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Can Social Media Data Predict the Winner of the 2020 US Presidential Election? A Look at the Latest Trends



Can social media data predict the outcome of an election?

It’s a key question many have asked, and have worked to decipher from the troves of user data available. But thus far, there’s no definitive answer, especially when it comes to modern US politics.

Part of that is likely because of the celebrity status of US President Donald Trump, and the way in which he has used social media to connect with his constituents. Trump’s massive social media reach seems to somewhat skew the data – for example, previous academic research has suggested that sheer mention volume is the best indicator of a candidate’s performance, and likelihood of winning.

A study Dublin City University in 2011 found that tweet volume was “the single biggest predictive variable” in election results, a finding that was echoed in another study conducted by the Technical University of Munich

“The mere number of tweets reflects voter preferences and comes close to traditional election polls.”

Tweet volume, reflecting relative discussion and popularity, has been a consistent indicator of subsequent candidate performance – however, that wasn’t the case in the 2016 US Presidential election.

In that instance, President Trump actually lost the overall popular vote, despite being far and away the most mentioned candidate on social platforms.

Twitter mention chart - 2016 election

President Trump was still able to claim victory through the Electoral College system, but the final results showed that even though Trump dominated the social media discussion, that did not translate into voting behavior. 

That, as noted, could indicate that Trump’s status shifts the scales in terms of predictive metrics, so we can’t say, for sure, what’s a great indicator of the probable election outcome. But, for context, here’s a look at some of the current data points, and how the two US Presidential candidates are tracking on key social metrics.

First off, on mentions – according to data from Facebook’s analytics dashboard CrowdTangle, Trump is trouncing Biden in overall engagement across The Social Network over the last three months.

Biden vs Trump - Facebook engagement

The shares here may be most important – while direct engagement with your posts is a good indicator of popularity and message resonance, shares are essentially message spread, and indicate that people are looking to pass on your messaging to other people in their own networks.

Reach is the key strength of The Social Network, and shares are a key element of this – and as you can see, on this front, Trump is seeing more than 5x more share activity on the platform.

Of course, Trump is also starting from a larger base – Trump has 32.5 million followers on Facebook, in comparison to Biden’s 3.7 million. That could skew the data, while it’s also not clear why people are sharing Trump’s messages.

Many of Trump’s comments, like his recent statement about the #BlackLivesMatter protests, have been shared in criticism, which again skews the data. But in a direct comparison, Trump is clearly leading the discussion on the most influential social network.

As reported by The New York Times, Trump has also seen nearly twice as many likes and comments on Instagram as Biden over the past month, underlining his presence, in pure volume metrics.

But, at the same time, Biden has been gaining momentum. According to social media analytics company Socialbakers, Biden’s Twitter account has seen significant growth in 2020:

“In January 2020, Biden had 2,657,870 total interactions, just 8.2% of Trump’s monthly average of 60,518,463. After only 7 months, Biden peaked at 32,283,027 total interactions in August – a whopping 50.34% of Trump’s monthly average.”

Recent analysis from Conviva also found that Biden is now besting Trump in engagement per tweet.

Trump vs Biden - tweet engagement

So while Biden is not at the same level as Trump in terms of overall mentions or engagement, the data shows that he has gained, in relative terms – which, given Trump’s celebrity, could be indicative.

Maybe, it’s simply not possible to expect a candidate to be able to catch up to Trump on volume, given his social media dominance, and as such, relative gains could be the best indicator of performance. It’ll be impossible to say, of course, till after the poll.

The next step, then, is to try to glean insight into how each candidate is being mentioned.

Using the Twitter analytics tool HappyGrumpy, a basic analysis suggests that sentiment around Trump’s tweets is 27% positive and 38% negative, compared to Biden who sees a 20% positive rate, and 40% negative. So Trump is seeing more positive responses, but the divide between the two is fairly close.

That’s somewhat similar to what researcher Kajal Yadav found in her analysis of sentiment around the two candidates, based on Twitter data, back in August.

