Dissecting Results from Obama’s Town Hall

Without a doubt, today has been an incredibly exciting day for TwitSprout. What began with our Obama Dashboard announcement this morning has evolved into a whirlwind of activity, tweets, and blog posts. We are, of course, incredibly grateful to all of our partners, users, and fans for their help and encouragement; it’s been a thrill.

With that said, our work here is not yet done. In our last entry, we made some predictions, and now it’s time to see how we (and the White House) performed!

The Good

What did everyone get right? We feel we matched the major categories of things Obama focused on — tax cuts, the debt ceiling, and job creation — but that wasn’t very difficult to do. More specifically, we nailed the third tweet Obama answered:

Tech and knowledge industries are thriving, yet jobs discussion always centers on manufacturing. Why not be realistic about jobs?

This one was right on our dashboard, and we had singled it out because @Kim, a very high-Klout user, was one of the many who put their weight behind it. The White House chose the earliest version of the tweet, by @dmscott (with slightly lower Klout), but the logic is clear — this tweet was chosen for the high-level support it received.

Another one we expected, but for a completely different reason, was Obama’s 8th:

Mr. President, In several states we have seen people lose their collective bargaining rights. Do you have a plan to rectify this?

According to our calculations, at the time of the Town Hall, this tweet had been mentioned, retweeted, or RT’ed over 182 times — making it the 4th-most active tweet in the Jobs category, and 14th overall. This is high enough to be on our list of likely predictions, although not high enough to earn one of the few spots on the Dashboard itself. Even though the tweeter, @pmglynn, is not very influential (with only around 100 followers), the question itself generated a lot of discussion and interest. It was an excellent candidate, and both TwitSprout and Obama appear to think so.

The Bad

We definitely stand by all the predictions we made — there was solid reasoning behind each of them, and we’re confident they would have made excellent questions; however, there are a couple of predictions we didn’t make that, in hindsight, probably would have made sense.

The most obvious omission is @johnboehner's provocative tweet:

After embarking on a record spending binge that’s left us deeper in debt, where are the jobs?

At the time of the Town Hall, this question had been propagated 79 times: a nontrivial amount, but only enough to place it in 10th place in the Jobs category, and much lower overall. There are two things that should have tipped us off about it, however:

  • Even though @johnboehner’s Klout is only 69, his influence on President Obama is considerably higher. His position as Speaker of the House undoubtedly played a role in Mass Relevance’s decision. Of course, there’s no automated tools that would detect this. We simply should have thought of it.
  • Even though the full form of the tweet had only 79 propagations, the snappier version “Where are the jobs?" by itself had 341 of them — enough to place it in 2nd place in the Jobs category, and 6th place overall, which would certainly have gotten our attention — except that this tweet didn’t make sense to us, since we didn’t see it in context with Boehner’s tweet (they were far apart in our rankings). Of course, we had algorithms to detect subtle rewordings between tweets, but these two didn’t trigger them.

The Ugly

We might as well come out and address the elephant in the room. It was obvious to anyone who had followed our predictions or paid even casual attention to the #AskObama stream, that there was one particular topic getting a particularly large share of the buzz: the legalization of marijuana. Although the topic of the Town Hall was ostensibly about the economy, it was becoming clear that people did think of this as an economic issue. By our measurements, the two most popular tweets of the entire stream, were:

Would you consider legalizing marijuana to increase revenue and save tax dollars by freeing up crowded prisons, court rooms?

Pres. Obama: Why can’t we discuss legalizing cannabis to create jobs and save millions annually on enforcement?

These two alone, including their various reincarnations, accounted together for more impressions than every question about taxation put together! An event that emphasizes popular opinion as a tool for accountability could surely not fail to address these questions in the depth they deserve; but, of course, the topic was notable only for its absence. The President discussed the war on drugs merely tangentially, for less than half a minute, leaving absolutely nobody satisfied.

