Communication trending topics on Twitter

The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012: Trending topics

Identifying the trending topics of the communications managed by the three account holders on Twitter in 2012 started with processing the hashtags’ and extracting their occurrences. Comparing the most used hashtags with word frequency (not hashtags, but ordinary words), word pairs (pairs of words based on their proximity) and semantic network nodes may provide clear indications and relevant elements to identify the trending topics of Twitter communications. Both word pairs and semantic network nodes will be further explained and developed in this article.

Most frequent words with at least 52 occurrences

The list of the most frequent words in the unified tweet corpora of the three account holders, namely Social Europe, EURes and Commissioner Andor in 2012, resulted from a WORDij procedure. The word frequency ranged from 465 to 2. I selected the first ranked 42 words with at least 52 occurrences only as from 52 to the next lowest level was a significant gap. The selected words included most of the hashtags and related words. Usernames, locations and other irrelevant words were discarded. The validated words as well as the discarded words (in grey) are placed in Table 1.

The most frequent word pairs

WORDij also extracts word pairs based on an algorithm that uses the rule of word proximity. The application placed 1934 word pairs in output, but I selected the top 32 word pairs. Their proximity makes sense in the context of the Twitter communications of the three account holders and relates well to the hashtag set and the most frequent words (Table 2).

Table 1: Most frequent words

Table 1: Most frequent words

According to Danowski and Park[1] (2013) the “order of words within pairs” is “maintained so that a pair (word A – word B)” is treated as a distinct entity from (word B – word A) (p.24).

Table 2: Most used word pairs

Table 2: Most used word pairs

Twitter semantic networks

Extracting the semantic network nodes with WORDij provided additional information to be triangulated with the other datasets to ensure that key information is not left out. Given some limitations of LIWC (the other piece of CAQDAS tool, which I used), I wanted there to be in place a “human” filter to ensure research credibility.

I created a set of spring-embedded graphs to check how the semantic entities grow from 5 to 30 nodes. The graphs show the gradual growth from the strongest 5 nodes to the following 5, 10 and 20 which enrich the network.

Figure 1: Semantic network; 5 nodes and 3 minimum link values

Figure 1: Semantic network; 5 nodes and 3 minimum link values

The semantic networks of the three account holders, based on the unified tweet corpora, with 5 and 30 network nodes are presented in Figure 1 and Figure 2.

Figure 2: Semantic network; 30 nodes and 3 minimum link values

Figure 2: Semantic network; 30 nodes and 3 minimum link values

The semantic network nodes were analysed and compared against the hashtags, the most frequent words and word pairs. The relevant nodes which are also hashtags are found in Table 3 (#). The discarded nodes are greyed. All nodes (Table 3) are listed in reverse order to show that the strongest nodes are placed at the bottom, which may symbolise a foundation on which the semantic network is built.

Table 3: Semantic network nodes

Table 3: Semantic network nodes

Hashtags vs. word frequency and word pairs

Hashtagging was somewhat applied inconsistently and the existing hashtags could not provide a clear and complete picture of the communication trending topics managed by the three account holders. Hashtagging was performed more accurately by Social Europe and the Commissioner. Often no hashtag or multiple hashtags were assigned to one event or policy.

For example, European Job Day (#EJD) and European Online Job Day (#EOJD) were also tagged as #Job, #Jobs, #onlinejobday, #onlinejobsday, #EuropeanJobDay, #EuropeanJobDays, #EuropeanJobsDay, #jobfair. This was also the case with the Youth Employment Package (#EmplPackage, #Employment package, #EmploymentPackage and #YouthEmploymentPackage).

There were also two similar hashtags: “#poverty” and “#poverty12” which were assigned to different subjects. The first was associated to the 11th European Meeting of People Experiencing Poverty (Homelessness and Housing Rights in the Context of the Crisis) while the second was associated to the Second Annual Convention of the platform against poverty and social exclusion, which is a long-term future strategy of the European Union.

Correlating the four information sets ensured that key and relevant information is elicited in order to get an accurate picture of the communication trending topics managed by the three account holders on Twitter in 2012.

Based on the information I extracted from the individual and unified tweet corpora, I established a list of words, which I searched for in each individual tweet body.

The trending topics I identified are listed along with the words I checked for by searching in the corpora. While checking each tweet body to place it into the right trending topic, I considered it as only one occurrence even though the tweet body might have had one or more hashtags, one or more word pairs or semantic nodes covering the same topic. The topics are ranked according to the occurrences of the content entities. A content entity is represented by either one of the following: a hashtag, a word pair or a semantic node.

