The unfortunate rise and rise of “geili”

I recently took my irritation with cliched Chinese internet language and my obsession with social media analytics to a new level: with some simple keyword searches I tracked the spread of the word “geili” (给力), from its first Sina Weibo mention to the ubiquitous position it enjoys today. I even asked my colleague Dora Yin to make it into this infographic:

The rise of “geili”, which means awesome or cool and is sometimes translated as “ungeilievable”, has gone hand in hand with the staggering development of SNS and content-sharing platform Sina Weibo.

The word  – along with many other Chinese internet neologisms – drives me mad. I always thought Geili, which I found was first used on Weibo on September 24, 2009, would die out quickly, especially after major brands such as Intel (cl.) started using in their social media campaigns. Instead geili has proved unstoppable, and has been mentioned 66,374,879 times since then.

More so than Western equivalents Facebook and Twitter, Sina Weibo has a powerful search function that allows you to search for relatively complex keyword strings according to specific date and location. This means you can do some pretty interesting quantitative analysis.

Based on the number of mentions, I was also able to work out that Saturday was the most geili day of the week, that July 3, 2011 was the most geili day in history, and that September 20, 2011 was the least geili day – some may remember that it was this day that saw Sina Weibo mysteriously taken offline for several hours.