One explanation for this glaring omission is a simple misinterpretation of the data, whether on our part or Twitter’s. With such a strong signal coming through the noise of #AskObama tweets, however, we were fairly confident in our evaluation of this topic’s relevance — but maybe the curators were looking at things differently. When White House correspondent Mike Allen announced the official breakdown of tweets, we wanted to compare his with ours:

TwitSprout's BreakdownTwitSprout's Breakdown

Notice that the relative percentages of Twiitter’s four categories are nearly the same as ours, except that it accounts for more of the total — as if a chunk of the “Other” category was removed or reapportioned among the four categories. Here’s what happens when we separate out the tweets we believe to be related to the legalization of marijuana in our set from the catch-all “Other”:

TwitSprout's BreakdownTwitSprout's Breakdown

This evidence is purely circumstantial, but it does suggest that the things our algorithms classified as marijuana legalization were either dropped from the grand total, or re-assigned to some other category based on secondary characteristics. Either possibility would result in the near-perfect correspondence between our “Top-4” and “Other” tweet percentages.

To be fair, we didn’t expect the President to truly treat every question equally. For one thing, the encouraged topics centered around job creation and the economy. For another, a large part of the “Other” chunk of the pie consisted of rude or snarky comments, clearly trying very hard to impress with their own wit. Nobody expects Obama to field those. But when an overwhelming part of the people who are supposed to be setting the tone of the discussion are being conspicuously passed over — it makes you wonder why we don’t just drop the pretense and have another press conference instead.

Despite the disappointment some people may have felt about this dodge, we still felt it was a great event. The thrill of working in “real time” under the public eye is addictive, and we’ll definitely be looking for more opportunities to practice our analytics chops out in the open. Thanks again for all the help, and keep an eye out for more great TwitSprout features coming soon to our regular users.


Adrian at TwitSprout

  • posted 07 July, 2011

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The Obama Dashboard — Official Launch!

After hours of feverishly gathering, sorting, poking, and prodding all of our #AskObama data, we’ve finally got our first iteration of the Obama Dashboard!

Our gnomes had to work hard for this information — there’s no magic wand you can wave that tells you programmatically whether a particular tweet is a genuine question or just some promotional spam. It’s even harder to tell when two questions are essentially the same except for some minor rewording, and more difficult still to group together questions on the same general topics, like “jobs” or “Republicans.” With some clever heuristics and manual intervention, however, we’ve succeeded in bringing it all together into the predictions and analysis above.

As we discussed in our previous blog post about this Town Hall, it’s impossible to know how the team will curate the massive amount of questions that people all over Twitter have posed. It’s clear from the numbers above, however, that any honest evaluation of the data requires the President to acknowledge Americans’ concerns about the drug laws in their country. Whether it’s justified or not, people seem to place the blame for a lot of America’s economic woes on them and their heavy-handed enforcement. Regardless of which side of this debate his opinion happens to fall, if Obama doesn’t address this point during tomorrow’s discussion, it will be clear that he’s avoiding the data. By a landslide, this is what people want to hear his plans on.

To keep up with the latest version of this dashboard, as well as @BarackObama’s TwitSprout dashboard and our eventual postmortem of the Town Hall meeting, keep an eye on http://Obama.TwitSprout.com and, as always, send us all the feedback you can come up with!


Adrian at TwitSprout

  • posted 06 July, 2011

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Reporting Live: Obama’s Twitter Town Hall!

The latest buzz on Twitter has been all about President Obama’s impending Town Hall tomorrow at 2 PM. As your friendly neighborhood social media experts, TwitSprout has been carefully monitoring and analyzing the tens of thousands of tweets to bring you our predictions and conclusions! [Jump to Word Cloud]

Activity

We started tracking the #AskObama hashtag shortly after the White House announced the event, on Friday, July 1st. Uptake was slow at first, but another Obama-related event on Tuesday really started the ball rolling.

We’re currently tracking over 20,000 unique tweets so far (not including retweets!) and we fully expect this number to reach 50,000 before the President begins speaking tomorrow. Of course, not all of these tweets are quality questions — many are just encouraging others to participate. Our gnomes are busy using heuristic algorithms to separate the wheat from the chaff, and as best as we can tell, the President has about 11,000 genuine, unique inquiries from concerned citizens to look forward to on Wednesday. Let’s hope he talks fast!