Trump vs Biden sentiment

Yadav’s more specific methodology actually found the opposite – that Biden is seeing more positive replies, in comparison to negative reviews. But overall, the gap is fairly close, there’s nothing definitive here, and no clear winner in overall sentiment.

Yadav also notes the limitation in analysis due to sarcasm, which is not generally picked up by automated analytics systems:

“So, If a sentence contains a large number of positive words like “greatest”, “excellent” in a negative comment which is written in a sarcastic way. So, it will definitely classify it as a positive sentiment.”

That does make sentiment a difficult element.

That then leaves one other key factor to consider – audience growth, and who’s gaining more followers leading into the poll, which could suggest relative popularity with voters.

In terms of Facebook Page Likes, Biden has seen a lot more growth in the last three months.

Facebook Page likes - Trump vs Biden

So again, a direct comparison on overall numbers is not going to provide much insight, given Trump’s pre-existing celebrity status. But in relative terms, Biden is gaining momentum.

That same trend is also reflected on Twitter – using the Wayback Machine, the screengrabs show that:

Trump vs Biden - Twitter audience growth

Volume-wise, in terms of engagement and audience, Trump is by far the leader. But the trends show that Biden is winning, on both fronts, in relative terms in the most recent period.

So, what does that mean in terms of an overall prediction? As noted, several past studies have shown that volume alone is the best predictor, but Trump’s status changes that, and may shift the results.

With this in mind, and knowing that a direct volume comparison is not effective, it could be that you need to look at recent growth in isolation, which shows that Biden is gaining significant momentum on Twitter engagement, Twitter followers, Facebook Likes. But Trump still dominates the space, and his huge, established social media presence gives him significant capacity to spread his messaging. 

Which is the best indicator of success? We won’t know till early next month, but these data trends could provide some new insight into the predictive capacity of social media for election results.


Twitter Expands Access to Twitter Blue, Announces New Incentives for Signing Up



Twitter Expands Access to Twitter Blue, Announces New Incentives for Signing Up

Twitter is making its next big push on Twitter Blue subscriptions, as Elon Musk and Co. look to build Twitter Blue into a more significant revenue driver for the app.

First off, Twitter has now expanded Twitter Blue access to Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain, which will enable millions more Twitter users to potentially sign-up for a verification tick.

I mean, most probably won’t, going on what we’ve seen thus far, but it will likely swell Twitter Blue sign-ups by another few thousand, adding more cash to Twitter’s coffers.

Twitter’s also looking to further incentivize Blue sign-up by offering revenue share for ads shown in reply threads.

The idea here is that if users write interesting tweets, they would get compensated for the discussion they generate – but you need to be signed up to Twitter Blue to get it.

Elon hasn’t shared any further info on potential revenue split or process at this stage.

Twitter’s also looking to bring back an improved Spaces/podcast experience, as a Twitter Blue exclusive, while Musk has also hinted at allowing some users to avoid having to pay for basic API access, when it becomes unavailable next week, if they sign-up.

Oh, and Twitter’s gold checkmarks for business? Yeah, they’re likely going to be expensive if you want them.

Can’t imagine many brands are going to fork out $12,000 a year for a profile badge, along with $50 per staff member you want to add.

But maybe, Elon and Co. have some more tricks up their sleeve here, and they’ll eventually offer more incentives for businesses to sign-up.

But right now, that’s pretty steep.

And also, ‘legacy’ checkmarks will apparently be gone within the next few months.

All of these elements combined could juice Twitter Blue take-up, though it’s still hard to see it becoming the major contributor to Twitter’s revenue as Elon envisions.

At present, based on third-party tracking, the new Twitter Blue program looks to have around 300,000 subscribers, bringing in an extra $2.4 million per month, and $7.2 million per quarter.

Which is pretty good – but again, it’s still a long way from where Twitter wants subscription revenue to be.

