Social Media Newsletter Launch

Yesterday, I launched a monthly newsletter rounding up the latest social media publications, news and events near you.

You can sign up here.

Newsletter Launch

What does Twitter think about the uses of blockchain technology?

Blockchain technology has grown in popularity over the previous few years and experts have indicated that many industries will benefit from using systems built on blockchain .

The Government Office for Science in the United Kingdom published a report which examines the potential of distributed ledger technology which blockchain uses. They also released a video which nicely summaries blockchain technology. It is well worth watching for anyone unfamiliar with blockchain.

Twitter can be argued to serve as a media monitoring tool and provides immediate insight into public views and opinions. Many tools to analyse Twitter data have emerged, and a powerful tool for the analysis of Twitter data is known as Visibrain which has access to the Twitter Firehose API (i.e., almost 100% of tweets). Some have even suggested social media could be used to predict the price of certain crypto-currencies.

Blockchain receives over 6 million tweets a month on Twitter and as our focus is to examine potential uses of the technology we devised keywords to extract insight specifically into the potential applications of blockchain technology.

The keyword string consisted of “Blockchain (applications OR application OR app)”. Figure 1 below displays the volume of tweets which are generated related to the potential of blockchain technologies in the previous 30 days.

Figure 1 – Volume of tweets related to blockchain applications


A large amount of content is generated and a fairly large number of unique users are interested in the applications of blockchain. Visibrain also tells us that at least 8,109 articles have been shared related to this topic on Twitter over the previous 30 days.

Using Visibrain it is also possible to dig into the locations of people tweeting , and figure 2 below shows this.

Figure 2 – Geographic distribution of Twitter usersLocations of people tweeting

What is immediately striking about this is that at least 10,877 tweets were from users from the Russian Federation. This is rare because typically Russia accounts for a very low amount of tweets on other topics.  Additionally, it was interesting to see that users from at least 196 countries were tweeting about this topic over the previous 30 days. This highlights the global nature of blockchain technologies. The gender ratio suggested more males (64%) than females (36%) were tweeting.

It is also possible to extract information related to the occupation of users tweeting, as highlighted by figure 3 below.

Figure 3 – Occupation of users tweeting


The occupations of entrepreneur, founder, and business may appear due to the potential of crypto-currency as investment, and also because of the wider appeal of blockchain.

It is also possible to examine hashtags which are used and figure 4 below provides insight into some of the hashtags that were used.

Figure 4 – Hashtags used in this set of tweets

hashtags for block chain

It is interesting to see ‘#cnntoken’ appear among the most used hashtags. This relates to the Content Neutrality Network a Blockchain-based Content Ecosystem.

Some of the most popular tweets on this topic (containing the highest impressions) are listed in figure 5 below.

Figure 5 – Top 2 tweets by impressions

blockchain top 2

The first tweet related to Digitize Coin’s mobile application which is implementing a new feature, and it received over 16 million impressions. Followed by this it was an account by Node Haven related to Blockchain hardware and an upcoming blockchain conference. This tweet received over 12 million impressions. Impressions are a figure which tell us how many times a tweet appeared on a Twitter feed.

I would also recommend examining the NodeXL Graph gallery for a network graph on the applications of blockchain. Figure 6 below displays Twitter activity over the previous day related to the potential applications of blockchain technology.

Figure 6 – NodeXL network graph

Locations of people tweeting.png

There are a couple of interesting takeaways from examining the graph above and also by examining the metrics on the graph gallery:

  • One aspect is that certain users and accounts are link-baiting by using the hashtag ‘blockchain’ which is not surprising as it is a popular topic.
  • Another interesting finding was that the graph appeared to contain many references to ‘cryptocurrency which highlights its popularity as an application of blockchain.
  • A further interesting aspect was how the graph from G6 onwards to G55 contained smaller pockets of discussion between users surrounding events, news, and applications of blockchain. This highlights its broad appeal and vast potential of the technology.

Overall it was possible to gain insight into some of the potential uses of blockchain as shared on Twitter. These included crypto-currencies, smart-contracts, hardware, dating apps, supply chain, ride sharing, voting systems, retail, digital marketing, medicine, travel, and verification among many more. Future work will seek to perform a more in-depth analysis of this data using a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods.

PhD thesis published: Using Twitter data to provide qualitative insights into pandemics and epidemics

Just a quick update to say that my PhD thesis has now been published which was titled:

Using Twitter data to provide qualitative insights into pandemics and epidemics

The thesis can be accessed by following this link:

The abstract is provided below:

Background: One area of public health research specialises in examining public views and opinions surrounding infectious disease outbreaks. Although interviews and surveys are valid sources of this information, views and opinions are necessarily generated by the context, rather than spontaneous. As such, social media has increasingly been viewed as legitimate source of pragmatic, unfiltered public opinion.

Objectives: This research attempts to better understand how users converse about infectious disease outbreaks on the social media platform Twitter. The study was undertaken in order to address a gap in knowledge because previous empirical studies that have analysed infectious disease outbreaks on Twitter have focused on employing quantitative methods as the primary form of data analysis. After analysing individual cases on Ebola, Zika, and swine flu, the study performs an important comparison in the types of discussions taking place on Twitter and is the first empirical study to do so.

Methods: A number of pilot studies were initially designed and conducted in order to help inform the main study. The study then manually labels tweets on infectious disease outbreaks assisted by the qualitative analysis programme NVivo, and performs an analysis using the Health Belief Model, concepts around information theory, and a number of sociological principles. The data were purposively sampled according to when Google Trends Data showed a heightened interest in the respective outbreaks, and a case study approach was utilised.

Results: A substantial number of themes were uncovered which were not reported in previous literature, demonstrating the potential of qualitative methodologies for extracting greater insight into public health opinions from Twitter data. The study noted several limitations of Twitter data for use in qualitative research. However, results demonstrated the potential of Twitter to identify discussions around infectious diseases that might not emerge in an interview and/or which might not be included in a survey.

New post for the LSE Impact blog

I published a new blog post for the LSE Impact blog examining the implications of Twitter’s 280-character increase on academic research. The abstract is copied below and a link is provided to the full entry.


Twitter makes its data available in real-time and at no cost, making it a popular data source for many academic researchers. Wasim Ahmed discusses some of the implications of the decision to expand the character limit from 140 to 280. Greater space makes for greater depth and detail, addressing the difficulties of interpretation that 140-character tweets would sometimes present. However, some data retrieval tools have been slow to catch up, and the change may also make historical comparisons problematic. Overall, the character increase is of value to researchers and should inspire further innovative and exciting research.

Read my full post here:

Peer reviewed book chapter on the ethical, legal, and methodological challenges of researching Twitter is now open access!


You can access the book chapter here:

Reasons for Brands To Use Social Media

Social media networks have grown in user base faster than any other form of technology in existence. It is true that social networking users continue to rise significantly, with more and more people seeing it as an excellent tool for connecting with others and creating more meaningful relationships which have given companies the chance of taking advantage of this knowledge.

There are millions of people using Facebook, Twitter and many other sites on a daily basis. Even on the go, most people use it to keep in touch with friends and families, others to expand their network of friends and some to build businesses.

Successful businesses know that they need to be where the people are, right now, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are where everyone is. If your business isn’t using social media effectively you will be left behind.  So why should your organisation jump on the bandwagon?


Traditional Media Outdated

Traditional media is gradually losing its impact on consumers. People are smarter, and they’re less likely to fall for gimmicks or celebrity endorsements. Consumers are doing more research before purchasing any product or service. More and more, they are going online to see what feedback they can garner before making a decision and so social media is the modern platform for networking or advertising.



It is not only the youths that are active social media users, it’s everyone. That’s the more reason why it is important for businesses to pick the best form of social media outlets for their organisations and begin to build their brand image. It offers you a chance to establish your business as one that is trustworthy and promote yourself as someone with skills, insight, and knowledge. It is not ideal to waste time trying to get your name on every website available, focus on the ones that will best benefit your organisation. You simply cannot buy this form of brand awareness in any other way, and that is one of the most exciting aspects of social media for business.



