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Throughout the past year, as the COVID-19 shuttered travel for many, the price of gasoline in many areas of the U.S. has been its lowest in years. In some areas, that price was less than $2 per gallon. But as America continues to reopen and adjust to life with coronavirus, gasoline prices are now headed the opposite direction.

According to CBS, the national average price of gasoline is now $2.87. The price doubled in two-thirds of the country. The hike has a few roots, including natural disasters such as in Texas, where many refineries are located, has also contributed, but the demand has increased, as air travel also has risen. On March 4, there were 1.4 million airline travelers, the most in any day since March of last year.

But what is the overall conversation like? Naturally, we enlisted the help of Social Studio, in the Adam Brown Social Media Command Center, to help.

For this search, we used the keywords of ‘gasoline’ and ‘price,’ along with ‘gas’ and ‘price.’ Because the price hike has come in the past month, over 30 days, the search generated just under 70,000 online posts.

Below is the word cloud generated from the search, which shows the keywords associated with the search. There are a few words, such as ‘cylinder’ and ‘delhi’ that are associated from posts that originated from India:

The majority of posts, unsurprisingly, were labeled as from the United States. But specifically, the next highest number of posts were from Texas. Interestingly, though, among age groups, the 25-34 age demographic posted more than any other group and the majority of the posts from that group came from California. Three of the top five locations were Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego. Of course, California has the highest average gas price in the country, at nearly $3.87 per gallon.

Also of note, it appears much of the conversation is driven by Yahoo and subsidiary websites, including Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Canada, and Yahoo News, nearly one-fourth of the total posts.

But perhaps also as interesting, because much of the conversation has originated from Texas, ERCOT, or the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, has been included in many posts. And not surprising, the conversation has been quite negative, given the council’s failures with the loss of power during the recent bitter cold temperatures there. And ERCOT it seems, is drawing at least some of the blame for the gas prices, though Texas itself still is among the lowest gas prices on average in the country, at $2.63, according to AAA.

It doesn’t seem that gas prices will be dropping anytime soon. And we’ll be utilizing Social Studio from our fourth floor perch at the College of Communication and Information to track this and other trends.



East Tennessee’s heart and soul, Dolly Parton, has now received her vaccine for SARS-COV-2, the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19.The country music superstar announced Tuesday via social media that she received the Moderna vaccine from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Parton has already had a hand in the efforts to research, develop, and distribute a coronavirus vaccine. In November, she made headlines when she donated $1 million to the research team at Vanderbilt, which partnered with pharmaceutical giant Moderna.

Dolly Video

Following the announcement of her shot, Parton also posted a video in which she encouraged others to get the vaccine. The 75-year-old also sang a version of her song “Jolene,” in which she changed the word to ‘vaccine.’

Naturally, as popular as Parton is, the response to her vaccination has been strong. Her post itself has received nearly 335,000 likes as of 3:30 pm ET Wednesday afternoon.

Still, we wanted to see just what the response to Parton has been. Luckily for us, we have the power of Salesforce’s Social Studio to help look at the social media conversation.

Using the keywords “dolly” and “vaccine” as well as “dolly” and “shot,” a Social Studio search found just north of 40,000 posts made over the previous seven days. Interestingly, 60% of the posts were made by women. Sentiment analysis is not as effective, since ‘shot’ is considered a negative word, though it obviously is not in this context. Instead, the following word cloud shows some specifics with what is being said:

Digging a little deeper, the age 35-44 demographic is most posting about Parton. And within that age, women are again most posting, but in the 25-34 age group, it’s the men that have taken more to the topic and posted about it.

A look at hashtags can also show sentiment and what is being mentioned with the topic. And in this case, #covid19 and #vaccine are unsurprisingly at the top. But #anchordown, a term associated with Vanderbilt, helps show that this news is drawing some publicity for Vanderbilt. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow is also being mentioned with #maddow, in response to her mention on social media, as well as her show.

It seems overall, the world has rejoiced that Parton has been vaccinated. We’ll continue to monitor this and other topics from our perch on the fourth floor of the College of Communication and Information, in the Adam Brown Social Media Command Center.

