The second half of 2015 ended amidst international tragedy, pop culture resurrections and massive political debate. Several trends that we noted from the first half of the year have persisted, such as #BlackLivesMatter and #LoveWins, while other moments revealed groundbreaking change, like the discovery of water on Mars. From the media strangleholds of Adele and Trump, to the power of viral hashtags for movements like #IStandWithAhmed, #RefugeesWelcome & #PrayforParis, not to mention the triumphant return of our favorite Evil Empire (we’re talking about Belichick and Brady, but that small little movie opening works too), 2015 was a social media explosion. 

Below, we break down the people and events that pushed the social media limits, along with the topics that trended the hardest and spider-interwebbed the most:

You may also like: The Most Engaging Topics on Social Media in 2015 (so far)

International Incidents


On November 13th, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks by ISIL occurred throughout Paris and a northern suburb, Saint Denis. The international community responded to this atrocity with an outpouring of support for Paris citizens  founded under the #PrayforParis hashtag. In the first 24 hours after the attacks, Instagram logged over 430 million interactions in the form of posts, likes and comments, created by 70 million people from over 200 countries.FRANCE-ATTACKS-PARIS-LOGO
In the aftermath of the attacks, the hashtag #porteouverte (“open door”) began to trend, in which Twitter users could notify the Paris community of safe locations and areas to find refuge:

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Similarly, Facebook used a feature that it had developed initially for the earthquake in Nepal, a notification system that let its users know when their loved ones within Paris had confirmed their safety. The safety check was used by 4.1 million people to mark themselves as safe within the first 24 hours after the attacks, and over 360 million people received notifications that their friends and loved ones were safe.

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In the midst of Europe’s greatest refugee crisis since World War I, images of Syrian refugees inspired an international hashtag, #RefugeesWelcome, to promote the concept of welcoming Syrian refugees into countries for asylum. The hashtag quickly went viral, with over 200,000 mentions in 24 hours. The hashtag is still active as the international community pushes for a resolution for refugees seeking asylum.


Donald Trump is Making America   Social Media Great Again

As one of the more controversial public figures in recent (and maybe all of human) history, Donald Trump was–surprise, surprise–the most talked-about person on Twitter for 2015. The Republican presidential candidate sparked over 43 million mentions on Twitter, with Hilary Clinton trailing behind him with 31.5 million mentions. The following two infographics show how Trump stacked up against U.S. news and against his fellow presidential candidates in relation to the 2016 campaign:
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There was no data for how many of these mentions were directed at his hair.

Pop Culture

Adele Breaks the Internet

Hello, it’s meme. British singer-songwriter Adele sent the Internet into a frenzy with the release of her first single since 2012. The record-smashing “Hello” not only became the first song to sell 1 million digital copies in the United States within a week of release, but also set a benchmark for social media buzz. On the day of release, listeners were tweeting about the single at a rate of 1.6k tweets per minute, capping out at 1.3 million tweets by the end of the week.

The melodrama of “Hello” also spurred many parodies and viral memes, conveying feelings with which we are all too familiar. Saturday Night Live’s Thanksgiving-themed spoof of Adele’s hit on its own garnered over 12 million views on YouTube. Even fellow celebrities got in on the fun.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Breaks Everything Adele Didn’t

Have you seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Everyone else has. The latest flick in the Star Wars franchise annihilated box office records in December, becoming the number one movie of 2015, as well as breaking the previous box office opening day and opening weekend records, with 119.1 million for opening day and 528.9 million for opening weekend in sales, respectively. The film is currently on track to push Avatar from the podium for all time domestic box office earnings.

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In addition to its box office earnings, The Force Awakens broke social media records, becoming the most tweeted-about movie of all time. It generated over 2 million tweets in December, averaging 65,000 tweets per hour with spikes up to 116,000 tweets per hour. The force is strong, indeed.

Social Issues

Ahmed Mohamed: The Clock Heard Round the World

In one of the more viral events of the year, the internet almost broke when 14 year old Ahmed Mohamed was arrested in Texas for bringing a homemade clock to school that was mistaken to be a hoax bomb. Widespread public reaction rallied around cries of racial profiling and Islamophobia, as the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed was used over 209,000 times in 24 hours.