Of course, in all seriousness, Obama will only be able to scratch the surface of this mountain of curiosity he’s gathered. According to Twitter, the team at Mass Relevance (plus Jack Dorsey) are the ones entrusted with curating and selecting the lucky tweets. Nobody can be sure exactly what their selection process will look like, but it’s safe to say it’ll be some combination of the following:

  1. Random selection: In true democratic fashion, all tweets are treated equal and have the same chance of being picked at random. While nobody can complain about the fairness, it might lead to some really strange results.
  2. Sheer numbers: The best questions are being retweeted hundreds of times, and the cream is really rising to the top. The team could select the most retweeted and RT’ed tweets as the questions the most Americans care about.
  3. Popularity contest: There are many ways of measuring influence on Twitter — whether it’s Klout, follower count, or your TwitSprout dashboard. However they choose to measure it, the questions asked by the most important people might be the lucky ones.
  4. Politics as usual: Of course, it’s not impossible that the White House has already “vetted” a series of questions from their own talking points, and the team is simply looking for people on Twitter who asked the same things.

We obviously can’t do much to predict the outcome of #1 and #4, but we just can’t resist using our number-crunching powers to see what happens in the other cases. Right up until the event tomorrow at 2 PM, we’ll be making and updating our predictions about the most common and the most important tweets — and posting them to our special Obama Dashboard (coming soon)! Follow along to get the pulse of what Americans really want to know the most.

Topics

One thing is clear: there’s something never far from the front of Americans’ minds.

The #AskObama word cloud clearly shows what tomorrow’s talk will revolve around: Jobs, the economy, and Obama’s agenda to improve them. Even the legalization of poker and marijuana pale by comparison — and same-sex marriage didn’t even make the list! No matter how Mass Relevance decides to choose their questions, you should expect to see these big-ticket items make an appearance.

The next few hours…

The half-day remaining before President Obama takes the microphone will be an exciting one in Twitter’s history. Make sure to get your #AskObama questions in before it’s too late, keep up with this blog and our Obama Dashboard for the latest updates and predictions as the hour approaches, and tune in at 2 PM. While you are all out worrying about the country, we’ll be worrying about the analytics!

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Adrian at TwitSprout

  • posted 05 July, 2011

  • 5 notes for this post

TwitSprout Dashboard on the iPad

We’ve made some big improvements behind the scenes that enable your dashboard to load twice as fast and maintain high visual quality when zooming on mobile devices, such as the oh so sleek iPad. Check out TwitSprout on your mobile device and let us know what you think! These videos are posted to our new TwitSprout YouTube Channel - Please subscribe to keep in touch.

Lookin’ good, iPad!

  • posted 25 June, 2011

  • 4 notes for this post

Save and Print with PDF!

Download your One-Page Twitter Dashboard to PDF for printing and sharing! Click the link labelled ‘PDF file' in the top-right corner of your account page when viewing the dashboard. Be sure to use the private invite link we sent via email. If you haven't signed up yet, join our beta!

The full story…

We’re a social business, so I figure our blog posts should also tell a story. All our new features are inspired by user recommendations - from people like you. A good friend of ours, Michael Litt (founder @VYard), says “Customers are your best Product Managers,” and we take this to heart. The PDF addition was no exception, as you’ll read below. 

Yesterday morning we setup the entire team on Co-Tweet. Abhi and Adrian (co-founders at TwitSprout) also love speaking directly with our awesome users. We try to include our name at the end of each tweet so you know who you’re speaking with :). I’ll post a full introduction to the team sometime soon.

Let’s dig in. At 12pm we received this tweet from @SonomaCountyWeb

Unbeknownst to me, Adrian responded immediately, saying…

I look to Adrian and say, “Sometime today? Can we do that?”. He just smiles. We’ve learned not to underestimate Adrian’s ability to make our servers dance.

In just under 2 hours we launched the new PDF feature.

@SonomaCountryWeb responded “It worked like a charm! Thank you!!!" [tweet]

1 hour later, Will @willcuthbert, has already printed his dashboard from PDF!

TwitSprout looks good in print

Thanks Will! We agree. Lookin good! :)

It’s great to see everyone already using the PDF version of the dashboard!

You can also bring your printed dashboard to an interview! Yes, we’re serious!

That very afternoon I received the following message from Jenone of our beta users, saying “I’ve got a pretty important job interview for my dream job tomorrow and will use TwitSprout in my long set of printouts to show them why I’d make a great Social Media Guru. You guys are the best!”

