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Keyword Analysis: Is Bad Traffic Represented on Twitter?

0x600 21. Los Angeles, CA
2. Honolulu, HI
3. San Francisco, CA
4. Austin, TX
5. New York City, NY
6. Bridgeport, CT
7. San Jose, CA
8. Seattle, WA
9. Boston, MA
10. Washington, D.C.

This is a list of the most traffic-jammed cities in the US, according to traffic information and driver services provider INRIX. After reading the article about these cities, naturally, we started wondering if social conversations followed similar trends.

As social media measurement becomes more integrated across marketing channels, social media managers are often asked to tie social data back to overarching business goals, themes, and trends in the market. This can sometimes take an extra level of analysis.

We used this as a case study to form a hypothesis, test our hypothesis, and compare the results.

Our hypothesis:

Cities with the worst traffic will have the most traffic related Tweets.

Our Analysis:

First we tried using Simply Measured’s Twitter Keyword Activity Report by monitoring the word “traffic.” We ran into one major problem: the word “traffic” can be used in conjunction with a lot of other words, like the word “web,” as in “web traffic,” which happens to be a fave term for bots on Twitter. That gave us a lot of extraneous data we couldn’t use for reliable analysis. So we ran another Twitter Keyword Activity Report, this time for the phrases “in traffic” and “traffic is.” Did it work? Did it work? DID IT WORK?

Stop yelling! It worked! We downloaded to Excel, switched over to the Data tab, and gut-checked the Update column. All mentions we could find were related to hating traffic, traffic jams, being bored in traffic… traffic gold. So what did this look like in comparison to the “Worst Traffic” list?


This was a great lesson in data: carefully-considered search terms yield better search results. Diving deeper into the details, here’s what we found:

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 12.25.02 PM

Surprises: Honolulu, HI, #2 on the traffic jam list, doesn’t even make this one. Maybe commuters in Honolulu, HI don’t like to text and drive, preferring instead to be captivated by the natural beauty all around them while they sit bumper to bumper. Bridgeport, CT was a big “huh?” on the Forbes‘ traffic jam list, and, like Honolulu, doesn’t make a showing on the Twitter chart. Maybe Bridgeport, CT Twitter “traffic” got lumped in with New York, NY data in the geocacheing process. Who knows?

A few things we do know: Los Angeles, CA holds court at #1 for both “traffic” counts.  San Francisco is #3 in the nation for traffic jams, but comes in at only #13 with “in traffic” and “is traffic” mentions—so they’re stuck in worse traffic than Chicago (who doesn’t even appear in the top 10 for traffic jams), but tweeting less about it. New York and Austin are the only cities in the top 5 for both. Seattle, Washington D.C., and Boston hold similar positions on both lists.


Not quite an exact match-up, but accurate enough to make some assumptions and capitalize on them as a marketer.

Takeaway for brands: Like any analysis, there should be a strategy to move forward, right? This case, while it may seem arbitrary and fun, is no exception. The reality is that our data proved people Tweet while stuck in traffic, both during morning and evening commutes. They’re often bored, frustrated and looking to be distracted from the current, highly unpleasant situation. While we’re not advocating you encourage Tweeting-while-driving (I can’t stress this enough, DON’T ENCOURAGE YOUR FOLLOWERS TO TWEET AND DRIVE), this does provide some unique opportunities. You have an opportunity to reach a segment with a known pain point, and offer a fun alternative or solution.

Maybe a give away to make up for their rough commute. Maybe a podcast for them to enjoy during the next round of traffic hell. The opportunity is there.

This isn’t a one-off either; This type of analysis and opportunity discovery can be applied to so many situations if you’re willing to get creative.

What types of unique analysis have you done around audience and trend discovery? Tell us on Twitter @simplymeasured!

Lucy Hitz

I’m the Head of Marketing Communications here at Simply Measured, where I'm responsible for our content program, social media marketing, PR, and comarketing ventures. I love yoga, The X-Files, peaty scotch, hiking, and poetry. If I were a social media channel, I’d want to be Instagram, but I think I’m Twitter.

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