Social Listening

How Did the Ostrich Cross the Road? Tracking 2020’s Most Absurd Story (So Far)

On August 4, 2020, two rogue ostriches were seen running in a subdivision in Quezon City. It is likely that you already know their story. This report contains the story of their stories — where the ostrich stories spread, and how people talked about these runaway birds online.

Let’s get running.


Where did the story start?

To the surprise of everyone on social media, at 9:37 AM on Tuesday, August 4, a Facebook user uploaded the first video of the ostrich onto his personal page.

Just over an hour later at 10:43 AM, a Twitter user shared the same video on her personal Twitter page, saying she got it from a Viber message. It went immediately viral, racking up thousands of likes and retweetsalmost as soon as it was posted.

In just under an hour, the video made its first appearances on public Facebook pages. At 11:37 AM, GMA posted the video on its official Facebook page, followed just a few minutes later by a meme page named MGA LUMAKI SA BULACAN BULACAN (11:41 AM). In the next hour, ABS-CBN (12:08 PM), DZMM (12:10 PM), Philippine Star (12:30 PM), News 5 (12:32 PM), and GMA (12:33 PM) all uploaded the same video — not to mention, meme pages and news/microblog pages. The Spot.ph article that eventually became the most shared story on this issue was published on Facebook at 12:55 PM.

All day, public Facebook pages — meme pages and verified media pages alike — were posting about this ostrich:



While some major news outfits were able to post about the ostrich before it became really viral, most still caught on between 12:00 PM and 1:00 PM. Before long, we couldn’t escape the escaped ostriches — everyone was writing about them.

Web Mentions

Web mentions are basically online stories. These are the media articles, blog posts, web pages, and other content outside of social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) that mention your topic.

In most cases, they are media articles and blog posts.

The ostrich story had 38 total web mentions on August 4, which generated a total of 83,726 engagements.

What are engagements exactly? Engagements are basically the interactions on social media generated by web mentions. These include likes, shares, and reactions on Facebook, likes and retweets on Twitter, and shares and upvotes on Reddit. If you shared a story about the ostriches on Facebook, or clicked the “Haha” react on a news story about the ostriches, those are counted as engagements and were likely included in the Total Engagements above.

The ostrich story received a lot of media coverage, which led to a lot of public attention. Here are the top 5 stories that generated the most engagements (as of August 5, 3:00 a.m.):

1. Ostrich Spotted Running Around Quezon City During MECQ (37.7K total engagements)

2. Ostrich runs loose in QC subdivision (14.9K total engagements)

3. This ostrich running in QC is peak 2020 chaotic energy (12.7K total engagements)

4. ‘Aaay, ostrich!’ Hilarious (and political) reactions to ‘Jumanji’ scene in QC, compiled (4.8K total engagements)

5. Here’s Why an Ostrich Ran Around a Subdivision in Quezon City (3.8K total engagements)

But, of August 4’s top 10 most engaging stories in the Philippines, only one was about the ostrich: the Spot.ph story. The top stories were still mostly about the concurrent Philhealth issue.

What is this telling us?

Blogs, not mainstream media sites, generated the bulk of engagements.

Spot.ph generated nearly half (45.5%) of the social media engagements on the ostrich story. This was followed by GMA Network, which generated 21.6% of the engagements, while another blog, ScoutMag.ph generated 15.2% of engagements.

Websites, Percentage of Total Engagements


Spot.ph wasn’t the first to publish an article about the ostriches. GMA published one just minutes earlier. The two media outlets tend to have similar average engagements per article, but Spot.ph had the perfect audience for their article to succeed.

Because Spot.ph is an online magazine that focuses on entertainment, it doesn’t have to release stories on every important news development — they can focus on catering to a smaller segment of news. Because of this, Spot.ph’s ostrich story was released to an audience that would probably engage with a story about escaped ostriches running amok in Quezon City. Compared to media outfits that people follow to keep tabs on current events, Spot.ph was primed for virality for this specific story.

Public sentiment

What did people think about the ostrich story?

Data as of of August 5, 3:00 a.m.

Out of the 20.7K of Facebook reactions that were generated, “Haha” was the most common. One percent (1%) of reactions were “Sad” and literally no one was angry.

One brand in particular capitalized on the trend. At 1:59 PM, Angkas announced that they made “ostrich” a promo code that gives users a 20 PHP discount from 5 deliveries. Their announcement was delivered in the brand’s social media voice, using memes and colloquial language to connect with its audience.

This post received 394% or 99K+ more engagements that the page’s 30-day average, and was the page’s most viral (most shared) post this year so far. Interestingly, Angkas didn’t announce this promo code on its Twitter page, but at 1:43 PM, it posted the same image (without the promo details) with a simple caption: “jumanji (2020),” making use of a Twitter meme that uses a topical photo and makes a pop culture reference to draw a comparison between the two, usually to comedic or satirical effect. Angkas’ tweet registered 303% more engagements than its 30-day average, and was its most shared tweet in the last 3 months.

Entertaining and political

On Twitter, most users referred to the ostrich videos as entertainment. Many tweeted in jest, saying that they wanted an ostrich as a pet, wanted to see the ostriches, or wanted to become an ostrich (“gusto”). There were also many references to the movie Jumanji. Many also added this ostrich incident to the long list of strange 2020 occurrences.

Wordcloud of Tweets about the ostriches

The humor didn’t last long before social media users used it to shed light on more pressing issues.

For example:

* Many Tweets mentioned “oust”, with most of them making the pun “oust rich.”

