A Content Analysis of Twitter Use: Factors That Might Increase Music Sales During an Award Show

By Kyrstin Wallach
Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications
2014, Vol. 5 No. 1 | pg. 2/2 |

Analysis and Conclusions

There were many common tweets with the same wording and content. The same pattern was shown among retweets, favorites and hashtags. These seem to support Social Influence Network theory since people picked up on common content trends and contributed to these trends by tweeting similarly worded tweets as well as retweeting popular tweets about the artists.

According to Uses and Gratifications Theory, audience members engaged in the award show as concurrent viewers and commentators. Even though they posted tweets or retweets, the amounts of tweet activities they were involved in were not translated into increases in music sales for the artists who performed at the show, as shown in Figure 1.

With the category of celebrity reactions, which was a notable trend in tweets about Drake, it was inferred that the director influences the circulating social media content during the award show. Through the director’s selection of shots in the filming of the show, the director brings aspects of the show to the forefront of the viewers’ attention. This includes celebrity reactions, such as Rihanna’s reaction to Drake’s performance.

The social media content written about the artist has some relationship with the music sales. Interestingly, the two artists who had the highest percentage increase in sales, Timberlake and West, had the category of quality ranking in their top categories—due to the positive aspects of quality for Timberlake and the negative aspects for West. The category of quality did not even rank in the top categories for both Robin Thicke’s performance and Drake’s performance, and their sales increase in music paled in comparison with that of Justin Timberlake and Kanye West. This suggests that people also consider other factors beyond the quality of the performance when purchasing artists’ music.

Timberlake saw 1,876 percent of increase during the award day in comparison to the previous day. In the case of Kanye West, the sales increase reached 1,187% despite his low perception score of -0.42. From these findings, it was determined that negative content through social media may not necessarily hinder an artist’s sales of music, as can be seen by West’s results. This establishes the notion that negative social media content may be better than no social media content from media-active consumers. Conversely, in cases like Justin Timberlake’s positive content via social media may substantially help an artist’s sales in music.

Kanye West’s results contradict the expectation of a positive relationship between the perception scores and percentage increases in sales. Although West had the second largest increase in sales, the content analysis showed a strong negative sentiment among the tweets written about him. West scored the second lowest score in his perception score. Therefore, from the content analysis, it may not be concluded that the content within the tweets directly contributes to the increase in sales since West’s results reflect otherwise.

This study found that Friedkin’s Social Influence Network Theory can be applied to marketing the artist, not Uses and Gratification Theory. The music sales of the artist are somewhat related to Twitter followers’ perception of the artists. The limitations of this study include a small sample of tweets selected for analysis. The four artists selected for this analysis had hundreds of thousands of tweets per minute during their performance, but this sample contains only 850 tweets. Additionally, there are other factors that might have influenced the increases in sales, such as the radio or the music awards show itself. How much their performance was played following the show might have an impact on the sales. The show itself might also have a big impact on the sales, regardless of whether people tweeted about it or not. Also further studies should be done to check whether music sales increases were really influenced by the Twitter posters who had a favorable perception of the artist versus other types of viewers who had a negative perception or who did not post tweets at all.


This author is thankful to Dr. Scott at Elon University for his supervision and advice, without which the article could not be published. The author also appreciates both Dr. Byung Lee and the anonymous reviewers whose suggestions improved this article.


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  1. Taylor Swift got the 4th highest TPM, but it was based on her acceptance speech for an award, not a song she sang. Since the author wanted to focus on the artists who performed and the sales of music based on the performance, she was not included.
  2. Many tweets had an element of both expectations and reactions.

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