When you become an active member of social communities, your company can better understand its target markets. You are able to easily discover who wants to buy your service and products and it has proven to be the best way to reach your audience. Through online engagement with your customers, you can establish a good communication that can help to strengthen customer loyalty and trust and there would be increased customer support, you’ll find that customers will recommend your brand to others through forums, microblogging, and video sites.



The use of social media as a means of marketing and networking has helped many companies attract new customers, with millions of people using the social media, it offers every organization a chance to get a substantial amount of customers for your niche, if your target is to the youth, elderly or any other group of people, there is a chance of getting customers to your products.


new products

There is nothing more exciting than a platform that offers you a chance to create a buzz about a product or service that your company offers. Are you trying to spread the word about a particular product or service that your business is now offering? Doing so via social media is a great place to start and spread the word.


%22Wasim Ahmed%22 OR was3210 _2018-01-03_17-26-15.xlsx

Using social media effectively in marketing, via tools like NodeXL,  allows you to monitor and addressing what your customers are saying about you and your products. One of the central components of social media is how incredibly viral its effect is, and one small thing could easily develop into a huge problem if left unaddressed.

Twitter, for example, provides increased access to its data which allows you to see who’s mentioning your brand in their tweets. Positive comments are always great, but the negative comment may make your business suffer, so it’s important that you address these immediately.

  • It offers you a chance to engage your audience in an ongoing dialogue
  • Gain competitive knowledge
  • Understand consumers need
  • Gain an understanding of influential users offering you a chance to meet and share your products

Social media is the new place for brand marketing, but it’s important that you understand how it works so that you can effectively use it to form a good relationship with your audience and promote your brand.


Wasim Ahmed

I am a doctoral graduate from the information school, University of Sheffield. I started to use social media blogs to disseminate my work as soon as I started my Ph.D. By doing so I managed to generate interest and buzz in my work all around the world.

More recently I have managed to help organisations boost their social media profiles and monitor their audiences. I am skilled at making networks “work” and harnessing powerful online and offline buzz.

So far I have delivered over 40 talks on my research including a talk to the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN), as well as to the UK government. I have also published over 30 research outputs across conferences, journals,  books, and magazines.

I have also been a keynote speaker at Boston University College of Communication as well to the Polytechnic of Šibenik. I have also worked with external organizations such as Manchester United FC, and attracted the attention of the mainstream media. I have also appeared on BBC Radio Sheffield and in the Sheffield star.

Feel free to contact me to see how I could help your organisation.

Making Sense of the Twitter Network of @PaulMasonNews

Recently I tweeted a network graph and report of Paul Mason (writer, broadcaster, film-maker, and recent author of Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future). However, these graphs can be difficult to understand without interpretation. In this blog post I will outline some of the key takeaways from the analysis.

The graph has been created by searching Twitter for all mentions of “paulmasonnews”, or who were replied to or mentioned in those tweets, taken from a data set limited to a maximum of 18,000 tweets. The tweets in the entire network were tweeted over the 10-day, 0-hour, 25-minute period from Friday, 10 November 2017 at 17:07 UTC to Monday, 20 November 2017 at 17:33 UTC. The full graph gallery version of the graph can be found here.

The network graph below has clustered Twitter discussion into a number of different groups. The largest group (labelled G1) on the top left is a densely populated group and it contains Paul’s account in the middle, and shows that Paul’s account receives a large number of replies when he tweets.  The discussion is extremely varied in this group.

There are a number of other groups which suggests that discussion around Paul account spans a number of different topics. Group 2 (labelled G2), bottom left revolved around Paul’s tweet  on the Guardian article Labour vows to factor climate change into economic forecasts. 

Another interesting group is  Group 7 (labeled G7) which is an isolates group. This shows that there are a number of Twitter users not connected to one another that are sharing content related to Paul and/or quoting and replying to tweets.

The bottom right of the graph shows a number of smaller discussions taking place in great volume which demonstrates that there are small communities of Twitter users discussing content from Paul’s account.

