Watching Twitter Watch the Melissa Harris-Perry Show

[Note: Since this post was published, I’ve done a more recent analysis of The Melissa Harris-Perry Show’s Twitter engagement.  You can see it here]

One of the great additions to MSNBC’s line up is the Melissa Harris-Perry Show on weekend mornings, airing from 10am to noon Saturday and Sunday.  And one thing that makes it great is the way the MHP show has engaged its audience via Twitter, even going so far as to invent their own hashtag, #nerdland (One day I’ll find out if this is a pun on Birdland).

So while everyone was watching MHP, I was watching twitter … and as you’d expect, there was a spike in activity as the show was underway:

Twitter Activity during the Melissa Harris-Perry Show on MSNBC

Click to see larger chart

New tweets are in blue, and re-tweets are in red; over the course of the 48 hours of Saturday and Sunday, about 38% of the tweets were retweets.

You can clearly see the activity building up right before the start of the show, but quickly dwindling afterwards.  Since I included @mharrisperry references in my count, the residual activity is a combination of show related tweets and tweets to/from Melissa herself.

Re-tweets are a great way to find topics that are starting to resonate with the audience — a retweet is a vote up, and as retweets become popular it gives us all a sense of what the community thinks is interesting or important.  Here are the top 10 retweets over the weekend (with the number of retweets for each):

108 RT @MHPshow: #TrayvonMartin’s mother is now on Twitter. You can follow her at @SybrinaFulton.
47 RT @keithboykin: @MHPshow made a compelling point about Obama’s birth certificate & #Trayvon’s shooting. As blacks, we always have to prove we belong here.
47 RT @majorzman: White men in multi-$1000 suits brought this country to its knees. And we are afraid of young men in hoodies? #nerdland @MHPshow
41 RT @chrislhayes: If you’re watching @MHPShow and enjoying it, take a second to send an email or text or FB message to someone else you know who would like it
39 RT @MHarrisPerry: This morning @MHPShow takes on serious issues of Affordable Care Act, GOP race & Trayvon Martin. On lighter side- Mad Men. #nerdland 10AM ET
36 RT @MHPshow: Melissa’s conversation today with three young men about what it’s like to grow up black in America right now: #nerdland
33 RT @MHPshow: James Baldwin was just quoted on the show. Here is the author being interviewed in Miami about race in 1963: #nerdland
30 RT @MHPshow: Now in #nerdland: Melissa talks to three black young men about growing up in today’s America. They’re joined by Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu.
29 RT @MHPshow: “White folks are sometimes looking for the slur; this is a pattern of institutional neglect,” said @timjacobwise. #TrayvonMartin #nerdland
29 RT @MHPshow: “It’s always on the side of people of color to fix something,” @AntheaButler said. #TrayvonMartin #nerdland

It’s interesting that so many of the retweets are from the show itself.  But it is also interesting that these tweets represent a small fraction of the roughly 2500 retweets that took place — so it’s clear that no avalanche took place (for an example of a retweet avalanche, see my article on when the Trayvon Martin story caught fire on Twitter).

Not surprisingly, the show was the most frequently mentioned twitter id in the tweets:

Viewers are clearly very engaged with what’s going on in the show.  Similarly for hashtag usage:

Hashtags used during the MHP show

Click for larger version

Almost everyone managed to include the #nerdland tag.

What I find most insightful, however, is the list of most frequently used words in the tweets (with stop words — the, and, etc. — removed).  This really gives you a flavor of the discussion going on:

I picked the top 30 words, but clearly the list goes on from there.  If you hadn’t seen any of the show, you could guess by looking at Twitter that the topics included something about “young black men”…

So what to make of all this? First, there’s a vibrant community of Twitter users who engage during the MHP Show, even if they disperse back to other Twitter communities when the show is not on.  Second, the community is carrying on an extended conversation about the topics being discussed.  Since the show itself is a discussion the majority of the time, it’s like an inner circle of conversation on the show and an outer circle of the same conversation on Twitter.  It would be an interesting dynamic to have a mixing of the conversations between those two circles as the show goes on….

I’ll try to come back to the MHP show in a few months and compare the Twitter communities to get a sense of the growth and change that has taken place.


I used all Tweets from 00:00 am Saturday until 11:59 pm Sunday that had either @mhpshow, #nerdland, or @mharrisperry in the tweet. 

2 thoughts on “Watching Twitter Watch the Melissa Harris-Perry Show

  1. I’ve made a point to be on twitter while watching the show every weekend. Love seeing what others are thinking/sharing. It adds to the show, great dialogue.

    • We need a MHP application that has the live feed on the top and the twitter stream below — that would unify the two!

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