Technology

Global population growth tops Facebook chatter chart

Newborn baby
Image caption A story about world population hitting seven billion was the most clicked on among Facebook users

Births, deaths and weddings consumed Britons on Facebook in 2011, it has been revealed.

A BBC news story about the global population hitting seven billion topped Facebook's list of the most popular news stories in 2011.

By contrast, the most talked about topics were the royal wedding, UK riots and TV show The Only Way Is Essex.

The deaths of Amy Winehouse, Osama Bin Laden and Col Muammar Gaddafi were also much discussed.

Sharing stories

Facebook put together its list of the most popular news stories by counting the number of clicks on its site for articles posted from the country's top media outlets which had appeared as wall posts, likes or shared items.

It said the top UK story wasa BBC-made graphicwhich let people enter their birthdate and find out where they ranked among the seven billion people currently alive.

In total, 11 BBC stories featured in Facebook's top 20 list, including items abouta drunken elk trapped in a treeandsub-atomic particlesthat appeared to travel faster than light.

A report from the Sun received the second highest total of clicks, likes and shares.

It was about a woman who allegedly had ascatalogically-themed tattoo inkedon her back by a lover in revenge for her unfaithfulness. However, other journalists have sincecast doubton the claim.

Several news stories from the Guardian and Daily Mail newspapers also appeared in the list.

Nuptials and violence

When it came to talk among Facebook users, the royal wedding topped the chart of topics or memes. Facebook said more than one million people turned to the site to discuss it in the 24 hours around the event.

Kate Middleton was the person most people mentioned while logging their reaction to the day.

The longer list of top topics on UK Facebook was split between the momentous, trivial and bizarre.

Alongside talk about the big news stories, such as the killing of Osama Bin Laden, were conversations about underground music hit Ed Sheeran, Modern Warfare 3 and the catchphrase "reem" from The Only Way Is Essex.

Facebook said comments on the year's big events sometimes amounted to more than just chatter.

It highlighted people's use of the network to organise their response to August's looting and violence in English cities.

"People continued to turn to Facebook in the aftermath of the riots to organise their communities to come together for the clean-up - the two biggest groups set up to motivate operations and rally positively against the riots were huge with over 600,000 fans," a statement said.

New audience

Analysts say that the list highlights the opportunity, and challenge, posed by social networks to established organisations.

"The rise of Facebook and Twitter has a social value in spreading the more humorous stories around the world but there is a serious message for corporates and governments here," said Ian Whittaker, media analyst at Liberum Capital.

"Stories can rapidly spread in a way that would have been impossible several years ago and they can have an almost-immediate impact on people's views on a subject before the other side has a chance to respond.

"On the other hand, it also opens up a new audience for companies, in particular, looking to build their brands and using social networks as a way to spread the word about their product."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites