How a monkey in a coat became an overnight social media sensation

On Sunday, December 9, the IKEA Monkey (whose actual name is Darwin) escaped from his cage inside a car in a Toronto IKEA parking lot straight into our hearts. Photos of him clad in a tiny shearling coat and diapers soon abounded on Twitter, Tumblr and across the internet.

The IKEA monkey’s inevitable Twitter presence featured in the ensuing news cycle, but we haven’t read much about his presence on Tumblr. Fortunately, you have us for that! And who doesn’t want another excuse to look at an adorable monkey in a tiny little coat? Especially knowing that he’s now happily moved into the Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary, instead of an IKEA, which are sadly not optimized for primate habitats. Yet.

Let’s take a look at the little guy and see how posts about him spread across the social web. Here he is, in what might be the original photo posted by dzd_lisa on Instagram:


Isn’t he cute? That original Instagram photo was first posted to Tumblr by timeforinternet on Sunday night, December 9. After that, posts about the little monkey started to catch on across Tumblr and Twitter, with most activity happening on Monday, December 10.

On December 9, the day the monkey was first spotted at IKEA, there were only 71 posts about it on Tumblr. But on December 10, there were more than 1,100 new posts with 30,100 reblogs and 23,100 likes from more than 42,100 Tumblr users. On Twitter that same day, more than 55,700 tweets were posted from more than 44,100 unique Twitter accounts. Post volume on Tumblr peaked between 8:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. PST on Monday, while tweet volume on Twitter peaked between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. PST that day. 

Since the monkey first appeared on Sunday, there have been more than 2,200 total Tumblr posts, 103,400 reblogs, and 78,400 likes from 136,300 unique Tumblr users. As is typical of Tumblr, the most popular post type about the monkey is the photo type. Of 2,234 total posts, 1,134 were photo posts and 794 were text posts. Many of those text-type posts also included photos, however.


Popular tags include a lot of what you would expect - monkey, ikea, lol, funny and cute, as well as some that you might not - fashion, mine and the ever-popular stylish monkey. The IKEA monkey seems practically custom made for Tumblr, falling into the network’s favorite categories - he’s a cute animal, he’s quite stylish, and he’s completely blase about how cool he is.

The most popular Tumblr post about the IKEA monkey is from Tumblr user julian and features the IKEA monkey as a Marc Jacobs modelSo far, this post has received more than 21,000 notes, including 10,700 relobgs (updated 12/13). Of those reblogs, only 439 were directly reblogged from the original post; more than 12,200 of those reblogs were downstream reblogs - reblogs of reblogs. This is a great example of the strength of Tumblr’s network - it only takes a few well-connected people to amplify a message far beyond its original reach. To contrast that, the most retweeted tweet about the monkey on Twitter currently has 542 retweets. 

Why is this important? Good content can and will spread throughout Tumblr. If you’re tracking a brand or topic on Tumblr, your biggest advocates might not just be the ones with the most followers and biggest networks, but also the ones who can drive the most downstream, or amplified, reblogs. These people have the power to activate a large and diverse audience, and may prove to be your most influential fans. There’s a lot more to engagement on Tumblr than how many followers a blog has. Also, it helps if the content you’re sharing is a picture of everyone’s new favorite monkey in his tiny little coat.

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  1. lipstainsoncigarettes reblogged this from unionmetrics
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  5. hayesdavis reblogged this from unionmetrics and added:
    Epic Tumblr amplification. 343 direct and 10k downstream.
  6. realmisfitwannabemsft reblogged this from unionmetrics
  7. dailydatascience reblogged this from unionmetrics and added:
    A fascinating look at how a meme travels across Tumblr and Twitter. And by meme, we mean stylish monkey.
  8. northlab reblogged this from courtenaybird
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  10. courtenaybird reblogged this from unionmetrics and added:
    (via unionmetrics)
  11. jdeeringdavis reblogged this from unionmetrics and added:
    Read on for more about how news of this adorable monkey spread through Tumblr and Twitter.
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  15. sparkerpants reblogged this from unionmetrics and added:
    Guys? I love my job. And...monkey. I really love him.
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