By: Jess Barfield


In Knoxville in February the average high temperature is 54.1°F. However, the hottest day on record was February 27, 1977 when the temperature hit 82.9°F. Anyone who has been outside lately knows we’re not anywhere near the high temperature, or even experiencing the average temperature. It could be worse though, it could be Texas where they’re in the midst of a deadly winter storm that has spread across southern and central parts of the United States bringing one in a generation frigid conditions.


As a result of the winter storms, more than 3.5 million people are without electricity in Texas (more than half the population of Tennessee!).  Mother nature can definitely wreck havoc, with unintended consequences, for example, the storm disrupted the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine across Texas. Some say the frigid temperatures in Texas could be a consequence of global warming as there is research suggesting that Arctic warming is weakening the jet stream, the high-level air current that circles the northern latitudes and usually holds back the frigid polar vortex.  And it’s not just people affected by the frigid temperatures, but so too are animals native to a warmer climate. For example, 3,500 sea turtles had to be rescued from the frigid temperatures in Texas!


But in all this bad news about the weather, Texans are suffering some other consequences such as concerns about water pressure and cleanliness due to the power outages within water purification plants. These concerns have forced the city of Houston to implement a city-wide boil water notice, which mandates that people boil their tap water before consumption if they have power, or to only consume bottled water.


Using the tools of the Adam Brown Social Media Command center, we see a massive increase in social media posts surrounding Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas, Texas’ three largest cities, over the past weeks raging from a 36% to 111% increase in posts compared to the previous week.


When reviewing posts with the keyword “Texas”, the most common words are seen in the word cloud below.

Here, we can see the most recurring words include “Ted” and “Cruz”. Referring to one of Texas’ senators, Ted Cruz (who flew off to a warmer Mexico). As well as “power” and “water”, both of which have been in shortage and have caused issues for many Texans.

We are sending our thoughts and best wishes to those affected by these storms in Texas, especially those UTK students, staff, and faculty who have loved ones in Texas.

Leave it to social media to provide entertainment, update us on breaking news, but also, show what not to do.

One of the latest stories from TikTok came last week, when Lousiana resident Tessica Brown posted on TikTok that she ran out of hair spray and resorted to using the solvent Gorilla Glue in her hair. After what she said was a month, Brown had to have the glue surgically removed from her scalp.

The ordeal went viral on social media and also prompted a response from the company itself:

There has been plenty of response on social media, but we wanted to know, has it been more positive? Or ridicule-ridden? Thankfully, we have the power of Salesforce’s Social Studio to analyze the chatter.

We used a simple keyword search of “Tessica” as well as “gorilla” and “glue” to get a sense for what the conversation has been like. Because the post was first made last week, we used a 14-day analysis, which found just north of 1.5 million social media posts using those keywords.

The overall sentiment is 52% positive, though it’s important to note the sentiment score does not consider slang and sarcasm.

A word cloud might be a better indicator. And though there are negative words like ‘dumb’ and ‘stupid,’ there are plenty of other words used, such as ‘appreciate,’ ‘love,’ and ‘hope’ that illustrate more positive sentiment.

The ordeal has also brought the hashtag #GorillaGlueGirl, also what many have referred to Brown as. And there have also been replicators, as well as cynics who learned the hard way, the power of the industrial-adhesive glue. Saturday Night Live also spoofed the incident last week.

We’ll continue to monitor this and other trends and viral stories from our perch on the fourth floor of the College of Communication and Information in the Adam Brown Social Media Command Center.

By Jess Barfield.

In this Internet age, what people have done in the past has a tendency to catch up to them.

“The Bachelor” is a popular program on ABC and consists of a Bachelor and his ~25 female suitors competing for his heart, all on national television. This popular show has had more than 8 million viewers, which includes UTK students (and maybe a few faculty).