  1. Current EU social policies and programmes (607 content entities) including labour market, social dialogue, social investment, social security, Eurofound, #crisis, market, #social, conference, policy;
  2. European Job Day and European Online Job Day: ( 596 content entities) including #EJD, EJD, #EOJD, EOJD, #job/#jobs, job/jobs, day;
  3. Youth Employment Package: (447 content entities) including #youth, #employment/#unemployment, package;
  4. 2012 European Year for active ageing and solidarity between generations (EY2012): (358 content entities) including #ey2012, year, #active #ageing, #solidarity, #generations, awards;
  5. Jobs for Europe: (252 content entities) including #jobs4europe and jobs4europe;
  6. Poverty Convention: (87 content entities) including #poverty12;
  7. Youth Employment chat hosted by Commissioner Andor: (66 content entities) including #youthempl and chat;
  8. Youth Guarantee: (28 content entities) including #youthguarantee, guarantee.

Trending topics number 3 and 8 are two new political initiatives launched in 2012 and, if approved, would be implemented as EU policies and programmes in the forthcoming years.

Trending topic number 6 covers a major long-term initiative which forms part of the Europe 2020 strategy and is currently implemented in the EU. It is a major political priority to overcome the effects of the crisis, such as poverty and social exclusion. These trending topics have got political weight and represent strategic points for the further development of the EU.

Trending topic number 7 is the Youth Employment chat hosted by Commissioner Andor in which he discussed the Youth Employment Package and Youth Guarantee with young people.

The three tweet corpora were placed into individual monthly files for convenience in searching and finding the time references. The related hashtags, nodes and word pairs were counted according to the topic they belonged to. After manual counting, the figures corresponding to the occurrences were placed in a separate spreadsheet. When this work was completed, I grouped all the entries of the three accounts in a single table, which generated the chart in Figure 3.

Trending topics dynamic throughout 2012

Trending topics dynamic throughout 2012

The eight trending topics cover the core communication content which was planned for distribution via Twitter. The topics were confirmed by the account administrators in the interviews. The topics formed part of the communication priorities of the European Commission in responding to the crisis on the one hand, and on the other they were in line with the Europe 2020 Strategy[2] (the EU’s growth strategy for the current decade). The topics reflect most of the employment, social affairs and inclusion policies, with a special focus on the generic theme of the 2012 European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations (EY2012). It is worth noting the complexity of the policy content and the professional skills of the communicators in making accessible such content to different target audiences. The topics, as ranked earlier, illustrate different communication approaches, from traditional content distribution (featuring official texts) to an online dialogue (Twitter chat) hosted by the Commissioner himself. Therefore, Commissioner Andor and his team together with the other operational accounts’ administrators tried to sustain a genuine two-way communication to ensure openness and willingness to listen to people’s voices and needs.

The European Commission’s role is to propose legislation and in this context the creation of the Youth Employment Package was also based on both official and public contributions. The online dialogue (Twitter chat) is just an example of the Commissioner’s willingness to value the input of people.

A common dimension of the trending topics consists of a set of tailored measures to help people overcome the effects of the crisis: increasing social dialogue, ensuring social security, finding a job, helping young people gain employment, relying on top level key policy makers to identify suitable solutions to the crisis etc. Both the Youth Employment Package and Youth Guarantee are being implemented and the effects will be soon visible, according to the Commission’s official reports.

More information to come in the next articles.

Previous articles on the same subject

Tweet me a URL and make your communication richer

Why mentions on Twitter help people communicate

The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012: Content languages and hashtagging

Why mentions on Twitter help people communicate: The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012


[1] Danowski, J.A., and Park, D.W. (2013), Celebrities in the mass and internet media and social network structures: A comparison with public intellectuals. Manuscript. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois at Chicago



Siena – Un anno dopo

I’m getting quite nostalgic these last couple of days. Nothing too dramatic, of course but I will always remember this time of year as my first real adventure (well, doesn’t that sound serious?). This time last year I was attending a summer school in Siena to improve my Italian skills and to get more and more familiar with the Italian culture and way of living. It was basically a dream come true. It was a way for me to compensate for not having an Erasmus experience. Three weeks don’t equal six months, for sure, but I couldn’t complain!

