Distinguished Professor, Students Monitor Trends in Election Cycle

“Such a beautiful and important evening! The forgotten man and woman will never be forgotten again. We will all come together as never before.”

That was President-Elect Donald Trump’s first tweet after the people chose him to be the 44th President of the United States of America. One of over 34,000 he has written going as far back as 2011.

For the first time in the history of this country, politicians running for office engineered a large portion of their campaigns on social media. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump utilized their large footprints to push agendas to their millions of internet followers.

Coincidentally, this also meant that for the first time software could track how big of an impact the candidates were making, examples such as Trump speaking on immigration or Clinton focusing on the economy. Whether they were speaking at campaign rallies or during presidential debates, University of Tennessee professor Stuart Brotman’s political communications class planned to use this software to see track what the nominees were saying and how people were responding on social media.

“I didn’t want this to be a traditional political communications class where you teach the history or the rhetoric or the reporting,” said Brotman, “But to have such a powerful tool and use it to follow this election which was the social media election was too unique to pass up.”

UT Alumni Adam Brown explaining how his software works. (Photo Courtesy of UTK CCI)

The tool he’s alluding to is Social Studio powered by Salesforce. Although the commercial aspect of the software is to plug firms with the most efficient advertising strategies, Brotman’s analytical approach to the software allowed him to use it for a more research geared ideology.

So Brotman spent the first few weeks of the semester training the students how to use Social Studio within the Adam Brown Social Media Command Center. Once the students were adequately trained and began to mesh as a research team, they began analyzing Twitter during debate season.

“After the first debate we realize we should be doing real-time updates along with posting our comprehensive findings about an hour after they were over,” said Brotman. “And by the time we got to election night we were the social media analysis team for channel 8 in Knoxville.”

Donated by alumni Adam Brown, one of the minds responsible for Social Studio, the studio presents a revolutionary approach for communications students.

“Social listening data is dynamic, and students will be able to practice presenting real-time data from over one billion sources in a command center environment no different than ones used by top global brands, research firms, government agencies, political campaigns, and relief organizations,” said Brown in a press release during the opening of the command center.

Brotman and his team tweeted their takeaways from each debate onto their Political Social Media Research Group twitter with both in-depth reports and visual graphs. These visual representations include everything from trends, to word association and even positive/negative interpretations to specific responses.

“Social Studio is a great platform because it enables you to show visualizations sentiment analysis or trend analysis,” he said. “We really saw quite a lot of negative sentiment over time, which was pretty equally balanced between both candidates.”

Election Day Word Cloud (Courtesy of PSMRG-UT)
Brotman’s Political Communications class covering Election Night for WVLT. (Photo courtesy of WVLT)

“The technology provides most of the nice charts and graphs you see though,” said Dr. Courtney Childers, Executive Director of the Adam Brown Social Media Command Center, “They (Social Studio) realize the need of bringing big data to a more common sense level where anyone can digest the key insights.”

Recap of the Third Presidential Debate according to Social Studio, analyzed by the Political Communications Class. (Photo Courtesy of PSMRG)

Although over campaign season there is a sense of continuity between candidates and the general public, Brotman emphasized to his team that for every debate they remove any preconceived perceptions.

Brotman, along with Dr. Childers, recognized since the inception of the command center, that software like this can be widely practical for all students in the College of Communication.

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