When initially outlining his Twitter 2.0 reformation plans, Musk said that he wants to make subscription revenue around 50% of Twitter’s overall intake. That would serve two purposes – if the majority of users sign-up, Twitter can then use Twitter Blue as a form of ‘payment verification’, meaning that those accounts that don’t have a blue tick are increasingly likely to be bots. It would also reduce Twitter’s reliance on ads, which would give Musk more freedom to make moderation decisions as he likes, without considering potential ad placement concerns.

But in order to do this, Twitter needs a lot more users to sign up.

Twitter’s revenue in Q2 2022, the last time it publicly reported its numbers, was $1.18 billion, meaning that Twitter Blue would need to be bringing in around $590 million per quarter to meet that 50% goal.

Which is about 81x what Twitter Blue is currently bringing in, while at 300k sign-ups, that’s also only 0.12% of Twitter’s active user base that’s currently paying for a blue tick.

That’s likely why Twitter is making a new push on the program, in a bid to jack those numbers up, and maybe, in combination with businesses that do end up forking over $1k per month, it could become a more significant element in Twitter’s revenue make-up.

But 50% of revenue still seems like a lofty goal.

It’s also still confusing as to why anyone would pay, because as soon as you do, you’re devaluing the whole point of the verification checkmark in the first place.

The initial blue ticks were designed to delineate noteworthy users and organizations, which Twitter didn’t always get right, but for the most part, you knew that a blue tick account was likely someone who had relevant, authoritative things to say.   

Now, it’s just anyone who can afford it, and with Twitter looking to increase the reach of tweets from Blue accounts, that also means that the app is increasingly becoming more ‘pay to play’ for regular users, with the blue ticks becoming increasingly meaningless from a functional perspective.

And the logic behind them becomes more diluted with every person who signs up. Eventually, all the blue checkmark will mean is that this person can afford to pay – and who cares? Why do they need a blue tick, from a user perspective, to show that they have enough money to spend?

It sort of feels like the NFT trend of 2021, but worse, because it’s replacing an existing system that did serve a purpose.

In any event, Twitter’s not backing away from its Blue subscription plan, and its hopes of maximizing revenue intake, in any way it can, to keep the company afloat.

Which, given the extra debt it’s been saddled with in the Elon deal, is even tougher than ever – but maybe, in combination with everything else, subscriptions will form enough of an extra income stream to meaningfully contribute to its plans.

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Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer: Born or made great?



The Big 3 have won a total of 56 Grand Slams in their career.

Ecogastronomy, puppet arts, viticulture and enology, influencer marketing, or bakery science. In 2022, you can become anything you want and there are even specialized undergraduate degrees to help you gain all the relevant skills at university. Essentially, you can now be academically trained in any subject and learn practically everything you need to excel at your job.

In the context of sports, and particularly tennis, this is no different. There are plenty of degrees you can pursue to complement your career as an athlete, physiotherapist, or coach with useful knowledge about the human body, anatomy, and health.

This basically means that professional tennis players of the 21st century can complement their extraordinary talent and training routine with a relevant education and an elite team of professional and eminent physiotherapists, coaches, PR, and strategists. Ultimately, players have countless tools that can help them win matches, stay healthy, and be well-liked by the press and the fans.

You can find these ‘A teams’ all around the tour nowadays: players of the former next gen have taken advantage of their early success to incorporate experts on every specialty into their team and others like Carlos Alcaraz or Holger Rune have come directly in the tour alongside first-class teams headed by former World No. 1 and Slam champion Juan Carlos Ferrero and respected coach Patrick Mouratoglou respectively.

Understandably, tennis legends who have been on tour for almost two decades have progressively adapted to the quest for perfection too. You must remember Novak Djokovic’s radical diet change mid-career or Rafael Nadal’s loyal sports doctor for most of his injury-prone career.

21st-century professional tennis players have learned it all as far as tennis skills are concerned. In fact, objectively any top-100 player can produce Djokovesque cross-court backhands or Nadalese down-the-line forehands any time – we have seen rallies of the highest level in practices, Challengers and junior tournaments.

