The Most Engaging Topics on Social Media in 2015 (so far)

From racial tensions to coverage of the Super Bowl, there has already been a wide variety of trending topics on social media in the first half of 2015.

Below, we take a look at the coverage and engagement a few topics earned. One thing is clear – social media has been a driving force behind displays of support and solidarity, racial debates, and demands for social change this year.

You may also like: How to Engage With Your Influencers on Social Media

International Incidents

Charlie Hebdo

On January 7, 2015, the offices of French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, were attacked in a shooting that killed 12 people. Social media attention served as the top source for real-time updates and a forum to share messages of support for the nation. The hashtags trending for the story, including #JeSuisCharlie, reached more than 2.8 million mentions across the globe in just days. By the end of the prominent media coverage, final counts were around 5 million tweets of #JeSuisCharlie. 

These numbers are impressive, but compared to the 32.1 million #WorldCupFinal tweets last year, we have to consider that social media can be just as shallow a platform as it is powerful. Seemingly, people prefer to post and tweet about happier, less upsetting topics, though as we will continue to see as this list goes on, any opportunity to voice an opinion or share sympathy is welcomed.



After the announcement of the Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize gay marriage in all 50 states, support for the decision was in full force on social media. Facebook even created a rainbow filter for profile pictures, which over 25 million people have used so far.


The decision even earned its own hashtag, #LoveWins, which was tweeted 6.2 million times in just one day. Brands also took to social media to lend their support, with a bevy of rainbow tributes posted by Kelloggs, Target, Google, Budweiser, American Airlines, and countless others. Twitter Data tracked the tweets about the ruling in real time:

Charleston, SC & The Confederate Flag 

The political aftermath of the tragic shooting at a Charleston, South Carolina church sparked a social media frenzy, calling for the removal of the Confederate flag from all government buildings. Brandwatch notes tens of thousands of hashtag tweets and hundreds of millions of impressions on the topic. Even major retailers like Walmart and Amazon made the move to discontinue the sale of any products depicting the flag.

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Pop Culture

Super Bowl

Of more than 28 million Tweets during the game, the majority were about Malcolm Butler’s interception.


Katy Perry’s halftime performance earned an impressive 280k tweets, with many likely mentioning what became a short-lived internet sensation, #LeftShark.

The Dress

Tumblr user ‘Swiked’ likely had no idea that her question to readers about the color of a dress would spark such a debate. Buzzfeed writer Cates Holderness picked up the story, which had already received over 550k notes on Tumblr, and within 24 hours, #TheDress had over 1.5 million mentions. Even celebrities joined in on the debate – blue & black or yellow & gold?! This has arguably been THE viral story of the year so far. According to Twitter Data, there were over 11 million tweets about The Dress:

Science settled the debate, sort of, by explaining that what color you see on a screen has to do with how your eyes and brain process the different wavelengths of colors… so basically everyone and no one is correct.

Awards Shows – Grammy’s & Oscars

It was a good year for award shows on social: the Grammy’s generated 20.9 million tweets and 1.6 billion impressions, while the Oscars had 3.7 billion impressions from more than 3 million mentions and over 1.5 million tweets of the #GoldenGlobes hashtag.

Honorable mentions go to Kevin Spacey for #HouseofCards, Gina Rodriguez for #JanetheVirgin, and Chrissy Teigen (Jon Legend’s wife) for her “cryface”, which received over 16,000 tweets about her reaction to his #Selma win. Catherine Zeta Jones also stirred up some buzz after being compared to the salsa dancer emoji:

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Game of Thrones

The season finale of GoT earned nearly 1 million Twitter mentions, with twice as many negative tweets as positive. The hashtag #jonsnow alone made nearly 4.5 billion impressions.

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Social Issues

Caitlyn Jenner

Upon the release of its July cover featuring Caitlyn Jenner’s debut, Vanity Fair launched the #CallMeCaitlyn hashtag. Within days, it had been used 258k times, with 1.5 Billion impressions. The topic cloud below from Brandwatch indicates how the conversation was framed on social.