This season marks a historic milestone for the franchise with its first Black male lead- Matt James, who follows just the second Black bachelorette, Tayshia Adams. A recent controversy erupted when it was discovered that a contestant, Rachael Kirkconnell, attended an “antebellum/ plantation-themed” fraternity formal in 2018. Clearly, this is a racially insensitive action and is just one of many controversial social media discoveries that have come to light.

Prior to this season of “The Bachelor”, there were many calls for change in the franchise citing the lack of diversity in the franchise’s leads (The Bachelor and The Bachelorette themselves) as well as within the contestants. The call for change and diversity also wants ABC and The Bachelor franchise to ensure at least a 35% BIPOC contestants, a task that ABC has yet to follow through on.

Using Social Studio, an invaluable tool within the Adam Brown Social Media Command Center, we see that there are quite a few conversations surrounding “The Bachelor” with nearly 170K posts in the past 30 days, with the start of the show and the finale not included. Looking at the media types and post volume, we see spikes on Mondays, the night The Bachelor airs, on Twitter, and on Tuesdays, we see increases in YouTube posts when bloggers post their reaction videos.

Regarding the topic of conversation, we see that the contestant in question, Rachael Kirkconnell has been a big part of the conversation surrounding this season of The Bachelor as well as many keywords that suggest viewers are unhappy with how the show is handling race and diversity his season.

With many episodes left in this season and ample time for ABC to make changes to upcoming seasons, I, for one, am anxious to see if these changes are implemented and what the future for Rachael Kirkconnell holds.

Wearing a mask or face covering has become the norm since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last March. Doing so has been proven to lessen the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease, COVID-19.

Now, it appears we may have to add another layer to our mask-wearing habits. With three new variants of the virus now making their way around the globe, and questions of the effectiveness of vaccines against those new variants, experts have suggested wearing two masks. Early Wednesday afternoon, the Center for Disease Control backed up that notion.

The CDC announced the results of a study that found wearing two masks is more formidable protection against infection from the virus. Specifically, the study found that doing so blocks 92.5% of particles from a cough, while a surgical mask blocked the same particles by 42% and a cloth mask by 44.3%.

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about.

But what’s the conversation like on social media? We enlisted Salesforce’s Social Studio, housed at the Adam Brown Social Media Command Center, for help. For this search, we used the keywords: “double” and “mask” and “cdc,” as well as “double” and “mask” and “covid,” to go along with “two” and “mask” and “cdc,” and “two” and “mask” and “covid.” As of 10 pm ET Wednesday, the search generated 50,317 posts over the previous seven days, 30,945 of which came that day alone, since the announcement.

Sentiment of this search is 52.9% positive, when evaluating only the posts made on Wednesday. Overall, it’s 52.5% negative. The word cloud then generated from the posts today reveals words such as “protect,” “better,” and “substantially,” which came partly from media reports, but also posts in response to those reports.

Along with the word cloud, however, are a couple of posts with sarcasm that appear to have negative sentiment. Social Studio does not account for sarcasm, which would make the score more positive than it maybe should be.

In other words, it’s difficult to read too much into these words from this search. But looking at other areas of intrigue, Social Studio found that the conversation is emanating predominantly from the 25-34 age demographic.

And not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of the posts came from Twitter. But it appears that there’s a significant conversation going on The Wall Street Journal (orange) and The Washington Post (green). On the first, the conversation is going on among the 25-34 demographic, while on the latter, it’s the 35-44 demographic.

While N95 masks, those worn by healthcare professionals, is mentioned in the article cited above. But masks with PM2.5 filters are not. It’s unclear if these masks would serve as well as double masking or not.

Basically, there are a lot of factors to consider in this search. And it seems, as has been common, there are plenty of split opinions. And most can agree wearing any face covering is better than none at all.

We’ll continue to monitor this situation and others from our perch on the fourth floor of the College of Communication & Information at UT.

Jess Barfield

What happens when a celebrity shares personal information with not only her fans but, well, the world?!

