How we shifted social media listening into overdrive for an automaker

January 10, 2013 | Comments Off

If you’ve tried social media listening research in the past, you’ve been limited to basic types of analyses such as frequencies and mean sentiment scores. This case study demonstrates how advanced statistical techniques can be applied to social media data to learn more about perceptions of vehicle brands and features. We will focus on regression and factor analysis to better understand how consumers group brands of cars and features of cars. We will also show how these groups differ based on the gender of the social media commenter. You need not have advanced understanding of factor analysis to learn from this webinar, just advanced curiosity about analyzing social media data.

You can see the slides here, or even better watch the full 30 minute presentation here.

Read what our viewers said!


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What are your chances of getting the flu?

January 3, 2013 | Comments Off

How many of your friends have taken to Facebook or Twitter to moan about the terrible symptoms of the flu? If not your friends, you’ve certainly seen posts from many other people.

Social media is the perfect place to track the flu and determine whether you should drive in your car by yourself or risk taking the bus with 50 other potentially infectious people.

We collected a sample of data from hundreds of thousands of people mentioning the flu to determine just that. As you can see, last December saw an average of 900 mentions per day. This December saw an average of just 700 mentions per day. Looks like there are fewer sick people this time around!

Flu Counts from Social Media

However, if you look at the trend within December last year, you’ll see that it seems to decrease over the month. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for this December as mentions of the flu are slowly but surely increasing.

Let’s hope that January and February of this year don’t show the overwhelming illness spikes that last year did!

Note: Click on the chart itself once and then a second time to see it full size


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This is what gun control outrage looks like

December 20, 2012 | Comments Off

Sadly, 2012 saw several devastating shootings in the US. Two in particular struck a cord due to the number of victims.

First, on July 20 in Aurora, 12 people were killed and 58 people were injured at a screening of the new Batman movie. Second, on December 14, 26 people were killed (including 20 kindergarten children and 6 teachers) at a school in Newtown.

Both of these terrible events generated massive outrage and calls for gun control in social media. In July, this peaked at nearly 20 000 daily mentions though interest fizzled after about a month. And now, after the recent shooting, social media mentions peaked at more than 60 000 daily calls for gun control, a threefold increase.

Will interest fizzle after just weeks again? And how long will it take to hash out the gun control/gun rights debate?

Gun Control Social Media Mentions

Method: Sample of 500 000 social media comments from 2012 mentioning gun control or gun rights.

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5 Tips for Great Social Media Research #NewMR

December 6, 2012 | Comments Off

Have no fear!

If you were unable to attend the NewMR festival, all of the sessions will soon be available as recordings on the NewMR website.

Annie Pettit was one of the speakers on training day and you will find the recording of her session there. Below are her slides.

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Thank You from the Canadian Government

November 20, 2012 | Comments Off

Back in June, we were delighted to be asked to speak with the MRIA about social media and privacy at the Canadian House of Commons. It’s good to know the Canadian government takes these issues seriously as you can see in the thank you note. We look forward to more discussions on the development of policies.


Dear Ms. Pettit,

On behalf of the whole NDP Caucus, we would like to thank you for your presence and insight at ETHI committee during the study on Social Media and the protection of personal information.

New Democrats believe in the ability of social media and the platform of Web 2.0 to enhance connectedness, democratic expression and education in society. The social media platforms of our age, developed and hosted by worldwide companies such as Facebook and Google, offer unprecedented new opportunities to enrich the human experience.

As paradigms shift, Parliamentarians have an obligation to study all sides of new realities with an eye to the collective interests of Canadians. It is through this lens that the NDP members of ETHI committee requested a study into the protection of personal information in an age of big data and social media.

As an expert witness in this field, offering a uniquely Canadian perspective on a transnational phenomenon, your testimony at committee has contributed to a deepening understanding of this rapidly evolving and often highly technical issue-area. As you know, this is the first time a study of this kind has taken place in Canada, and the recommendations flowing out of the report will inform public policy for years to come.

Once again, we thank you for your valuable testimony at ETHI committee and your service to Canadians. We look forward to future collaboration as our Official Opposition continues to build its public-interest policies in the digital age.


Charmaine Borg
Députée | Member of Parliament
Porte-parole des enjeux numériques |  Digital Affairs Critic

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A researcher’s guide to social media stalking

November 16, 2012 | Comments Off

Annie Stalking

Excerpt from a piece I wrote for Research Live.

