MLB Fan Analysis Part 3: Defining Fan-Team Relationships with Social Media

Social media is increasingly being used as a market research tool, and we believe that it provides opportunities to develop some richer descriptions of MLB fan bases.  The foundation for today’s analysis is something known as social media sentiment.  The idea behind sentiment is that we look at the “tone” of tweets surrounding each team.  In this inaugural version, we are examining the distribution of positive versus negative tweets for each team over the past couple of years.

Our actual approach uses a variety of statistics used to characterize distributions (e.g. mean, variance, skewness, kurtosis, etc.…), and then we employ a couple of techniques known as factor analysis and cluster analysis.  We will avoid the details (feel free to contact us) but the general idea is to find teams that have similar distributions of social media sentiment.  We use factor and cluster analysis on team social media sentiment on Twitter over the past two seasons to segment fan bases into four types.  Perhaps, it is more accurate to describe what we are doing as segmenting the types of relationships fans have with their teams.  Do fans have unconditional love for their team?  Do they have violent mood swings?

One caveat to this study is that since this is all based on Twitter data, the results reflect the opinions of fans on SOCIAL MEDIA only.  Also, please note that unlike our previous study of social media equity that was based on the size of each team’s following, this analysis is based on sentiment or tone.

Segment 1: Loving Stable Relationships

Our analysis suggests that the Atlanta and St. Louis teams have enviable fan bases.  Braves and Cardinals fans are both very happy and stable.  Whatever these teams are doing, the end result is fans that adore their teams, and tend not to vary in their feelings.  These are fans that love their teams, and mostly overlook their club’s faults.

Segment 2: Generally Happy but Volatile

The second cluster is the largest segment.  This group of fan bases is generally positive but volatile.  Meaning that on average, these fans are happy but they have mood swings.  This group is the largest, and includes the fans of the Cubs, Orioles, Reds, Indians, Tigers, Marlins, Astros, Royals, Phillies, Pirates, Mariners, Giants, Rangers, and Blue Jays.  These seem to be the “normal” fan bases.

Segment 3: Miserable Marriages

This is where the analysis becomes fun.  The third segment is made up of fan bases that are generally unhappy but stable.  These are fans that don’t get a lot of joy from their teams.  In addition, these feelings don’t seem to change much.  This group includes a diverse set of teams.  These are the fans of the Diamondbacks, Angels, White Sox, Rockies, Brewers, Padres, Nationals, and BOTH New York teams.

Segment 4: Depression with a Bit of Mania

This is Professor Lewis’ personal favorite segment.  Fan bases that are generally VERY unhappy but have a few instances of extreme joy.  We think we can also say that these are the teams with the most challenging fan bases to manage.  Again, we have a diverse group.  We have the small market fans of the Twins (what happened to Minnesota nice?), the A’s (Moneyball doesn’t create happiness?), and the Rays (probably the Florida heat).  In terms of the large markets, we have Boston (probably the most unsurprising result) and the LA Dodgers.

Social Media Based Cluster of MLB

Mike Lewis & Manish Tripathi, Emory University 2014.