Social Analysis: Fidget Spinners

Heather Satterfield Heather Satterfield, Marketing Manager

In January 2017, barely anyone knew what a fidget spinner was. Most fidgeters would resort to either clicking re-tractable pens or flipping them through their fingers, while others would twirl their hair and bite their nails to stay busy. The nature of fidgeting is nothing new. In fact, most of us have heard our parents plead with us, “STOP FIDGETING”.

Let’s take a look at the social life of these fidget spinners to see when and why they became so popular. According an article from The Guardian on May 5, Catherine Hettinger created her first patent on the spinner in 1993, but due to a lapse on the patents she’s getting no credit for the popular stress relieving fidget toy. Before these toys spun into notoriety, they were used by kids with attention disorders and autism.

We used Sysomos Search to look at the spike in social mentions of the fidget spinner between March and May of 2017. Prior to March, there were only a few hundred mentions of the dazzling spinner. When searching all social sources, a small spike in mentions occurred March 24. Of the 18.9k mentions on that particular day, 18.5k of those were from Twitter. What’s interesting is that the fidget spinner doesn’t start soaring until 40 days later, on May 3.

The mentions of the fidget spinner go from 23.6k on May 3 to 143.2k mentions on May 13. Between March 22 and May 22 there were 1.8 million mentions for fidget spinners, of which Twitter dominated 89.2% of those mentions. These spinners rose to new heights of popularity, almost as quickly as Ronald Miller in the 1980’s classic, Can’t Buy Me Love.

Looking at all sources, it’s important to highlight the overall sentiment. Facebook presents an overwhelmingly positive sentiment towards fidget spinners, while Tumblr shows an exceptionally negative stance toward them. Taking into account the positive and negative mentions of a sample size of 5k mentions across all sources, the overall sentiment is 67% negative, when setting aside neutral posts. If this sentiment holds, it’s uncertain if the popularity of fidget spinners will maintain.

Since Twitter represents over 89% of fidget spinner mentions between March and May, we dug into the Twitter results to pinpoint the top sources who were talking about the fidget spinners. From the below chart you can see that CNN en Español and Mashable were two of the top sources. Additionally, the demographics show that folks in California and Texas were a bit more vocal on social about the fidget spinners than people from any other state. This is rather interesting when looking at CNN en Español being the top source and people from two states that border Mexico talking about it the most.

We all love emojis; why not let these little images do some explaining for us? Below is a list of the top emojis used on Twitter when fidget spinners were mentioned. The top emoji sums up the fact that fidget spinners are hot, but the real question is when will they burn out? There are new toys waiting to spin or flip into the trendy bright light.


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