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Researching in Real-Time

UT students use sophisticated social media monitoring technology to evaluate the impact of ads and political events.

October 10, 2016 | Updated: March 17, 2021

During the 2021 Super Bowl, a group of graduate students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, used sophisticated technology to analyze reactions to each ad as it aired and monitor reactions on social media across the country.

What they learned: Mountain Dew’s ad featuring pro wrestler John Cena, Disney’s trailer for its upcoming series “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” and State Farm’s ads starring Drake were big winners, while Bruce Springsteen’s ad for Jeep was a big loser.

“We’re using technology that Fortune 100 companies use to track their social media marketing efforts,” said PhD candidate Alex Carter, who wrote up the center’s Super Bowl findings for news organization The Conversation.

The Adam Brown Social Media Command Center in UT’s College of Communication and Information is one of the only university facilities in the world with full access to Social Studio. During the fall 2020, CCI graduate students used Social Studio to monitor social media chatter surrounding the presidential and vice presidential debates and election-day coverage, and reported their findings in real time. About six hours before the vice presidential debate, they generated a word cloud showing the top issues appearing on social media.

“Social media technologies are one of the main reasons I chose this program,” says Carter.

“I was a social media strategist for Creative Energy, a firm in Johnson City, Tennessee, so I knew how important these platforms can be. I teach a junior-level course in ad research, and I make sure my students know how to measure and understand social media performance.

“As I move forward in my career, I’d love to be able to work with this kind of technology, researching ads and social media.”

Produced by The Office of Communications and Marketing

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