When it Comes To Social Media Affinities, Expect The Unexpected

Social media has been called “a limitless focus group” for its ability to provide real-time and unbiased insights into people and their behavior at scale. Unlike the focus groups of yesteryear – conducted behind one-way mirrors and riddled by small samples, leading questions, and self-reporting – social media data tells it like it is, often with unexpected outcomes. This is what makes the space so fruitful (and fascinating!) for marketers.

One of the ways to tap social media data to uncover (unexpected) consumer insights is by looking at the strength of connection between two different items. Examples include people, brands, TV programs, events, movies, and sports. Mapping the penetration per thousand (PPM) for any two of these categories can give you a sense of how closely they are correlated, i.e. how much of an affinity one group has for the other. Here are some examples of unexpected affinities. In layman’s terms, this PPM analysis shows the highest overlap among every 1,000 people who are engaging with one thing on social media AND every 1,000 people who are engaging with another thing.

Top Celebrities for Hillary Clinton. Politics is always a controversial topic on social media, so what better place to start? Looking at the top celeb affinities for the leading Democratic 2016 U.S. Presidential candidate, we find Chris Pratt at #5, Robert Downey Jr. at #4, Jimmy Kimmel at #3, and Conan O’Brien at #2. Clearly actors and TV hosts would make strong endorsements for the Clinton campaign — but would you have guessed an astrophysicist would top the list? Indeed, #1 is a bit out of left (no pun intended) field with Neil deGrasse Tyson — and good luck getting him to come around.

Top Celebrities for Donald Trump.So what about the leading Republican candidate? Well, he’s certainly proving to be quite the social media instigator. But where does his audience cross over? What celebs are proving most influential among Trump’s base? It should come as no surprise that the list is made up of folks with very strong views on key conservative issues like gun control, vaccination, and taxation. #5 is Clint Eastwood. #4 is Jenny McCarthy. #3 is Anthony Anderson. And #2 is Mark Cuban. So far, so obvious. But who knew #1 would be the “Independent” Tom Brady?

Top Moms in People magazine. OK, let’s switch gears from politics to pop culture. Which mothers have the highest social media engagement among folks who engage with People magazine? Again, we have some no-brainers. #5 is Christina Aguilera. #4 is Carrie Underwood. #3 is Gwyneth Paltrow. But the next two are a bit of a surprise. #2 is Kourtney Kardashian. (I’d have guessed Kim, but I suppose Kourt was the latest to try and break the Internet.) And #1 is Idina Menzel. Not sure where that came from so I’ll just have to let it go.

Top Dads in People magazine. Not to be outdone, the dudes are repping their parental pride in People. Here the outlier is Ozzy Osbourne, who’s apparently still rocking at #4. #5 is Lenny Kravitz. #3 is Tyler Perry. #2 is Bill Clinton. And #1 is Channing Tatum. I didn’t even know he had kids.

Top Brands for “Mad Men.”In my opinion, there’s never been a show about advertising as good as “Mad Men.” And, for me, the best storylines were those that included creative work for real-life brands. But in real life, what brands resonated most with “Mad Men” fans? I found all five of these relatively surprising. #5 is DirecTV. #4 is IKEA. #3 is Old Spice. #2 is Chobani. And #1 is Williams-Sonoma.

Top Brands for “Orange in the New Black.” What about over-the-top (OTT) content, where brands have to work harder to break in? For “Orange is the New Black,” we’re running the gamut of simple pleasures that people behind bars crave: from tacos to makeup to shoes to underwear to allergy meds to…. yogurt? Yes, Yoplait checks in at #6 behind Taco Bell (#5), Sephora (#4), Zyrtec (#3), TOMS (#2), and Hanes (#1). By the way, hopefully the marketing applications of all this affinity data are clear — but it can/should be used to help direct sponsorships, promotions, ad placement, creative, etc.

Top Cars for “Fast & Furious.” OK, so this is going to be a bunch of makes and models that people can amp up, right? Ish. #5 is Jeep Grand Cherokee. #4 is Chevrolet Camaro. #3 is Subaru Impreza. #2 is Hyundai Sonata. And #1 is that sporty roadster, Toyota Camry.

Top Athletes for the NBA. Stephen Curry (#1), check. LeBron James (#2) check. (Although I’d probably have guessed he’d be #1.) Chris Paul (#3), check. Dwight Howard (#4), OK, getting interesting. He’s not the player he once was but his monster dunks are always good for social commentary. Then there’s Tim Duncan at #5. Talk about the least controversial, showy athlete out there. I would not have expected him to finish so strong in social media.

Top Actors for Tom Cruise. While the top 5 here are not too crazy – sorry, poor word choice – #6 is pretty funny and there’s one glaring omission. #5 is Matthew McConaughey. #4 is Samuel L. Jackson. #3 is Hugh Jackman. #2 is Leonardo DiCaprio. #1 is Nicole Kidman. And #6 is Chuck Norris. No Katie Holmes, though.

Top Food/Beverage for Starbucks. Coke or Pepsi? PC or Mac? Paper or plastic? These are the questions upon which brand loyalty is built. Picking a side defines you as a person. Very rarely does someone truly like both, or say they don’t have a preference. When it comes to coffee, Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts stand at odds with each other on just about all spectrums, from taste to cost to approachability. That’s why it’s so surprising to see Dunkin’ Donuts check in at #2 on the list for affinity with Starbucks. #5 is Nespresso. #4 is Teavana. #3 is Nutella. And #1 is Jamba Juice.

3 comments about "When it Comes To Social Media Affinities, Expect The Unexpected".
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  1. Doug Schumacher from Zuum, August 5, 2015 at 12:43 p.m.

    Aaron, thanks for posting. Interesting article. Can you clarify what the methodology was for determining those relationships? Like what type of data was used? 

  2. Aaron Goldman from Mediaocean, August 5, 2015 at 2:31 p.m.

    Thanks for the feedback Doug! To determine affinities/PPM we analyze active engagment on brand content across Facebook and Twitter spanning 1.5 billion users, 250,000 interest categories, 50,000 brands and 6,000 TV programs.

  3. Doug Schumacher from Zuum, August 5, 2015 at 5:44 p.m.

    Thanks, Aaron. Appreciate the followup. Fascinating findings. (Of course, I'd expect nothing less from a fellow Illini :)

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