Back in 2012, the politics editorial team at USA Today teamed up with Twitter and Topsy to create the Twitter Election Meter to track real-time sentiment on Twitter for Obama and Romney. The data visualization project showed Obama clearly pulling away from Romney in the last few days of the campaign (the days when most Americans tend to tune into the election). This year, USA Today's Politics Editor Paul Singer and his teamed joined forces with Twitter again to launch the Twitter Political Issues Index (TPII).
The TPII is another of many tools that draw upon data from Twitter's API to create insightful visualizations and metrics. The TPII provides basic demographic breakdowns for who is tweeting about many of the key topics of our day, updated daily. Specifically, as USA Today explains:
"This index tracks the daily volume of politics-related tweets on various subject areas, broken down by age, gender and geography. The hashtags shown are a sampling of common terms used for tweets in each category. The comparative volume of tweets is reflected in the size of the circles. State data is shown on a tweets-per-capita basis, and the District of Columbia is removed because its tweet volume drowns out others. The data for this visualization is provided by Twitter in aggregate with no identifying information for individual tweets. Where the volume of tweets for any state on a particular issue is too low to ensure the privacy of individual users, Twitter does not provide that data and the state does not appear in the index."
For example, the visualization for the national Twitter conversation on gun issues is created from this selection of hashtags: #gunsense, #guncontrol, #everytown, #EverytownUSA, #NRA. Each day, Twitter provides the data based on these hashtags representing a cross-section of opinions about the issue. Over time, the selection of hashtags used for each issue may change, if new hashtags emerge or old ones fade. But for the most part, the hashtags comprising each issue index will remain constant.
While the presentation does not dive very deep into who is talking about each issue nor their sentiment toward them, it does provide an interesting and useful profile to help you target the most engaged audiences. On gun issues, for example, we see that men are much more likely to be tweeting on the topic and they tend to be over 35 years old. That much is predictable. But looking at what states these tweeters come from does not show conversation more likely to occur in traditional gun rights state, but rather in traditionally more liberal states and states where mass shootings have stirred up a debate: New Jersey, Washington, Oregon and Massachusetts stand out from the crowd.
Sure, you still need to dig into these groups to get a better feel for what is being said in these conversations, but the tool gives you a clear sense of where to start your research. Pair the TPII up with SocialMention.com or another sentiment analysis tool and you will be well on your way to a simple, free, yet sophisticated targeting method.