Using Social Media to Predict the College Football Playoff

You’ve seen the headlines. “Social Media Predicted (insert disaster/major event here)”. However, it seems these headlines only appear after an event takes place. What if we evaluate social media for trends to predict the future? Could current trends about topics tell us what might be in store for us?

Using social media to predict events like this requires an assumption that the volume of social media mentions, fan activity, sentiment or other trends surrounding a topic somehow influence or indicate the likelihood of an event. It’s essentially the idea that by tapping into the mind that is social media, our collective brainpower has clairvoyant capabilities. If you can handle that, the rest of this article is for you! I give you; Social Media Predicts* the Winner of the College Football Playoff. (*Disclaimer: I’m not a real doctor.)

Playoff #1: Alabama vs. Washington

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl; 3pm ET on 12/31/2016

Question #1: Whose verified team Twitter handle has the most followers?

Alabama: 580,842

Washington: 69,103

WINNER: Alabama. To Washington’s credit, they are #54 in U.S. News’ ranking of colleges this year, while Alabama comes in at #103. I think it’s fair to say Alabama folks might spend a little more time tweetin’ than test-takin’.

Question #2: Who has the most engaged Twitter followers?

This took a little more math-ing. Since our teams weren’t kind enough to tweet the same number of times, I instead applied their average engagements (retweets + likes) per tweet to the tune of 2000 tweets. Divided by their current fan counts, we find:

Alabama: 1.73 engagements per fan

Washington: 5.24 engagements per fan

WINNER: Washington. The little Twitter handle that could, everybody.

We’ve got a real barn-burner. To the tiebreaker round!

Question #3: Whose owned hashtag has been used the most since the Selection Show?

Alabama (#RollTide): 43,500 uses

Washington (#PurpleReign): 7,900 uses

WINNER: Alabama. Poor Washington, you never stood a chance with your meager 69,103 followers.

Playoff #2: Clemson vs. Ohio State

Playstation Fiesta Bowl; 7pm on 12/31/2016

Question #1: Whose verified Twitter handle has the most followers?

Clemson: 462,508

Ohio State: 92,278 (account created in April)

WINNER: Clemson. Ohio State, you’ve had a football team since 1890. As far as I’m concerned, that’s 126 years of forgetting to set up a Twitter handle for your team. No points for you.

Question #2: Who has the most engaged Twitter followers?

Clemson: 2.32 engagements per fan

Ohio State: 14.98 engagements per fan

WINNER: Ohio State. When your fans look like the below, this result is less of a surprise.

football-1

Another game going into overtime! To the tiebreaker:

Question #3: Whose owned hashtag has been used the most since the Selection Show?

Clemson (#AllIn): 23,100 uses

Ohio State (#GoBucks): 26,400 uses

WINNER: Ohio State, but barely. If social media has anything to say about it, this game will end with a blocked field goal in overtime.

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2017 College Football Playoff National Championship

8:30pm ET on 1/9/2017

So far, our methods have predicted that Alabama will meet Ohio State in the National Championship game. Who will take home the trophy?

Question #1: Whose verified Twitter handle has the most followers?

Alabama: 580,842

Ohio State: 92,278

WINNER: Alabama.

Question #2: Who has the most engaged Twitter followers?

Alabama: 1.73 engagements per fan

Ohio State: 14.98 engagements per fan

WINNER: Ohio State.

If social media gets to choose, it looks like every single playoff matchup will be a game to watch. Here’s the tiebreaker result.

Question #3: Whose owned hashtag has been used the most since the Selection Show?

Alabama (#RollTide): 43,500 uses

Ohio State (#GoBucks): 26,400 uses

WINNER: Alabama. While I wish this came to a more surprising outcome, social media is quite in line with current Vegas predictions. Maybe social media can* predict the future!

*It clearly can’t. Using these same questions, my alma mater Michigan would beat Clemson & Alabama to be the national champion with 52,600 uses of #goblue, over 593,000 Twitter followers, and 2.32 engagements per fan. If Michigan has a come-from-behind win to take home the National Championship this year, you can say you heard it here first. Go Blue!

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