How much is NewsJacking worth?

How much is NewsJacking worth? A 0.7 % increase in Twitter Followers.

NewsJacking. It’s everywhere. Somewhere out there between the Cronut and Get Lucky, it’s the hottest fad that every Brand wants to see, hear and do. Every couple of months, we see a Brand on top of Twitter trends, refreshing the Huffington Post every 5 seconds and voila! conjures up inspired genius. In nano-time, the Brand pulls together that one tweet or post or billboard (old school, but hey! It happens plenty!) – and tadaaa! a real-world social media coup.

But …Then What?

For every Oreo, we’ve all heard those other stories, when a Brand tried to NewsJack an event and failed. Miserably. Public Backlash. Social Media Takedowns. Negative Press. Management Apologies. The horrors of NewsJacking gone wrong remain in our consciousness and interweb archives for a long time to come. Which brings us to the all important question for Brands…

Is NewsJacking worth it?

To answer just that, Unmetric is happy to introduce the Eyeball study. That’s right – I said Eyeball. Like Grandma’s Meatball Recipes and Honey Boo Boo with Go Go Juice, sometimes the best measure of good things is that which you can just see. Now to the naysayers who claim how terribly unscientific an eyeball study may be – let us not forget that the very essence of Data Visualizations is to make sense of data in a pictorial fashion. Indeed, its common consensus that anomalies, outliers and their significance must be first identified to be understood and felt.

The Unmetric Eyeball study on NewsJacking is simple. We looked at n=10 noted instances of NewsJacking on Twitter – 5 wins and 5 fails. Once the sample was determined, we dug through baseline metrics ( i.e those metrics that don’t depend on others. e.g. follower growth is a baseline metric, brand engagement is not.) and insights on the Unmetric Platform to discover any changes in the Brands’ respective social media performances owing to the NewsJacking content. We looked at a time period ranging from the day before the instance of NewsJacking a current event or news story upto 2 days after. And, what did we discover?


  • Follower growth showed the most significant change in baseline metrics after a Brand’s NewsJacking attempt.
  • Follower growth ranged from 0.09% to 18.9% in the 5 positive instances of NewsJacking. In the negative instances, follower growth ranged from 0.1% to 9.7%.

NewsJacking: The EyeBall Study by Unmetric Create infographics

Visually, the stark difference appears to be that NewsJacking wins almost predictably show a jump in follower growth that evens out 2 days after the event. In the negative instances, there appears to be a lot more noise in follower growth.

Below, we show what the follower growth percentages for each of the 10 Brands really look like:

BrandWin/FailFollower Growth %

So, is this a valuable finding?

Yes…and No.

No, because as many may argue, NewsJacking is a PR stunt intended to generate more eyeballs (pun unintended). The differences in follower growth are an obvious example of in play. We agree. An increase in follower growth after a deliberate marketing play that translates to press, retweets and word of mouth virality is not a crazy amazing finding.

But here is what IS interesting though – with the exception of one Brand, a NewsJacking win for a brand yields a median of 1.4% increase in followers. For NewJacking fails, excluding the lone winner, that number comes down to 0.25 %. On an average across the entire sample, excluding the winners – follower growth is a median of 0.7%.

Which is why we also said Yes, it IS a valuable finding.

From how the metrics look, we can clearly see that Newsjacking serves as a trigger to the first front of the social media audience – fans and followers – and this may hold true no matter which platform you are on. In TV era Nielsen speak, it means that NewsJacking clearly increases the brand penetration – i.e the number of people who have access to the brand’s content.

Even with growing unrest over fans and follower count as a useful metric, a Brand cannot deny that it is the number to first conquer. The way social media platforms are set up right now, the success or virality of a brand’s social media content follows from their fan/follower count. From Unmetric’s own research, we also know that Shares are strongly correlated with a brand’s fan count. Academic research has chimed the same about Twitter and RTs. Also, Keep in mind that the importance of fans or followers in popular consciouness is still very much an ‘Instant Judgement’ metric for how important, popular or great a brand is on social media.

On the flip side in a recent study, McKinsey suggests that negative social media buzz (a symptom of NewsJacking Fails) can negatively affect sales. So even if a brand’s follower growth shoots up, the increased chatter about the brand from an unfortunate bet at NewsJacking reflecting sentiment and consumer emotion can affect its key bottomline – sales. Thus, the question to brands then becomes –

Is a 0.7% median increase in Twitter Followers worth the risks that NewsJacking brings to the table?

Think about it.

At Unmetric’s labs, we putter away at the next gen of insights and data analysis. Feel free to share and use the NewsJacking Fan Growth chart (with attribution, of course) and while you are at it, Sign up for a free 6 day trial of Unmetric’s Competitive Intelligence Platform here.