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What Can a Decade’s Worth of Social Data Tell You?

There’s no question that the internet, digital technologies and social media are changing and shaping society. These changes are reflected in the topics discussed, the language used and behaviors displayed online. If you already analyze social data then you’ll already have an appreciation of the unexpected insights you can get from studying online conversations. 

So when the Brandwatch team told me that they had analyzed ten year’s worth of US and UK Twitter data, I told them to send that report right over. You can get your copy of the report here and, if you’re interested, see my thoughts on it below.
 

The Methodology

Obviously the Brandwatch team were going to use their own technology to run this study, that’s a given. The analysis focused on three areas:

● How has online slang changed over time?
● How have the emotions we share online changed from year to year?
● What do big trends look like over the last decade? Focused on boybands, mobile games, influencers, and diet.

Brandwatch tells me the methodology was as follows. They started with a search for US and UK tweets back to 2010 using Brandwatch Consumer Research. This gave them access to a large sample of tweets in which to search for trends. The emotional analysis was completed using Brandwatch’s automatic sentiment categorization to see how they changed over the years. They explored slang words and big trends using keyword searches and volume analysis.

So, what can a decade’s worth of social data tell you?
 

The Birth and Death of Trends

In the last few months, we’ve been having a lot of conversations about trends analysis at The Social Intelligence Lab and about providers being able to predict trends accurately to six months in advance (sign-up to our newsletter to hear more about trend analysis in 2020). With the analysis of this Brandwatch study being longitudinal, you can get a sense of trends ramping up and dying out. From the research, I quite liked the slang analysis.

However, I do have questions and would like to go deeper into understanding the context of use for the slang and also more about the different types of people using the words. Are they niche groups that exist on Twitter or do they reach mainstream use? What is the tipping point and why do they die out? To mention a few.

With social data, it’s easy to find the ‘what’ but it takes more time to understand the context and the ‘why’. Digging into the why was probably beyond the reach of what Brandwatch intended for this particular report. What the report does is give you some inspiration of new things you could be doing with your research…
 

Pockets of Intense Conversation

Which topic do you think has gained the largest volume of conversation over the last 10 years?

Veganism. 

We spoke with a well-known UK supermarket earlier this year and their concerns about using social data in business decision-making – their big thing was that if they used discussions of social media conversations as an indicator of what to do, they would be a vegan supermarket. I got their point because the statistics they were looking at were a bit misleading and not taken in context. It was interesting to see the discussions of vegetarianism and veganism come up in the Brandwatch study.

Again, this finding leads to more questions. Who is talking about veganism and in what context? Is it reaching new communities of people or do we have a very noisy minority sharing all the veganism stories? 

This point reminds me of a conversation with a friend’s teenage son saying that TikTok is full of gamers and ‘furries’. Our subsequent research on furries found that they are indeed over-represented in TikTok in comparison to other social media sites. 

Is this the same with vegans? Has there been a real-world change in intent to move to a vegan diet or are vegans simply ‘louder’ on some social channels than non-vegans? This could completely skew your research if you don’t understand the context.

 

Final Thoughts

This was some lighthearted analysis fun. It was nice to see the breakdown of the trends and volumes surrounding them. A few more surprises in the report include most discussed boybands – who do you think came out on top? – and the most discussed “influencer” of the past 10 years.

You can get your free copy of the A Decade of Data Report here.

 


Learn more about Brandwatch Consumer Research on our Social Intelligence Matchmaker Network.

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Jillian Ney
Jillian Ney
I'm the founder of The Social Intelligence Lab. I champion the growth of the social intelligence industry by helping the professionals and businesses working in it to access best practice, accredited training and peer networking. After working in the industry for 12 years I believe social intelligence should become a recognised discipline - and, I'm working towards making that a reality. More content by

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