Twitter TWTR has changed the way fans, and the world, engage with K-pop over the past few years, and is commemorating a decade of K-pop Twitter this month.
Through a series of events this month, including a discussion between fans and artists held on the social media platform, Twitter Korea is celebrating its impact on the way the world has engaged with South Korean pop artists through it since 2010, when K-pop acts and fans first started to engage with the app in impactful ways that would ultimately become a major factor in its international rise.
Twitter became popularized in South Korea in 2010, making 2020 an optimal milestone to explore the decade’s growth. According to YeonJeong Kim, the head of Global K-Pop Partnerships at Twitter, the data shows, “That Twitter is the best place to check what’s happening [in K-pop], what people are talking about right now in realtime. Twitter is serving as a bridge for K-pop to the world. We are accelerating the rise of K-pop globally.”
Kim and her team’s research aims to expand the historiography of K-pop, showing how modern technology is shaping the industry’s growth and adding to its legacy. “[K-pop’s impact is] based on the history of the 25 years, or sometimes going to the Seo Taiji era going back 27-years-ago. So we’d like to figure out how K-pop Twitter, the K-pop community on Twitter, [and K-pop] have grown together.”
Working with fandom data observatory K-Pop Radar, Twitter Korea tracked data from the past year between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020, and added it to its analysis of the past decade’s growth. With over 6.1 billion conversations about K-pop in that time, engagement’s only growing on Twitter, with BTS, EXO, GOT7, BLACKPINK, and NCT 127 dominating the conversation this year.
Over that span, engagement remained high regardless of the hardships many people around the world faced over the period due to the COVID-19 pandemic, climate crises, and political turmoil. At times conversations surrounding K-pop even dominated those about the coronavirus, which Kim says reflects the sustainability of the K-Pop Twitter community.
Throughout the decade, boy bands have dominated conversations annually, with Twitter Korea’s 10-year-long conversation growth curve only recognizing the impact of a handful of high-profile girl groups such as Girls’ Generation and BLACKPINK, and a singular solo artist in the form of “Gangnam Style” iconoclast Psy, whereas BIGBANG, Super Junior, Seventeen, and Wanna One have also been included in previous years along with the aforementioned acts, who are currently leading K-pop convos on Twitter.
Over this time, these acts and many others from South Korea and their audiences have utilized Twitter to propel their careers globally, whether it was through trending hashtags related to artists or propelling them on an international stage by targeting certain metrics. Most prominently, Billboard’s Social 50 engagement-tracking chart became full of South Korean acts in recent years as fan engagement soared. In 2017, BTS became the first artist to beat Justin Bieber as the Top Social Artist at the Billboard Music Awards (BBMAs), and have stayed at the top of the chart ever since, and remain one of the biggest topics of discussion on Twitter daily to the present.
The growth curve depicted by Twitter Korea’s finding reveals generational shift aligned with how K-pop’s second, third, and fourth generation of artists are identified by fans; the first generation of K-pop artists thrived in the earlier days of the Internet. The early days of K-pop Twitter saw only minimal engagement, but then around 2012-2013 there was growth as the third generation arrived, and the current wave of growth since 2017 is based around BTS’s rise and the shift to the fourth generation of K-pop acts. The year was also notable for several reasons: firstly, that it was the year BTS surpassed 10 million followers, making them the first K-pop act to do so on Twitter, and because it was the year EXO, the highest-profile K-pop holdout, joined Twitter with the launch of its official account, a nod in recognition to the impact and necessity for K-pop acts of being part of conversations on Twitter. It was also around that time that Twitter began expanding its efforts to curate conversations with K-pop artists and fans, whether it was creating special emojis or hosting events with artists and fans.
K-pop Twitter has the most unique voices, or users, over the past year based in the United States, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, and The Philippines, while individuals from Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia, The Philippines, and the U.S. tweet the most when it comes to volume per market. Different regions have more buzz about various artists, with some continental drift impacting tastes. In the case of the U.S., BTS, TWICE, TXT, ATEEZ, and GOT7 were the most-mentioned K-pop artists in the time period of Twitter’s data, though Kim adds that BLACKPINK’s recent high profile releases of “How You Like That” and “Ice Cream” with Selena Gomez would likely result in that act being included in the country’s metrics if the data included recent weeks.
Currently, overall the Top 10 most-mentioned K-pop artists worldwide on Twitter are BTS, EXO, GOT7, BLACKPINK, NCT 127, Monsta X, Seventeen, NCT Dream, TWICE, and Stray Kids.The Top 10 fastest-rising artists are Stray Kids, ATEEZ, TXT, IZ*ONE, SuperM, AB6IX, WayV, CIX, LOONA, and ITZY.
Along with tracking growth of artists, K-Pop Twitter’s data revealed the most-mentioned K-pop song in the world during this time was “Obsession” by EXO, folllowed by “ON” by BTS. OBTS’s “Boy with Luv” featuring Halsey, “Black Swan,” “Shadow,” and “DNA,” also were included in the Top 10 most-mentioned K-pop songs, along with SuperM’s “Jopping,” GOT7’s “Not By The Moon,” BLACKPINK’s “How You Like That,” and “Feel Special” by TWICE.
As social media increasingly becomes a way for cultural diffusion to spread across the globe, those who master it and who integrate with it will dominate pop culture conversations. Both Twitter and K-pop acts have done just this, and will continue as long as they are able to innovate and keep up with the times. How long that will last remains to be seen, but at least in the present there are few forces as reliable and impactful as K-pop Twitter.