Analysing Earth Hour on Twitter

by Harith Alani and Miriam Fernandez
The Open University

Which Earth Hour tweets were more engaging than others? what topics people discuss during Earth Hour? Whom of Earth Hour followers tweeted about the event? and how do they differ from those who did not? These are some of the questions that intrigued us during these global campaigns, and kick-started a series of data analysis tasks to find answers to the above questions. To get started, we collected tweets about Earth Hour during the 2014 and 2015 campaigns; around 57M tweets in total. We first analysed the tweets that attracted many retweets, to understand the characteristics of the user who posted the tweets, and the content of the tweet (topic, writing style, sentiment, whether it contains an image, what type of image was it, has a URL or not, etc.). Our results showed that more engaging tweets tend to be longer, easier to read, have positive sentiment, and contain an original or funny photos.

Additionally, we also looked at which topics were emerging from those popular tweets, and how they related to environmental and climate change themes. We also studied for how long such engagement lasted beyond Earth Hour campaigns, to better understand the longevity of the impact of such events on the participants’ tweeting behaviour. Our results show that symbolism needs to be focused around climate change related topics. Superheroes, celebrities, and other types of symbols that are sometimes used by these campaigns, create buzz but do not necessarily generate awareness or engagement towards climate change. Regarding long lasting engagement, while users decrease their engagement towards the topic of the campaign after it finishes, climate change related topics continue to appear in their conversations one month later.

We have also looked at all the followers of Swiss WWF twitter account, to see which ones tweeted about the Earth Hour campaigns, and which one did not engage with the campaign at all. We then compared the topics that these two groups of followers tweet about, to see if there are noticeable differences between the two groups. We found that users who did not participate in the Earth Hour campaigns, in contrast with the ones that did participate, tended to tweet more about topics related to technology, entrepreneurship and journalism (media).