Figure 1 – Network graph of Paul Mason News 

PM News.png


Overall Paul’s Twitter account continues to be influential across a number of different domains. We can look at some of the statistics associated with the graph such as the top 5 most shared URLs which were:

  1. The most popular URL shared on 740 occasions was a link to a tweet by Paul on the Guardian article Labour vows to factor climate change into economic forecasts. 
  2. The second most popular URL ‘Dear BBC…’ was  a tweet shared on 243 occasions
  3. The third most shared URL was a tweet by Paul shared on 33 occasions ‘I’m at the Roter Salon…’
  4. The fourth most popular URL was shared 29 occasions and was a link to Paul’s page for Channel 4  News on an article from 2014 titled  How did the first world war actually end?
  5. The fifth most shared URL is a link to a blog post published on Emma Dent Coad’s blog in 2010 titled ‘This is my posh voice’ – local boy done good, or, nostalgie de la boue?

There are further interesting aspects to the graph, and some of these are summarized below:

  • The most popular domain overall in the graph was Twitter (with 2638 URLs) suggesting that Paul’s tweets themselves are quoted and shared often.  The second most popular URL was to Channel 4 News (with 29 URLs).
  • The top hashtag overall was #propaganda with a total of 378 mentions in Paul’s network, and the keyword appeared across the network. This could be because a number of  different users were tagging Paul and using this hashtag. For instance this example. Other users were noting how Paul had broken out of the propaganda by the mainstream media.
  • Owen Jones is an influential user within Paul’s network with a high betweeness centrality score. This suggests Owen may have a different set of followers than Paul.


Social Media: A Force for Good or Evil?

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of hosting a debate at Sheffield Hallam University for charity, a part of 24 hours of debate. The topic of debate I selected was to look at whether social media had been a positive or negative invention. The attendees were mostly undergraduate students, so I was really interested to get their thoughts on this topic.

social media force for good or evil

Before kicking off the debate I broke down the current usage of social media such as:

Of an estimated global population of 7.524 billion – there are 3.028 billion total social media users (37% of the total population).
• That the average mobile phone user spends 2 hours on their phone a day, and touches their phone 2,617 times a day.

In order to have an informed debate I outlined some benefits of social media such as:

Ability to Connect: we now have the ability to connect with one another from across the world.

Used in Education: across academia social media is used for teaching and for scholarly communication.

Marketing: social media has created a number of jobs in a marketing context, and helped small business thrive.

 • Politics and Political Change: social media has been credited as being influential during political uprisings.

• Awareness: it is possible to rapidly raise awareness for causes. We can think of the Ice bucket challenge as an example of how social media can be used to raise awareness.

• Emergency and Crisis Situations: in times of crisis data from social media platforms can be leveraged, and this has the potential to save lives.

I also considered some of the limitations of social media such as:

• Cyberbullying / Mental Health: there is the issue of virtual bullying, and potential negative mental health among users.

• Hacking: there are a number of cases where identity theft has occurred, and this has had a disastrous effect on people’s lives. Private photographs can also be stolen.

• Addiction: social media platforms are designed to be addictive, and there may be people who are addicted to the platforms without knowing.

• Unknown effects: there could also be a number of unknown consequences of using social media platforms that we are not currently aware of.

After providing an overview of a number of strengthens and limitations I then looked to consider some questions to be debated which were as followed:

• Do the benefits of social media outweigh the limitations?

In the discussion some thought that the benefits of social media did outweigh the limitations whereas others thought the opposite. Overall, however, there was agreement that there were more benefits that social media platforms offered. Particularly in the ability to connect with one another, create events, and socialise. Though this answer could reflect the views of the audience discussing the topic i.e., undergraduate students.

• Is social media making us less social?

There appeared to be strong agreement that social media had made younger generations less social. Discussion would then turn to whether it is the role of parents to ensure children were not spending too much time on social media. This then lead on to discussions around the digital divide and how parents may not fully understand the risks of these platforms themselves to be able to keep on top of things.

• Has social media had a positive or negative effect on society?