The best market research reports contain verbatim quotes from the research participants. These quotes let us really dig into the brains of consumers with more clarity and specificity than can be obtained from aggregated survey data.

In traditional research, the quotes taken from surveys, focus groups or interview results can never be associated with individual people because there are no names attached to the verbatims. As researchers, we pride ourselves on the anonymity we provide our research participants because it allows them to be completely open and honest with us. But when it comes to social media research results, it’s a completely different story. Any verbatims that are pulled from social media and copied directly into a research report can be easily traced back to the original author.

At the recent IJMR Research Methods Forum held in London, I shared just such an example with the audience – so let me share that story with you now. It started with a research project about BT, a telecoms service provider. In the research report, a verbatim was copied directly, without any masking, and without any individual attribution, from social media.

What happens next? Well, you’ll just have to read to find out.

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Biting the Hand and Bending the Rules: An IJMR Presentation

November 12, 2012 | Comments Off

We were delighted to be asked to keynote at the recent IJMR research methods forum in London. In a fabulous setting rich with history, we shared our perspective on a relatively brand new research method. We showed just how detrimental the effects can be when standards are cast aside as well as when standards go too far. If you have any questions about the presentation, do get in touch with us. We can talk for hours about these things!

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A virtual horserace between Romney and Obama

October 23, 2012 | Comments Off

Debate #3 has passed and we are in full gallop towards the November US presidential election. It’s a virtual horse race now, the two candidates neck and neck. Obama and Romney no longer have time to horse around.

All bad jokes aside, here’s how the two candidates stand after debate #3. Romney has taken the lead, whether temporarily or permanently. Only time will tell.

US presidential election

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Red Binder vs. Blue Binder: Hits and Misses of the Second Romney Obama Debate

October 17, 2012 | Comments Off

If you watched last night’s second presidential debate, you probably had a little chuckle or sigh of disappointment when you walked into your office this morning and saw the dusty binders on your shelf. Binders full of women aside, let’s take a look at the highs and lows of the debate.

debate volume
romney obama debate sentiment

In this analysis, we focused only on social media verbatims that mentioned either Obama or Romney during the last 24 hours. Verbatims that mentioned both candidates were not included.

First of all, you can see that the most common topics for social media users to focus on included choice, recommending, political issues, anger, and appreciation.

If you look a little further down the list to see which specific issues social media users focused on, you will see family, employment, religion, Libya, schooling, and the military. Apparently the environment and the TransCanada pipeline weren’t attention grabbers for the social media crowd.

You can also see that for the most part, the most common topics mentioned by people talking about Obama were also the most common topics mentioned by people talking about Romney. The only differentiator was that people talking about Obama were more likely to focus on generic emotional (36% vs 26%) and personality (32% vs 16%) topics.

However, the second chart shows that when it comes to opinions about the topic itself, opinions were all over the place.

In the eyes of social media, Romney was the clear winner when it came to employment (52% positive), religion (46% positive), and education (70% positive). Romney conversations were very much focus on very specific issues.

On the other hand, Obama was the clear winner when it came to recommendations (46% positive), appreciation (45% positive), family (19% positive), elections (40% positive), and Binders of Women (65% positive). Again, Obama conversations tended to be less focused on issues, and more focused on a personal evaluation.

Based on the social media buzz of yesterday and this morning, Obama has a very slight lead among social media users. The distinction between Obama’s personal likeability and Romney’s issue based focus puts Obama at 24.5% positive and 30.7% negative while Romney stands at 20% positive and 28.4% negative. With less than a month to go, there is no clear winner as of today nor as a result of the second debate.

If Binders of Women is puzzling to you, do a quick internet search for it. Memes started to spring up during the debate and they still haven’t stopped. I’ve shared my favourite one here!

Read Annie’s award-winning paper!

October 5, 2012 | Comments Off

Congrats to our own Annie Pettit, who won the David K. Hardin Memorial Award for the best article or paper, based on innovativeness of the research, its usefulness and applicability for other researchers, and the potential societal or economic benefits or implications of the research, published in Marketing Research in 2011.

You can download the winning paper, “The Promises and Pitfalls of SMR,” which was published last September, from our Resources page. Here’s the abstract:

Social media research holds a great deal of promise for those who can tap into its tremendous potential. As this article points out, it is likely to succeed in areas such as tracking research, campaign research, usage and attitude research, and segmentation research. Like any new methodology, however, SMR it has its share of perils and disappointments. Despite some unresolved issues with data reliability and quality, the science of SMR seems destined to prevail.

Congratulations again, Annie!