I’m still keeping in touch with two a-ma-zing girls I’ve met there and it’s always great to catch up and remember our time in Siena! I’m so proud and grateful to have met such great people! (Ulrike and Erin, I’m looking at you! :D)


I’m also very curious about this year’s Palio, which is in two days! I can barely stay calm, I’m so anxious to see who’s going to win! I’m crossing fingers for the Selva contrada! No offence to the other ones but this contrada will always be my favourite as it’s the one that welcomed me with open arms! I really wish I could go there and see the Palio with my own eyes but London’s charm is keeping hypnotised for one more month and a half. One month and a half. Time, you seriously have got to stop rushing.

It’s really exciting for me to be in London this summer and I could never compare Siena to London because these two experiences are very different. But it’s funny how spending your summer in a productive way can feel very fulfilling!

And to finish on yet another nostalgic note, here is a song that will always bring back memories: Song for Sienna by Brian Crain.

A special thank you for my Dad who made me discover this song! 🙂

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Ricordi di Siena*


(* Memories from Siena)

The idea of starting a blog popped into my mind when I was in Siena this summer, for a cultural experience. I had the opportunity to go to a summer school in order to improve my Italian. Needless to say it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life so far.

Ricordi di Siena(The Palazzo Pubblico and the Torre del Mangia) 

The school I went to (Scuola Dante Alighieri) offered not only language courses but also cultural and cooking classes, not to mention at least three cultural activities per day (museum visits, movies, restaurants or conferences). There was no way of getting bored. Anyone who did, well, that means they didn’t get the whole point of this experience. I actually feel lucky to have had the opportunity to learn so many things in only three weeks…

Before coming to Siena, I had read a few things about its history and some cultural facts. Of course, the images in your mind after reading those things are nothing compared to what you discover once you get there (oh hello, Cross-Cultural Communication course… this reminds me of you!)

For many people, Siena rhymes with “Palio”… undeniably, it is probably the most cherished event for the Sienese people, as it represents everything they’re living for. I didn’t have any kind of clichés about this famous Palio, because (to be honest) I’d never even watched it on TV. Though, I had heard many things about it and what I could remember were “horse race”, “crowded” and “noisy”. Anyway, since a few friends convinced me that I shouldn’t miss this for the world, I decided to book my trip in August, so I can be there in the middle of the Palio and not miss the real deal.

Siena is actually divided into 17 contrade (districts). Basically, a contrada represents everything for a Sienese: what makes their uniqueness, along with their values and beliefs.  So, this is why, during the Palio, everyone is cheering for their own contrada… to put it more simply, their teamAfter understanding what the Palio is really about and how much it means for the Sienese, all the clichés were gone in an instant. Now, of course, many people still criticise this horse race, shouting that it’s against animal rights and that it encourages violence between people. Sadly enough, these people (generally foreigners) have no idea about what this tradition stands for. Of course, their reactions are quite understandable if they only base their opinion on what they see on TV: the three-minute race, with everyone going crazy and shouting… therefore, seen as “useless”.


I wish I could post a decent video but unfortunately, I wasn’t actually in the Piazza del Campo where the race took place. Good old lazy (and careful) me preferred watching the race sitting in a pizzeria (eating the best pizza in the world, but that’s another story). Long story short: the Palio is a breathtaking must-see event. Definitely not just a horse race.  

Without further ado (this text is even longer than I’ve planned), here are some samples of my sight-seeings… more to come on Flickr 😉 

(My walk to school, every morning)

(Always a thrill taking pictures of the Duomo peek-a-booing)

(La Contrada della Selva – the Forest District – where I lived. The best one, it goes without saying)

(The winning Contrada of 2012: la Contrada del Valdimontone – Valley of the Ram – or the McDonald’s District, for all the red and yellow)

(The Accademia Musicale Chigiana, displaying the 17 district flags)

(The Duomo, where the winning Contrada’s first ceremony takes place, amongst other events)

So, Siena, thank you for surprising me and taking my breath away every single day. No one could dream of better summer holidays…

Finally, I must thank two special ladies for making my stay in Siena even more fun and adventurous (ok, crazier!). Erin and Ulrike, if you’re reading this, I’m saying it again: a major thank you!!! Erin, thank you for being the best roommate anyone could ever dream of and for the inspiring 1AM conversations! And Ullie, thank you for the weekend trips in “la macchina del sole” singing along Caro Emerald, Jovanotti and Robbie Williams! Who could have thought tanning was so easy when you’re driving in a convertible? 😉 And, of course, San Gimignano couldn’t have been as fun without you two! 🙂

Enough talking for me, today! More tomorrow… Enjoy!

(All pictures by me, unless hyperlinked)