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Taking hold in 2014 as part of the public’s outrage over incidents of police brutality and violence against African Americans, #BlackLivesMatter has taken on a life of its own. From #Ferguson to #Eric Garner, #ICantBreathe to #CrimingWhileWhite, the conversation about racial tension in the United States has been embodied in this movement and still holds strong.

When the Ferguson story first made the news in August of 2014, there were over 17 million mentions about it on social media. Several widely-publicized stories of racially charged police violence and a few unthinkable tragedies later, and we are now seeing outpouring of support in many forms, all on social. Social media is being used as a platform, not only to deliver realtime news, but also to propel the movement – from rally’s and protests organized entirely on social networks, to shedding light on stories that may otherwise have avoided the attention necessary to promote awareness and drive change, #BlackLivesMatter is only gaining momentum as the public shouts “enough is enough.”

This momentum seems to be unique to this movement, as many advocacy campaigns tend to lose steam when faced with slow-to-adjust political response. In the aftermath of #Ferguson, there were widespread calls for body cameras to be mandatory for police offers. This came about more quickly for some departments, but sweeping changes in viewpoints and practices are slower to adopt. The public remains engaged, however, be it due to seemingly regular news stories of yet another tragic shooting or that people simply care about this cause enough to continue to participate in it.



Rachel Dolezal

“Dolezal” became a household name when it was discovered that the NAACP activist had been lying about her race for years, posing as an African American woman, though she is Caucasian. In the days following the breaking story, it received over 450k mentions, with the hashtag #RachelDolezal reaching nearly 3 billion impressions across the globe.

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With social media being particularly charged by racial issues over the past year, the controversy surrounding Dolezal’s trans-racialism brought the discussion of race, politics, and culture to a crossroads.


Women’s World Cup 2015

The world took to social media during the 2015 Women’s World Cup, especially to celebrate the 5-2 U.S win over Japan on July 5th in the most watched soccer event in history. Nine million Facebook users generated 20 million interactions, while there were 9 billion impressions on Twitter. The final game was the most Tweeted about match in the tournament.



Boston Olympics

Upon the announcing of Boston’s win of the U.S 2024 Olympic bid, social media was predominantly positive, with 4,600 mentions of excitement and 2,000 of dissatisfaction. The response on Facebook, however, was overwhelmingly negative. In the days following the announcement, the hashtag #Boston2024 received almost 35K tweets.


News coverage turned to the New England Patriots after their win against the Colts, as accusations of ball deflating were made against the Super Bowl bound team. The hashtag #DeflateGate took hold as the incident remained fresh for several weeks. On May 6th, the NFL published a 243-page investigative report, known as the Wells report, concluding that the Patriots has more than likely deliberately tampered with the air pressure in the footballs to gain an advantage over the Colts.

The story even sparked a skit by Saturday Night Live, and led to a 4 game suspension of quarterback, Tom Brady, whom the Wells report claimed had knowledge of the football tampering. His suspension created an uproar amongst Pats fans, calling for the NFL to #FreeBrady. Not surprisingly, the bulk of the chatter was central to the Boston area, which is home to plenty of die-hard Brady fans.


FIFA Scandal

As news of FIFA’s corruption scandal broke, more than 400k mentions on social surrounded the story. Current FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, dominated hastag mentions with #blatterout and #blatter tweeted over 5,000 times for an overall impression count of over 30 Billion.

Even FIFA sponsors felt the heat, with the sentiment expressed towards top sponsors being overwhelmingly negative.


American Pharaoh

After winning the first American Triple Crown in 37 years, Twitter saw 240k tweets within 15 minutes  – a remarkable frenzy over an already sensationalized event:


Stay tuned to see what other stories create a  social media frenzy in the 2nd half of 2015!

To learn how your brand is driving influencer engagement, start by discovering your brand’s 100 most engaged Facebook fans for free with Fan Grader!

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