* Many Tweets also mentioned “Philhealth”, in reference to the Philhealth corruption issue. Other keywords used to discuss this issue: “15 billion” (as in the 15 billion pesos in missing Philhealth funds)

* There were also tweets referring to the explosion in Beirut, with people saying they want to watch the ostrich again, or listing it among key events in the past 24 hours.

Wordcloud of Tweets about the ostriches, with political keywords and current events keywords highlighted

In fact, the most engaged Tweets about this issue have a political angle.

1. The damn ostrich turned around when told she didn’t have a gate pass. Already 1000% times better than most politicians. (15.1K Retweets and comments, 60.1K likes)

2. My boss shared on viber this OSTRICH running around in QC AND I AM SCREAMINGGGGGG THIS IS THE 2020 CHAOS I NEVER KNEW I NEEDED (14.4K Retweets and comments, 44.7K likes)

3. the “aaAy ostrich!” and the “u dont have a gate pass” and the “it doesnt fly right” hsjdnfbejdndnsjds (10.4K Retweets and comments, 29K likes)

4. I’m glad we had a good laugh at the Ostrich, but the stolen P15 Billion pesos from Philhealth, allegedly by its execom members should be today’s biggest news.👇🏻 (4.6K Retweets and comments, 8.1K likes)

5. Maybe ostrich means oust the rich? (3.2K Retweets and comments, 18.9K likes)

(Data as of August 5, 2020, 3:00 a.m.)

By 6:02 PM on August 4, Janjan Comics posted this on Twitter:

And on 7:40 PM, a Twitter user edited the original ostrich video, superimposing “P15 BILLION FROM PHILHEALTH” on the running ostrich, clearly telling social media users not to let the ostrich distract us from the more urgent, and more important, issue at hand.

Meanwhile, on Facebook, sharing ostrich videos hadn’t slowed down, and videos were still inspiring Haha reacts from most users.

Recent years have already shown us that Twitter is the choice platform for politically engaged social media users, and this pattern was upheld in this issue. Where Twitter users saw an opportunity to redirect attention to current events, Facebook users welcomed the amusement and respite from COVID–19 news.

Today, the ostriches are no longer out on the streets and traction on their story has slowed down, but its lessons are lasting.

Insights

The story went viral, but it wasn’t the primary “top of mind” topic.

Although Spot.ph’s coverage of the ostrich story was among the most shared stories in the past 24 hours, stories about Philhealth fraud allegations, jeepney drivers begging during MECQ, and COVID–19 rapid testing causing transmissions, as well as some showbiz stories, generated more engagements than the ostrich story.

Facebook Posts were neutral, but many Tweets were political.

Facebook Posts about the ostrich story mainly described the incident and videos, while many Tweets provided additional current events commentary, relating the ostrich incident to the Philhealth corruption issue, the explosions in Lebanon, and other political and social issues.

Stories from blogs and online magazines generated the bulk of engagements.

The online stories that generated the most engagements (shares, comments, and likes on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit) were stories from blogs or online magazines such as Spot.ph, ScoutMag.ph, and Esquire PH.

Interest in the topic is waning.

Alas, our collective enjoyment of the ostrich videos was short-lived. Interest in the topic peaked at August 4 at around 8:00 p.m. and has been trending downward since then.

Brands are rewarded for keeping up with trends.

Angkas was able to take advantage of the trend at its peak, and received almost 200K total engagements for doing it, proving that if a brand has its ear to the ground and knows how to spin trends in its favor, it can spur astronomical engagement, too.

Media: GMA News

Shares: 331

Shares were from: Mostly from Facebook users sharing it from the GMA News Facebook Page

Media: GMA News

Shares: 185

Shares were from: Mostly from Facebook users sharing it from the GMA News Facebook Page

Media: ABS CBN News

Shares: 140

Shares were from: Mostly from Facebook users sharing it from the ABS-CBN News Network Facebook Page

Media: GMA News

Shares: 133

Shares were from: Mostly from Facebook users sharing it from the GMA News Facebook Page, but also from Facebook users sharing it to supporter groups, askeing for help in combating the negative comments

Media: Global Balita

Shares: 88

Shares were from: From a network of supporter Facebook Pages and Groups for political figures mostly aligned with the administration; blog itself does not have a Facebook Page counterpart

Pro-Robredo

Users who have explicitly stated in their profiles or posts their endorsement of Robredo for President

Pro-De Guzman

Users who have explicitly stated in their profiles or posts their endorsement of De Guzman for President

Opposition Supporters

Users who show support for both Robredo and De Guzman but have not explicitly stated who they are endorsing for President

Pro-Marcos

Users who have explicitly stated in their profiles or posts their endorsement of Marcos Jr. for President

Users with unknown political leanings

Users who tweeted, retweeted, or replied to content about the CNN Presidential Debate but have not declared in their profiles or posts if they are endorsing any candidate for President

Media

Twitter accounts of mainstream and alternative media outlets/publications. Media accounts are typically present in networks of newsworthy topics and issues because they report on them.

Want more?

These are just the highlights — we have a comprehensive report on this story, which includes more engagement data and a comparison with other trending stories published on “Ostrich Day”. If you want access to the free report of all our findings and insights, please get in touch with us.

Tracking the reach and influence of stories allows us to look into how audiences react to stories, how they use platforms, and how they interact with media. Insight like this has so many applications — you can take it as consumer research, as media research, or you could even track stories about your own brand. Think your organization needs insights like these? Let us help you out.