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October 20, 2011


Social Media Analytics Power “Tweety Ball”

By Joe Maglitta

Move over “Money Ball” – “Tweety Ball” is here. The same real-time analysis of millions of tweets that helped pick blockbuster movies and spot retail fashion trends is now focusing on Major League Baseball, just in time for the World Series.

Student researchers at the University of Southern California will expand use of their
“Annenberg Social Sentiment Index” to help gauge fan attitudes towards players and spot important trends during the championship series.

“We’ve known for some time how important statistics are in baseball, and today they’re an even bigger part of understanding not only player performance but also the views of loyal fans,” explains Professor Jonathan Taplin, director of the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab. “The fans understand that the highest paid player is not necessarily the MVP.”

An initial test of 1.5 million public baseball-related tweets done during National League Championship Series yielded interesting insights. Among them:

National League champs St. Louis Cardinals garnered only about one-fifth the number of tweets (11,500) as the American League champion Texas Rangers (56,000), but matched fan enthusiasm (80 percent upbeat).

Among individual players, Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter (1,573) attracted more than double the tweets of series MVP and teammate David Freese (768). Freese, however, showed higher positive sentiment (89.3 percent versus 61.4 percent).

Interesting, but much more so when you think about how the broader use “Big Data” might inform media outlets covering fan reactions, team marketing and – you know it’s coming – player salary negotiations, just to name a few.

The project is a collaboration between USC and IBM. It’s aimed at broadening student skills in analytics and demonstrate how Watson-inspired technologies, such as sophisticated semantic and linguistic analysis software, can provide new insights into public opinion by crunching complex data in real-time.

“Analyzing data is not a game — it’s an important way to understand different constituencies and gain competitive advantage,” said Rod Smith, Vice President of Emerging Technology, IBM. “Whether it’s analyzing fan sentiment during a sports event, hospital patient data for personalized treatment programs, or the latest fashion trends for more targeted marketing campaigns, organizations are realizing the value of analytics to better respond to customer needs.”

You can follow fan sentiment and the updated baseball index during the World Series at

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1 Comment
  1. Sep 19 2012

    Oh, it sounds like so much fun, to bad it’s on pinterest. I deleted all my boards till their terms of use and copyright terms change for that better. :(

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