PhD Graduation Day!

On the 11th of January 2019 I graduated from the University of Sheffield with a PhD which was titled “Using Twitter data to provide qualitative insights into pandemics and epidemics“.




New publication: A comparison of information sharing behaviours across 379 health conditions on Twitter

A comparison of information sharing behaviours across 379 health conditions on Twitter in International Journal of Public Health



To compare information sharing of over 379 health conditions on Twitter to uncover trends and patterns of online user activities.


We collected 1.5 million tweets generated by over 450,000 Twitter users for 379 health conditions, each of which was quantified using a multivariate model describing engagement, user and content aspects of the data and compared using correlation and network analysis to discover patterns of user activities in these online communities.


We found a significant imbalance in terms of the size of communities interested in different health conditions, regardless of the seriousness of these conditions. Improving the informativeness of tweets by using, for example, URLs, multimedia and mentions can be important factors in promoting health conditions on Twitter. Using hashtags on the contrary is less effective. Social network analysis revealed similar structures of the discussion found across different health conditions.


Our study found variance in activity between different health communities on Twitter, and our results are likely to be of interest to public health authorities and officials interested in the potential of Twitter to raise awareness of public health.


The full paper can be accessed here:

Emoji Cities: what the world is saying

I recently provided an expert comment statement on the Emoji Cities tool and I thought that it may be of interest to readers. Check it out below!

Every city is different, but how different? From Rio to Shanghai and London to LA, Emoji Cities uses Twitter activity to examine what the world is talking about. Find out the top trends, the most popular hashtags, who’s in the news, and – of course – the top emojis for every major city. Discover what the world is saying – and feeling.

Check out Emoji Cities here:


Best Influencer Detection on Twitter: Using NodeXL Pro to identify influential Manchester United Fans

Recently I created a short video-summary of a project which collected longitudinal data on Manchester United FC over the course of the 2017/18 season using NodeXL Pro. Be sure to watch the video below.

Presented paper and won award at 9th International Social Media and Society Conference

These days I am working as an Assistant Professor at Northumbria University, recently, I presented a paper based on my PhD research, recently completed at the Information School based at the University of Sheffield, at the 9th International Social Media and Society Conference which had an acceptance rate of 47%.

The paper titled Moral Panic through the Lens of Twitter: An Analysis of Infectious Disease Outbreaks can be accessed here. The paper was also summarised in a blog post by Professor Axel Bruns, President of the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR).

most active twitter user

At the awards ceremony, I received the award of ‘most engaged Twitter user’ and won a series of prizes (pictured above). The hashtag for the conference contained over 400 unique users, and generated over 2,500 unique tweets and became a trending topic in Copenhagen (where the conference was taking place).

Croatia’s World Cup consolation: Google searches soar as world seeks information on finalists

File 20180716 44070 nrewbm.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Wasim Ahmed, Northumbria University, Newcastle

Croatia may have lost to France in the World Cup final, but the small Eastern European nation may just have won something altogether more precious – worldwide recognition on a whole new level.

Social media users are tweeting about Croatia like never before and web searches are through the roof. The country has long been a holiday hotspot, but many people don’t seem to know much more than that about it. That all seemed to change dramatically over the World Cup.

Croatia’s progress to the 2018 final was something of a surprise. Coming from a nation of just 4m people, the team displayed true character and grit to battle to the end to take on France, one of the favourites to win. And while Croatia didn’t take home the trophy, the nation is likely to benefit massively in other ways.

Google Trends data highlights, astonishingly, that Google web search queries for “Croatia” have increased to the highest levels in history as people around the world search and locate information using the keyword “Croatia”. Google ranks search popularity from zero to 100, where a value of 100 is the peak popularity for a term, and 50 half as popular. In the 2014 tournament, Croatia’s score was 28, in 2018 the score is 100.

In a period of just one hour during the semi-final, 350,000 tweets were also sent out including the word “Croatia”. That’s roughly 80 times more than on an average day. And towards the end of the night on the day of the final against France, more than a million tweets had been sent out that included the word “Croatia”.

Tweets about Croatia increased massively on final day.

A country would usually have to spend millions if they wanted to gain this type of interest. This itself is a very rewarding aspect of progression in the tournament as it equates to massive free exposure for a nation.

Your next holiday?

Even before the final, the Croatian tourist board announced it had observed a 250% increase in website visits from across the world, compared to the same time last year. Croatian tourism outlets also capitalised on the increased interest by launching specific marketing communications across social media. This included a promotional video shared on YouTube by
the Croatian National Tourist Board which has been viewed over 250,000 times.

Meanwhile, the Croatian economy seemed to be enjoying a boost from World Cup interest at home. The national tax administration indicated an increase in spend during the tournament. Individual stores reported a 400% increase in sales as compared to previous years as locals stocked up on beverages, snacks, and television sets.

Although it was not the dream end for a Croatian team which showed extreme courage in reaching the final, progressing in the tournament has led to a monumental increase in the digital footprint of the country. That, in turn, has the potential to deliver tangible benefits to the Croatian economy and the tourism sector.

More evidence-based articles about football and the World Cup:

Wasim Ahmed, Assistant Professor in Digital Business, Northumbria University, Newcastle

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

New publication for The Conversation

I have had the following article “Croatia’s World Cup consolation: Google searches soar as world seeks information on finalists” published for The Conversation, be sure to check it out here:

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.

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