We now have the opportunity to find out! Just recently JoJo Siwa decided to come out to her 54 million fans using the platforms TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram- How 2021! In her TikTok media use of her coming out, she lip-synced to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, which led to over SIX MILLION “likes” and over 330k comments. Following JoJo’s latest TikTok activity, she’s posted three times and gained more than 80 MILLION views (as of the time of this blog post). This number is overwhelming considering her previous three posts have a combined view total of only 43 million views (still incredibly impressive!).

(Photo Source: JoJo’s Instagram post Feb 1, 2021)

It turns out that no pop star of her caliber, at her young age, and whose audience is made up of mostly young students, has come out so publicly. To the LGBTQ+ community, they are hoping JoJo’s announcement will foster a sense of support for the community. It also is the case that young people who identify as LGBTQ+ now have a role model to look up to.

But back to JoJo, she’s not only a pop star with influence, but a published author too. Her name is used to sell unicorn clothing, pink pint-sized furniture, face masks and bows. She’s made millions from her merchandise, tours and popular social channels so her decision to come out at this time is interesting. Because JoJo’s persona has been monetized (and because most of her audience is young children), in the past she has tried to keep fans at a distance.

Using the tools from UTK’s Adam Brown Social Media Command Center and Salesforce’s Social Studio, we see that there was quite a bit of chatter surrounding JoJo’s coming out announcement as well as her latest news that it was her girlfriend who “inspired” JoJo to come out in the first place. We can also see a sharp increase in chatter following JoJo’s appearance on The Tonight Show with host Jimmy Fallon. Overall, there is great support for JoJo with a 65% positive sentiment trend among chatter since her January 20th TikTok with the majority of tweets and other social engagement from younger audiences in the 21-34 age range.

We applaud this bright young star and wish her nothing but the best as she continues her journey and new musical!







Country music artist Morgan Wallen has seen a relatively quick rise to fame. The East Tennessee native (from Sneedville) won the new artist of the year award in November from the Country Music Association and has had four number one songs on the Billboard country airplay chart.

On Tuesday, video surfaced in which one of Wallen’s neighbors caught him yelling the ‘n-word’ after a night out with friends. According to Variety and other sources, Cumulus, Sirius XM and other media immediately ordered their stations to remove Wallen’s music from their playlists as a result.

Wallen, who’s been indefinitely suspended from his record label, apologized in a statement on Thursday. Still, he’s received plenty of backlash throughout the music industry and from plenty of others.

But what has the conversation on social media been like? Thankfully, we have the help of Social Studio to help answer that. For this, a simple search of the keywords “Morgan” and “Wallen” should be enough to gauge the conversation.

As of 4:30 pm ET on Feb. 4, there were 94,646 posts using both “Morgan” and “Wallen.” And not surprisingly, the conversation was a whopping 71.1% negative. Below is another indicator, from a word cloud generated by Social Studio.

There aren’t many negative words from the word cloud, though words like ‘dangerous,’ are important to mention because it’s the name of his latest album. With this in mind, these results could be a bit skewed.

Still, other aspects from the search to note are the demographic largely responsible for the online conversation (25-34), as well as the majority of posters on the topic being female. Nearly 60% of the posts tracked were from women.

According to TMZ, which leaked the initial footage, the NAACP extended an invitation to Wallen on Thursday, to educate him on the use of the racial slur used.

We’ll continue to monitor this and other events from our perch on the fourth floor of the College of Communication & Information and the Adam Brown Social Media Command Center.

While the stock market is typically talked about every weekday for daily updates, it’s especially caught plenty of attention this week.

Stock prices for gaming store GameStop soared this week, after a series of events. The stock went from less than $5 in value to more than $350 this week, an increase of more than 1,800 percent. And on Thursday, the trading app Robinhood restricted sales of the stock, citing ‘volatility’ and causing plenty of backlash online.

It all started when some investors short-sold or bet against GameStop stock. This means they borrowed the company’s shares to sell them and buy them back later at a cheaper price to reap the margin. Users on Reddit became keen to the practice and bought GameStop stock in huge quantities, which drove up the stock price and forced the investors who had attempted to short-sell the stock, to buy back it back at a much higher price, costing those investors billions of dollars.