So, one must think that if every player on the tour can produce top-level tennis and is surrounded by the perfect team, what is stopping them from winning 20+ Grand Slam titles like Nadal, Roger Federer, and Djokovic?

Nadal, Federer and Djokovic — the Big 3

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in discussion at the 2022 Laver Cup.
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in discussion at the 2022 Laver Cup.

The Big 3 — Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic — are living proof that in life there are things you just can’t learn, despite our self-help books saying otherwise. Tennis is different from other mainstream sports in that it remains an individual and extremely mental sport.

These three players belong at a higher level than anyone else, and it is not only the 63 combined Slam titles that separate them from their opponents. It is clearly not their physical form either, quite the opposite currently. It is the ability to remain serene, focused, confident, and indifferent to the crowd, pressure, and expectations, to play one point at a time, whether it is a break or a championship point, and to extract it from the surrounding context.

Being the best of all time does, however, not imply being the better player in all matches. We don’t have to go far back to find an example of a time when Nadal and Djokovic were the clear underdogs in a match. For instance, in Wimbledon 2022 we saw Nadal win a match with an abdominal tear and an average 80-mph serve speed (on a grasscourt!) against Taylor Fritz, a top American player in his best-ever season.

In essence, the three GOATs have had the ability to know how to win even when they are the worst players on the court, and if that greatness is something we all could learn or train for, it would stop being called so and we would see it more often.

Whether it is the experience, intelligence or just intrinsic and unique talent that has led to Big 3’s unprecedented achievements we won’t ever exactly know and, I am afraid, they are giving no opportunity to the so-called Next Gen to even dream of replicating their record book and help us make sense of what it takes to become a tennis master.

In any case, we can only feel extremely fortunate to have lived on the same timeline as the greatest trivalry in sports history. All of us, but the Next Gen, can only hope Nadal and Djokovic do not follow Federer’s retirement path anytime soon. And one only needs to watch their last matches against each other to (rightfully) assume that might not happen anytime soon.

What is the foot injury that has troubled Rafael Nadal over the years? Check here

Poll : Who will end up with most Grand Slam titles?

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Meta Could be Exploring Paid Blue Checkmarks on Facebook and Instagram



Meta Could be Exploring Paid Blue Checkmarks on Facebook and Instagram

It seems like Elon Musk’s chaotic management approach at Twitter is having some broader impacts, with more companies reportedly considering lay-offs in the wake of Musk culling 70% of Twitter staff (and keeping the app running), and Meta now apparently also considering charging for blue checkmarks in its apps.

Yes, the Twitter Blue approach to making people pay for verification, which hasn’t proven overly popular on Twitter itself, is now also seemingly in consideration at Meta as well.

According to a new finding by reverse engineering pro Alessandro Paluzzi, there’s a new mention in the codebase of both Facebook and Instagram of a ‘paid blue badge’.

Paluzzi also shared a screenshot of the code with TechCrunch:

That does appear to refer to a subscription service for both apps, which could well give you a blue verification badge as a result.

Mets has neither confirmed nor denied the project, but it does seem, at least on the surface, that it’s considering offering checkmarks as another paid option – which still seems strange, considering the original purpose of verification, which is to signify noteworthy people or profiles in the app.

If people can just buy that, then it’s no longer of any value, right?

Evidently, that’s not the case, and with Twitter already bringing in around $7 million per quarter from Twitter Blue subscriptions, maybe Meta’s looking for a means to supplement its own intake, and make up for lost ad dollars and/or rising costs of its metaverse development.

It seems counter-intuitive, but I guess, if people will pay, and the platforms aren’t concerned about there being confusion as to what the blue ticks actually mean.

I guess, more money is good?

Meta has, in the past, said that it won’t charge a subscription fee to access its apps. But this, of course, would be supplemental – users wouldn’t have to pay, but they could buy a blue checkmark if they wanted, and use the implied value of recognition for their own purposes.

Which seems wrong, but tough times, higher costs – maybe every app needs to start digging deeper.

Meta hasn’t provided any info or confirmation at this stage, but we’ll keep you updated on any progress.

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