Meanwhile, many influential figures and companies took to social media to voice their support and even offer Ahmed internships and job opportunities:

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Still others used the incident for satire, casting light on American stigma and prejudice within a humorous framework.

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Gun Control is Still Unsolved

One of the most polarizing political topics of 2015 revolved around the second amendment. There were over 50 school shootings throughout the year, a startling and tragic number, leaving 30 people killed and 53 others injured. Gun control searches on Google have topped 160 million just this year, with no signs of the issue losing steam. Check out some of these insane Google Trends infographics on the “Gun Control vs. Gun Shop” Google search comparisons and on “Gun Control” in general:



Rugby World Cup 2015 Won Sports

It might not have trended in the U.S., but the Rugby World Cup was one of the biggest sporting events of 2015, with over 246 million Google searches throughout the tournament. The New Zealand All Blacks clenched the victory; in addition to being the gnarliest rugby team out there, they could also show our U.S. sports teams a thing or two about social media: the Kiwi team is equally savage in its online slaying presence, with a stellar “We Belong” campaign and the hashtag #TeamAllBlacks constantly trending. There are almost as many people interested in the All Blacks Facebook page specifically as there are in the Rugby World Cup Facebook page overall (3.2 million for All Blacks, 3.6 million for World Cup altogether.)

The biggest trending moment of the World Cup was after the final game and the All Blacks’ subsequent victory, when team favorite Sonny Bill Williams gave away his RWC medal to a fan. This video got 2.5 million views, and for a good reason- it may be the cutest moment of 2015.

Tom Brady is Back (Did He Ever Really Leave?)

He survived the Deflategate mayhem, he released a super controversial interview after being named GQ’s “Man of the Year,” and he has returned to kicking ass, taking names and breaking records in the fall regular season. The Pats ended 2015 with an impressive 12-4 record, despite several key players being out with injuries, and they are entering 2016 with a vengeance. As a Boston-based company, all Mavrck has to say is #FreeBrady and the haters gon’ hate.

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Special Events 

Pope Francis Visits the U.S.

In September, Pope Francis came to the U.S. Search interest in the Pope skyrocketed during his visit, with the most popular Google search being “Where is the Pope?”, followed by the equally crucial question, “What roads will be closed for the Pope?”

Snapchat and Twitter decided to get in on the Pope action, too: Twitter hashtags for the Pope trended for every city he went to (#PopeinPhilly, #PopeinUS, #PopeinNYC) and Snapchat even made some hilarious filters for the leader of the Catholic Church:
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Water is Found on Mars, No Aliens [Yet]

The thirst was very real in September when NASA announced the existence of free-flowing water on Mars. River-like structures were first discovered by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) in 2010, but it was only recently that the “ebb and flow” of the structures indicated the movement of water. Curiosity, one of the Mars rovers that originally detected water molecules on the Red Planet, has won over the hearts of Internet users and currently flaunts over 2 million Twitter followers. Those responding to the news using #AskNASA seemed to display a wide range of sentiments.
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Pluto is No Longer the Loneliest Planet

Nothing is more genuine than a group of nerds celebrating (it happens at Mavrck a lot, too). In July, NASA completed a nine year mission to have the first spacecraft to reach Pluto, exploring the last unexplored planet in our solar system. While a building of NASA engineers cheered to the probe’s images of Pluto, the rest of the world reacted on Twitter with a similar explosion of excitement.

Check back for more updates as 2016 unfolds! (Fingers crossed for Adele to release another album.)

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

Author Caroline Burke

Content Marketer at Mavrck. Voted the voice of her generation in a unanimous vote of one.

More posts by Caroline Burke

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About Mavrck

We all know word-of-mouth is the most effective form of marketing, but word-of-mouth automation at scale has always been a challenge. At Mavrck, we harness the power of human-to-human marketing at scale by tapping into your most valuable asset: existing customers with influence.

By focusing on influential customers who engage a high percentage of their friends around a brand's relevant topics or keywords, Mavrck's patented micro-influencer marketing platform powers consumer brands like Hershey's, Sears and Unilever to discover and activate millions of their micro-influencers to distribute content and drive conversions across social networks.

On average, our "always-on" activation engine will get 3 friends to convert for every 1 micro-influencer activated.