There was disagreement but the overall consensus was that social media platforms were here to stay. Therefore, the delegates argued that there should be more regulation and guidance for children who may be using these platforms. There were also sentiments expressed by delegates noting that we probably do not know all of the effects social media has had among society.

• What effect have social media had on our mental health?

There was agreement that social media platforms had the potential to cause negative mental health among users. An example was provided of a case of private photographs of a teenager being spread around social media without their consent and the damage that this can cause. Some argued that the challenges posed by social media have always existed in society. Others argued that although this may be the case social media has increased the speed in which information can be spread.

• Have social media companies unfairly exploited our desire to connect with one another?

There was disagreement because some thought that social media companies had operated fairly and lawfully. Whereas others argued that the terms and conditions of social media platforms were so long that many were not reading them. Others thought that people should be reading the terms and conditions of social media platforms more regularly.

• Is social media going to change how people live their lives e.g., a comment made when young and naïve can come back to haunt.

There was disagreement among the delegates and one delegate suggested that comments made after a certain age e.g., 16 should be public knowledge for certain professions such as politics. However, this was not a popular view. Most thought that it would not be fair to judge someone for comments that they might make when they are young. The discussion then revolved around how it would be possible to educate younger generations more.

Overall it was an interesting discussion and a range of opinions were discussed. It appeared that the consensus was that social media, on the whole, had more good elements but that care was needed by younger generation using the platforms.

Earn a Certificate in Social Media Analysis from Boston University

Making Social Media Matter is back for Autumn 2017 and I can announce that this time around I am the opening keynote!  See my abstract below.

This talk provides an overview of a number of emerging social listening and digital engagement tools such as Visibrain, Audiense, Echosec, Social Elephants, and NodeXL among others. It will provide an overview of a number of tools that are freely available to academic researchers such as Mozdeh, Chorus, TAGS, COSMOS, and Netlytic among others. The talk will highlight a number of different research methods that have been utilised by academic researchers, such as machine learning, sentiment analysis, network analysis, and content and thematic analysis which can be utilised to be applied to the domains of commercial data analytics as well as academic research. The talk also touches on the diverse potentials of social data for organisations from forecasting, detecting crisis events, and as an early warning system for organisational threats.

The event is a 3-day, hands on, workshop which takes place at Boston University College of Communication from October 20 to October 22. The workshop is organised by Jacob Groshek, who has published a number of research outputs related to research on communication technology, politics, and society.

Who is the event for?

Anyone who works with social media data! This could include professionals such as those in the media, researchers, scientists, and research students. Moreover, anyone with a general interest in social media as a source of research data will benefit from attending the event! No computational background is required, and you will gain new knowledge on network analysis, geolocation, as well as machine learning.

What will you learn from the workshop?

The workshop will cover the theoretical bases of working with big data, and the workshop also includes access to some amazing data platforms such as the Boston University Twitter Collection and Analysis Toolkit (BU-TCAT).  I have used this toolkit for a number of years, and it is one of the best platforms available to researchers. The workshop will also cover the fundamentals of using Gephi.

What will you gain from the event?

Boston University will award delegates with a Certificate in Social Media Analysis: Principals and Practices for Big Data. This is a very valuable certification as Boston University is an internationally recognised, ranked and respected very highly in world-university rankings. Moreover, you will gain access to BU-TCAT,  an exclusive tool which is not available to the general public.

How much does it cost?

The workshop is affordably priced and the pricing structure is as followed:

  • Professionals: $1,485
  • Nonprofit / faculty: $1,285
  • BU faculty and staff: $1,085
  • Students (verified by valid student ID): $885

If the code  is used this can provide a generous 15% discount of the final fee.

Where do I register?

You can read more about the workshop, and register by following this link.

Delivered a talk on social media research ethics at a CERN workshop in Geneva

Myself and Professor Peter Bath, pictured below, from the Health Informatics Research Group, recently delivered a talk at a CERN workshop in GenevaThe talk was based on the industry and academic perspectives on social media research ethics, and the also talk highlighted the approach that has been undertaken by the University of Sheffield.

AAA cern 1

I also presented a poster my PhD research during the CERN workshop, as pictured below.

BBB cern 2


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