwartz, Associate Consultant, Navigator (aschwartz@navltd.com)