Trendspotting: Validating True Patterns of Emotions with Social Data

When we think about how to leverage both the volume and variety of big data for consumer insight, deep historical datasets are critical for validation of real “trends”. With over 90% of global data generated within the past two years alone, it continues to grow in orders of magnitude annually and offers considerable opportunity for discovery of patterns on the macro level.
But can big data also act as a window into more qualitative conclusions? By looking at a few truly global events, we start to see what social data can tell us about how we’ve responded emotionally to important moments in time.
So as the door closes on President Obama’s second term and Michael Phelps takes home his final gold medals, let’s reflect on all that’s unfolded in public eye over the past eight years. Most of it was shared over social media, an arena which has transformed pop culture into more of a participatory sport for commentary. Did audiences react to these events cyclically? Through the lens of Emotion Analysis, Crimson Hexagon offers a deeper understanding of the collective response beyond basic ‘positive’ & ‘negative’ to tell a bigger story over time. The emotions of joy, sadness, disgust, anger, surprise, and fear help to paint that picture.  
Descriptive analytics illustrate points on a timeline when disruptions occurred. This analysis of each of Obama’s State of the Union Addresses may suggest that there are numerous contributing factors from mobile smartphone adoption to increased native app usage. Because this was such a formative period for how we engaged with new media (particularly through social channels), this may not reflect a significant shift in civic engagement. Yet, it did occur on an annual frequency every January so there’s a good basis for year-over-year comparisons. Worthy of note: proportion of negative emotions in aggregate (anger, disgust, fear) were most polarizing during Obama’s reelection year of 2012.   
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During these “Obama Years”, those very same accelerators of mobile smartphone adoption and increased native app usage were drivers and enablers for newer forms of self expression. Recurring themes like Throwback Thursday #TBT started small in 2012, but evolved into a viral vehicle for people to share good vibes of happy memories. Though it has waned in the recent year, it’s mostly joyful recollection!  
Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 1.19.04 PMHow were we expressing ourselves as a social audience in 2014? In a word: #Selfie! A lot of joy shared regarding positive self images. Despite its near social ubiquity, the mega-trend still wasn’t disruption-proof—given the rise of private messaging apps in 2015.
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In the cyclical, emotionally turbulent world of consumer behavior, analysis of deep historical datasets is critical for true trend validation. Staying ahead of market disruptors and identifying new opportunities in data will help brands craft more proactive, effective strategies to better engage key emotions in the consumer mind.

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