Best of luck Jen! We’re rooting for you!

We’d love to hear more stories about how you’re making use of the PDF feature. Are you taking it to a marketing meetings or a job interview? Or using the dashboard printout when speaking with clients? Let us know in the comments!

That’s all for now.

Thanks for all the support everyone! We couldn’t do this without you.

-dan at TwitSprout

  • posted 14 June, 2011

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Get your own TwitSprout Growth Report by Joining the Private Beta.

Get your own TwitSprout Growth Report by Joining the Private Beta.

  • posted 10 June, 2011

  • 7 notes for this post

Growth of @garyvee during LeWeb 2010

Speaking at a global conference will certainly increase your online popularity, but how much?

Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee) is author of Crush It, a #1 Best Seller, and a thought-leader in social media and brand building - with over 800,000 Twitter Followers - popularity is not an issue. Still, we were interested in how TwitSprout’s Growth Report reflected activity on Gary’s Twitter account during the conference. 

Gary was on stage at LeWeb at 17h05 GMT (or 18h05 CET in Paris) on December 9th. The presentation lasted about 45 minutes. You can watch Gary Vaynerchuk’s Complete LeWeb 2010 Talk on YouTube

Gary’s Twitter account is currently growing at an average of 6 Followers / Day (Report as of Dec 20th). During Gary’s presentation his account grow by 200 Followers in 1 Hour (Hourly Follower Activity), and by a total of 400 Followers the day of LeWeb.

This is a very significant increase considering Gary’s daily average - but is this significant for a global conference like LeWeb? Would a presenter less well-known already experience more growth? 

Just thought it would be fun to share this report. Thanks - Dan @TwitSprout.

  • posted 14 April, 2011

  • 19 notes for this post

We love the feedback

We just sent out another batch of invites for the TwitSprout beta. Every few days we bring another awesome group of users on board.

We love all the feedback! We ARE listening. Your recommendations are directly driving our feature road map. Our goal is to create the most useful set of Twitter intelligence available - and we need your help. If you haven’t signed up, please use our beta link here: http://bit.ly/JoinBeta

Please continue to leave us feedback on Twitter and at: http://twitsprout.uservoice.com

This is just a small collection of the feedback we are receiving - and a big thank you to everyone on the beta. We’re sorry if your TwitSprout tweet is not featured here, we love you too!

  • And that’s exactly what the CSV data is intended for :) Glad to hear it! Thanks Brian @taitbw

  • Pure awesomeness! You’re too kind JB! We are in the early stages, which is exciting, because there is so much to come! Thanks so much. Cheers JB @JBCollinet

  • Precisely. We aim to deliver clear & meaningful metrics - understood by any Twitter user. How many business owners know the difference between Klout and Clout really? Thanks again Nigel@nigellegg. Awesome feedback. Cheers.

  • Yes. We do that! :) Cheers Branden @bkornell

  • We’re excited too! And Thank YOU for joining! Thanks to all of our awesome beta users! Cheers to @MapleMusic

  • Well that’s good news! We have a few more features to include before a full launch. The official site is in the works now too - hold tight until the New Year. Rest assured, we wake up and go to sleep thinking about Twitter metrics - crazy, I know. Thanks Jonathan@jonathanmfritz

  • We think so! Nothing too radical yet, but we have a few cards in our hand - yet to be played! Many more features to come… Cheers Ben@BenLaMothe

Thank you everyone! And enjoy the Holiday Season!

To your continued growth! - @TwitSprout

  • posted 10 April, 2011

  • 11 notes for this post

Branded Twitter Metrics for your clients!

Sign up for the Private TwitSprout beta for more details.

Ideal for Social Media Management Services, PR Firms & Consultants

Clear performance metrics demonstrate value. This transparency builds a loyal customer base and is a key competitive differentiator.

You work hard to establish your brand and TwitSprout’s White Label service is designed to deliver a completely branded solution - directly to your clients.

We manage and track  your clients data, generate the reports and deliver them directly to their inbox, via your mail server on a weekly basis. We do the technical stuff so you can focus on managing and growing your client’s accounts.

Please complete this white label request for an opportunity to join our initial offering!

  • posted 03 April, 2011

  • 7 notes for this post