The social media impact of the Oscar Pistorius bail hearing

On the morning of the 14th February, South Africa and the world at large woke up to the news that paralympic icon Oscar Pistorius, had shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The news was spread mostly on twitter and as more information was revealed, it was retweeted and dissected by everyone on the social network. When the bail hearing began the day after the news broke, the presiding magistrate ordered that there be no cameras present and so the only way to get information out to the public as fast as possible was through Twitter.

For the duration of the bail hearing it became clear that this case was becoming a social media phenomenon. Acceleration Media, authorised Salesforce Radian6 Reseller gave Memeburn an exclusive breakdown of some of the numbers surrounding the Pistorius case.

Raw numbers

According to Acceleration, there were 1 306 313 online posts about the incident between 14 and 20 February 2013, averaging out to 186 616 posts per day, 7776 posts per hour and 130 posts per minute. Each day, of course, came with its own hot conversation topics.


Posts-about-Oscar-Pistorius  - raw numbers


1. 14 Feb: Reaction to the initial reports of the incident, 229 020 posts
Social media users were shocked and filled with disbelief after the initial reports from the media. Some social media users formed opinions based on the information they had and some were willing to wait until the details of the incident were revealed. Towards the end of the day, more and more online posts were of humorous nature.


2. 15 Feb: Day one of bail hearing, 82 231 posts
Social media users reacted to Pistorius being charged with premeditated murder by posting humorous content as the majority were convinced he had murdered his girlfriend. Pistorius’allegedly violent past also came under the spotlight.


3. 19 Feb: Day two of bail hearing, 123 116 posts
As more and more details about the incident were revealed in court (Oscar’s affidavit), social media users opinions were divided about his version of the story.


4. 20 Feb: Day three of bail hearing, 94 789 posts
Attention shifted to the investigating officer (Hilton Botha) as he testified in court. Majority of posts retweets of mentions by the various journalists covering the story from the court-house.

Global interest

Part of the reason for the story has attracted so much attention on social media is because of Pistorius’ is an international athletic star. This is reflected in the fact that a large number of the social traffic has come from the US.

Number of posts by country:

Country Posts
USA 654 657
South Africa 196 210
UK 142 482
Canada 42 431
Netherlands 33 923
Greece 19 173
Morocco 16 855
France 15 222
Australia 13 778
Spain 12 687

It should be noted however that it’s not always easy to track which countries people on Twitter come from.

Acceleration reckons that 84.4% of the conversation around the case has occurred on Twitter, with Facebook and mainstream news outlets battling it out for second place.



As live camera feeds were banned from the courtroom, reporters took to their Twitter accounts and kept the general public up to date with proceedings. EWN reporter Barry Bateman’s (@barrybateman) coverage of the case has gained him over 100 000 followers. The increase in Bateman’s follower numbers has quickly outstripped that of his peers who are also reporting on the hearing.

While a number of other journalists have gained substantial increases in their personal Twitter follower numbers (with some gaining between 3000 and 23 000 followers in less than a week), Bateman’s stats are on another level. According to data from Twitter Counter, Bateman went from 17 429 followers on 15 February to 122 743 on 21 February — a 604% increase that amounts to an extra 105 314 followers in just under a week. The rapid increase in Bateman’s following on Twitter could also be driven by a number of influential journalists, sports men and entertainment personalities who retweeted him and commended his minute-by-minute communication of the hearing.

It will be interesting to watch Twitter over the next year as the case goes to trial and the continued influence Twitter will have over the way we gain information about this case and more. For more stats on the social media number of this case click here 

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