MH370: Tracking social conversations

Pauline Pangan
People want answers. They want to be informed.

NO INFO. Relatives of passengers from the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 leave the lounge after getting no new information in Beijing on March 14, 2014. Photo by Goh Chai Hin/AFP

MANILA, Philippines – As the world continues to grieve, question and speculate over the disappearance of flight MH370, we have analyzed the tragic event to better understand how public social sentiment in disasters like this shifts from day to day on social platforms.

Sentiment on the first day of the tragedy was oriented around key words like “missing,” “Malaysia Airlines” and “crash.” As news leaked, the search for the plane continued and differing accounts emerged from Chinese, Malaysian, Vietnamese and international authorities, the sentiment quickly shifted to words like “terrorism,””passport” and “Iran.”

Now that a week has almost passed, we are starting to see conversations with theories like “alien abductions emerging.”

What we are seeing is quite a phenomenon in social media analytics. The traditional media (TV, Print, Radio) is acting like a magnifying glass for what we are seeing socially. As soon as news breaks in the mainstream media, it is magnified on social networks and blogs, almost like a wildfire. Consumers are getting snippets of information and then creating conversations in their social sphere that get amplified to their network and audience.

General consensus

The news topic continues to trend online with over 2 million mentions related to Malaysia Airlines. Radian6 Word-Cloud analysis continues to show terms around “Malaysia Airlines” as a hotly discussed topic online. Though the fate of Flight MH370 remains a mystery, the public does have its speculations.

The Radian6 analysis shows that the leading social theory is that of the plane crashing which amounts to almost 60% of all social conversations. The second most popular supposition is that of a terrorist attack, clocking in 31% of all posts. As news has emerged of passenger phones ringing then suddenly being dropped, 6.3% of social opinion suggests there are survivors still out there. Still, some believe in the event of pilot suicide resulting in around 4% of mentions. Finally, others speculate wildly that alien abduction may be the cause at 3.2% of all speculative mentions.

What happened to the missing plane? Nobody knows! But what does the world think?

A closer analysis of the Radian6 conversations revealed that most of those who speculated on the plane crash as a particular possibility were in the 25-34 age range, which is consistent with the age group that uses social media the most. Within this age range, 52.7% of comments came from females and 47.3% from males.

Looking at the geographic spread of these conversations, not surprisingly, the heaviest level of conversations came from Malaysia and the USA. Local social networks in China not measured by Radian6 are recording high levels of conversation as well, which is not surprising given Beijing was the destination of the flight and there were a large number of Chinese passengers aboard the plane.


Analysis of the Radian6 data shows that trending topics in information coincide with news reports both online and through traditional media. As news broke about two passengers aboard MH370 bearing stolen passports, social conversation peaked simultaneously. With the plane still missing 6 days after the disappearnace, Radian6 analysis is starting to show growth in the term alien in relation to the MH370 incident, a theory that is more popular with males. 

Radian6 analysis in real-time is important for brands and other stakeholders to understand, measure and act on.

“Social listening is a really important piece of brand management that is often misunderstood or undervalued. Brands need to be aware of what people are saying about them at times like this because they want to still have a viable business and brand in the future. For airline brands, reputation management at times like this is critical to the long-term health of the airline.”

Social listening also delivers the benefit of understanding what content your consumers and customers want and then responding in real-time to either answer those questions or satisfy a thirst for knowledge.

Related affected parties like Tourism Malaysia and Boeing should also be looking at social sentiment and social listening analysis like this hourly, or even by the minute through a social media control center, and responding in real-time to either provide news on the information people want, related content and answers.

People want answers, they want to be informed. The longer this plays out, everyone involved will be affected, and that’s why being aware of social sentiment and doing your best to manage it is so important. –

ALLFAMOUS Digital is one of the leading digital marketing agencies in Asia. ALLFAMOUS Digital is a partner of and provides social services to some of the biggest brands and companies in the Philippines and other markets in Asia Pacific. Founded by Pauline Pangan, the agency prides itself on being solutions focused, fast paced and at the forefront of social analytics.

Pauline Pangan is the Founder of AllFamous Digital. Socially and passionately engaged with the digital space, she has established AllFamous Digital, a successful business digital marketing agency that services big clientele locally and internationally. AllFamous Digital is also the Authorized Reseller of Salesforce Marketing Cloud in Asia.

Aside from being an entrepreneur and a lover of social media, she is also a health and fitness advocate and has even found the time in her busy schedule to become a certified Zumba instructor. Pauline is also actively involved in social outreach through LifelinePH, a charity organization she founded that helps people displaced by calamities.

Twitter: pau_allfamous
LinkedIn: paulinepangan

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