Arguably under pressure from investors, Robinhood ceased sales of GameStop stock on Thursday. While politicians have condemned the move, it also resulted in a class-action lawsuit by Robinhood customers.

To get a sense of where the online chatter is, we’ve conducted a pair of searches using Social Studio in the Adam Brown Social Media Command Center. The first search simply uses the keywords “GameStop” and “stock.” While this is by no means an exhaustive search, it is an attempt to limit findings to posts only concerning the company and the stock prices this week.

This search found more than 751,000 posts across social media, including Twitter, YouTube, message board forums and comment sections on various media as of 2:30 pm ET Jan. 29. The search found sentiment to be 51.2 percent negative, not surprising considering the generated word cloud found words like ‘manipulation’ and ‘shorting’ to be of prominent use. This word cloud does not account for slang and sarcasm, which is important to note.

Another thing to note? Check out the age talking about these keywords. As a likely result of much of the conversation being driven by Reddit, the 25-34 age demographic is fueling the conversation, far more than any other age group, as shown below. Nearly half of the conversation is derived from this group, mostly in the Millennial generation.

As far as the other search, it was conducted with the keywords “Robinhood” and “GameStop.” Again, these were chosen in an attempt to weed out noise not related to the topic at hand. Sometimes, a simple search is all you need. This search found 371,000 posts with a much higher negativity sentiment of 60 percent. Of course, this reflects the blowback of Robinhood’s decision yesterday to temporarily suspend trading of GameStop stock. It’s reflected in the below word cloud.

Again, it’s the 25-34 age demographic that is talking most about these keywords at a similar clip to the first search. An initial reaction is that Robinhood will have to do a lot to win back this group that appears to be quite disgruntled.

On Friday, the Security and Exchanges Commission did get involved, as it released a statement Friday morning and vowed to “ensure that regulated entities uphold their obligations to protect investors and to identify and pursue potential wrongdoing,” according to Market Watch. The SEC said it is closely monitoring and investigating the situation.

We’ll continue to monitor any new updates from our perch on the fourth floor of the College of Communications and Information at The University of Tennessee. Check back for more dives into topics of social media chatter.




By Jess Barfield

In today’s world, we are often reminded that words are “powerful” and may have lasting effects.  In January, People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) tweeted that insults like “pig”, “snake”, or “chicken” hurt animals, and for this pronouncement, social media had a lot to say in response.

One commenter posited “I can’t tell if this is real or you guys are making fun of yourselves.” But according to PETA (just as with humans) “Words can create a more inclusive world, or perpetuate oppression.” To PETA, calling someone an animal as an insult reinforces the idea (to them a myth) that humans are superior to other animals and therefore justified in violating them. But of course, what constitutes “superior” is not so straight-forward as many members of the UTK community who are pet owners know.

The use of words as substitutes for other meanings, such as “chicken” for a coward, “rat” for a snitch,” “snake” for a jerk, “pig” for someone who is repulsive and “sloth” for a lazy person, are all examples of language that reinforces human false perceptions of animals. But in response to PETAs call for sensitivity in word usage towards animals, one Twitter commenter wrote, “Animals aren’t oppressed by those words because they don’t understand our language. And have no concept of words and their meaning.” And when one person wrote “come back to me about being less superior than animals when an anteater builds a house” PETA answered, “Building houses is a skill humans excel at, yet there are plenty of skills and talents other animals have that humans can only dream of – birds can soar through the sky at ease, ants can organize their labor towards a collective goal, and salmon can swim upstream to find their home!”

So, what does social media have to say about this issue? The Adams Brown Social Media Command Center’s software and tools can be used to identify recent sentiment on the topic. A look into Salesforce’s Social Studio shows a 147% increase in chatter surrounding PETA over the past week- which is likely attributed to their controversial tweet on January 26th. Of all the chatter over the past seven days, it appears that nearly 65% of the tweets containing the word “PETA” have a negative sentiment, indicating that people are unhappy with PETA’s announcement.

What do you think of PETA’s call to action? From Peta’s website, here are some substitute words to use which do not have negative connotations for animals.