How Top Influencers Shaped the Climate Change Debate

In the United States, election season always provokes a wide variety of responses from voters. While some are riveted by election predictions and tight political races, others find the unrelenting commercials unnerving, and still others avoid election coverage altogether. No matter what the voter’s stance, they are sure to encounter election news and political debates in the ever-expanding world of social media.


Newspapers, media outlets, and politicians can capture online election conversations with social media analytics in order to tailor content to the issues that matter the most to social media users. They can also dive into conversations to analyze who is participating in these conversations and rank the most influential users, a vital tool preceding an election.
One hot button issue that has garnered tremendous media attention prior to this year’s midterm elections is climate change. Over the past three months alone, over 2.26 million Tweets have been written about climate change in the United States. It is clear that Twitter users represent all sides of the ongoing debate with topic matter ranging from celebrating activism to drawing attention to early snowfalls in South Dakota. However, a spike in conversation is seen during the People’s Climate March on September 21st when more than 400,000 people gathered in NYC to urge politicians to take on climate change.
Climate Volume
When looking at Tweets that explicitly link climate change and mid-term elections, volume drops to roughly 58,000 Tweets. In addition to Tweets about the climate change denial, global warming, and pollution, election specific Tweets are also talking about other popular issues including gun control, taxes, and ISIS.
Climate Change Melting Snowman
Looking at top Retweets is one method for understanding who is contributing to the climate change conversation. Bill Nye the Science Guy tops the list in the election conversation and trails Twitter users who have earned Retweets for humorous juxtapositions of climate change and other current events.

While Retweets help Twitter users increase potential impressions, determining a person’s influence on the conversation requires more complex analysis. For this reason, ForSight™ provides statistics on the Most Influential Twitter Authors using Klout Scores. Klout Scores allow analysts to rank Twitter authors by assigning them a value from 1 to 100 by measuring Twitter users’ social media networks, content, and interaction with other users.
Within the election conversation and the broader conversation on climate change, institutions top the ranking with Klout scores in the 90s. The top influencers include newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post and universities like Harvard and MIT. Influential Twitter Users Climate
With Affinities™ and Segments we can find out what Twitter users are interested in and delve into these interests and top influencers. While many of the strongest interests relate to the environment, people who are discussing the elections and climate change are extremely interested in politics. They are 231 times more interested in gun safety, 87 times more interested in the Affordable Care Act, and 60 times more interested in immigration than the general Twitter audience.
Affinities Climate Change
Within these interests, we can delve into Segments and take a closer look at who is influencing the conversations. For instance, when looking at the election conversation we see that people in the conversation are >1,000 times more interested in climate than the general Twitter population. Taking a closer look at the Climate segment, we find a strong presence of politicians and celebrities in the Top Influencers. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand comes in a number two followed by columnist Maureen Dowd, Vice President Biden, and The Daily Show.
Segments Kristen G
Looking at another Segment, Progressive Politics, we see the dynamic nature of influencers, with Alison Grimes rising 29 spots, a positive sign for increasing name recognition and support at the polls.
Alison G Segments
While the larger conversation may have been dominated by national institutions, Segments highlights how individuals play an influential role in specific conversations. These insights are especially useful when building a campaign, whether it be for a brand or a midterm election. Knowing who is influencing the conversation puts you one step closer to determining how to influence the conversation.
For more discussion on making strategic decisions with key influencers, register for our next Social CEOs webinar:

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