The Anatomy Of A Blog Post Gone Viral

N.B.: You will need Google or Bing translators to read through most of the resources in this blog post.

On April 29, 2013, a Nepolitkorektno blog post went viral within the Bulgarian community on Twitter and Facebook. Within the first hour of it being published, it was read 3,000 times. In the following twelve hours, it was read ten times more – 30,000. And later on, the post ended the day by being read almost 40,000 times.

The post was not extremely funny. It was not sexy. It was not witty. It was real. That kind of real that many visitors identified themselves with and the experience mentioned in it. That kind of real that made them share it with their friends on Twitter, Facebook or via email.

The Story

A Bulgarian politician and leader of a party, Mr Borislav Tsekov, has been publishing on his Twitter handle @btsekov (via Facebook plugin) the same message over and over again, stating that “the political parties need to be kicked out and deprived of 200 Mn in subsidies. While the Bulgarian people are jobless and poor. No… fb.me/PYExdpoP”. Everything seemed to be peaceful until one of my buddies on Twitter (@tourbg) decided to ask this politician the question – “Can we do the same with you by not voting with ballot #9?” (#9 is his party’s ballot for the coming elections on May 2012). And to this Mr Tsekov replied with the tweet “If you are as dumb as your question is, everything is possible… shushlyak”. Well, shushlyak (шушляк) in this case is used as a derogatory metaphor aiming to replace the qualification “stupid”, “moron” or generally “someone who make unnecessary noise”. But in the physical world, it is a waterproof synthetic textile material or a plastic mac.

btsekov-moderni-twitter-screenshot

tourbg-btsekov-moderni-twitter-screenshot

When seeing this, @tourbg must have felt appalled enough that he blogged the story and added eight more questions for this politician and the general public.

The Reaction

As soon as the blog hit the social networks in that morning, the community went ballistic on it. Literally, everyone, I follow on Twitter, and being online at that time, started sharing it. Naturally, the hashtag #shuslyak (#шушляк) was born and used widely. In fact, popular Bulgarian sayings, lines from movies and clichés were being altered in order to use this hashtag and mock Mr Tsekov. In many tweets, his Twitter handle was mentioned, which cause his “Interactions” section to be flooded.

Some users went even further and asked a popular Bulgarian forum for mums and housewives, BG Mama, “how does one dye a shushlyak?”. This was actually mocking Mr Tsekov tendency to switch easily between his political views and party association with every election Bulgaria has had in the past decade…

The peak of the iceberg was the immediate edits Wikipedia entries on both Borislav Tsekov’s and shushlyak’s wikis.

One blogger expressed her outrage and blogged as well – Divini’s post.

However, the general media in Bulgaria remained completely silent. See, the local law tradition (or particularity, if you wish) shows that at election campaign time, the media shall not be reporting on happenings like this one. Otherwise, it might risk being regarded as committing a felony by reporting it, for whatever reason. Funny enough, Borislav Tsekov’s Institute for Modern Politics has a designated section on its website concerned with topics deemed to be taboo in Bulgarian media

At some point, Mr. Tsekov decided that maintaining a @btsekov on Twitter is not an option for him anymore and the account vanished.

Blog Post Numbers

  1. As of today, the blog post has hit: 56 983 Page Views, 49 359 Visits and 35 257 Unique Visitors. (Source: Nepolitkorektno’s WP Jetpack Analytics)
  2. It was published on Facebook through the sharing button 187 times. (Source: nepolitkorektno.wordpress.com) And then re-shared some more within the social network. I cannot get the numbers, though. I just spotted it in my timeline 10 times only…
  3. Analytics based on the hashtag provided by Tweetreach are below:

TweetReach-hashtag-shushlyak-report

  1. Nepolitkorektno’s blog post shows up third in Google search for the “shushlyak” query:

shushlyak-google.bg-screenshot

A Few Bulgarian Numbers

  1. 2 647 640 Facebook Monthly Active Users (Source: Social Bakers)
  2. 300 000 users on Twitter as of July 2012 (Source: Capital.bg). Although, some knowledgeable tweeps reckon that the actual number of Active Users is somewhat ten times less…
  3. 37 000 – daily print edition of mainstream newspapers 24Chasa and Trud combined.
  4. 62 Political Parties registered for MP Elections 2013, 7 400 Candidate MPs for 240 MP seats. (Source: CIK.bg & Wikipedia)
  5. @tourbg is followed by 1 198 tweeps – together with his closest tweeps, the number grows to over 2 500 followers.

The Short Analysis

I mentioned in a couple of my previous posts that it is extremely important to have a social media strategy in place. It is also important to have a crisis management one, as well. But moreover. it is important for a politician to remember never to insult a potential voter or a member of the general public. The implications of such a posture on social media can be disastrous. Actually, this kind of demeanour is unacceptable. Period!

And when I say that one needs to analyse, I mean that the numbers mentioned above speak loud enough and pinpoint to a clear issue. In such a way that a politician cannot afford to have it on his/her hands. Although @tourbg does not have such a high number of followers on Twitter, his post received a tremendous amount of attention sprang out of the sensitive topic of how Bulgarian politicians, in general, treat voters. In addition, the network impressions effect grew with every share on each one of the social networks in use.

In this particular case, closing a Twitter account, as Mr Borislav Tsekov did, is not a solution. Actually, it is not helping the situation at all. There are a number of online resources already mentioning his mishap. A simple search on Google will bring it up on the surface level. And last but not least, he is decreasing significantly his chances to get elected.

What Borislav Tsekov Should Have Done

  1. Reply to the tweet in a respectful manner.
  2. Make a joke and laugh together with @tourbg.
  3. Discard the comment and not reply to it at all.
  4. Apologise to @tourbg on Twitter.
  5. Apologise in the comments section under Nepolitkorektno’s blog post.
  6. Apologise to the Twitterverse, Facebook and the community through a dedicated blog post on his personal website.
  7. Read Borislav’s POV and learn how to build his and his party’s social media strategy.

By the way, this is not the first time something like this has happened on Twitter with the participation of Bulgarian politicians and twitter users. Both @tourbg and yours truly have described our experiences at Nepolitkorektno and here at Borislav’s POV.

This post would have not been possible without the help of @tourbg, @divini_bg, @radoned, @htopuzov, @christogrozev, @momchil and @cipisec. Thank you for providing some of the sources and numbers needed!

Having any ideas or an opinion? Share in the comment section below.

Copyright © 2013 Borislav Kiprin. All Rights Reserved.