The Use and Frequency of Emoji in MLB Twitter Engagement

As I have done a few times before, I’m going to present Twitter analytics for Major League Baseball team twitter accounts concerning fan engagement. In the initial off-season analysis, the Mariners had the most fan engagement over the off-season. In May, the Cubs blew all the other teams away by responding to fans, and the Yankees scored at the bottom both times.

This post will expand upon the original engagement metrics (retweets, replies, media and favorites) and add emoji metrics. I’ve addressed emojis before, albeit briefly in regard to which emojis different fanbases used, but this analysis will look specifically at team’s social media accounts.

The interaction metrics, replies, retweets and favorites, measure how often the team interacts with fans. A reply requires the most time and retweets are a form of endorsement. These both create more engagement than a favorite. The inclusion of media and emoji does not denote a personal interaction, but they communicate in a different way than text does. Images and video can show behind-the-scenes actions, lineup cards, or highlights. Emoji, while sometimes criticized for being silly, are continually changing digital media, facilitating the communication of emotion. The fire emoji in particular is use to denote “hot” players, strikeouts or outstanding plays.

The tweets used in this analysis were collected from June 15, 2015 to the All-Star break (July 16, 2015). I detailed the original collections methods the first post. I added to these methods by counting the number of tweets that contain emojis and denoted if there was a fire emoji used. I omitted any retweets from both the emojis metrics in order to capture the emoji use of each specific team. The general emoji metric is a count of tweets with any emojis in it, and the fire emoji metric is the count of tweets with a fire emoji present.

These metrics aren’t equal, and it’s hard to combine them to one rating, so the graphic below allows you to interactively compare the different metrics between different teams. Clicking blue buttons will show predefined group of metrics, while clicking on the legend can show and hide individual metrics.

Interaction
Media
Emoji

Interaction

The Rockies had the most interaction with their fans over the time frame coming from 2,810 favorites, which is four times as many as they had in May. The Mets also had a large increase in their favorites. Both of these teams had players in the All-Star Final Vote, and there was a large spike in both favorites and retweets throughout all of MLB during the vote on July 10.

Looking at replies, the Cubs figure of 2,258 nearly doubles the next closest team, Seattle, with 1,294 replies. I personally believe replies are the most personal way to engage a fanbase, and the Cubs far outpace any other team. The difference between teams in retweets is not as dramatic, but Houston and Toronto top that category with 221 and 214 retweets, respectively. While the Rockies favorited the most tweets and reply fairly often, they only retweeted 11 non-verified tweets.

Emoji

Emoji is the new addition to this round of Twitter analysis. The Rockies had 401 tweets that contained an emoji. While the Rockies tended to use emojis more often than other, they had an entire game where their social-media account tweeted in nothing but emoji, which put them over the top.

In stark contrast, the Royals, who rank last in emoji usage, only managed to tweet an emoji four times.

Fire Emoji

The Cubs used the fire emoji more than any other team, tweeting it 88 times. The Cubs have used it to indicate if a player is hot, as a stand-in for an out or just because they haven’t used a fire emoji in a while.


Both the Braves and the Padres rank high as well and use the emojis when their closers get the final outs of the game.

While some teams have found plenty of use for this emoji, there are seven teams who never tweeted the fire emoji once over the same span: Astros, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Phillies, Rangers, Red Sox and Royals.

Typically in a tweet, the fire emoji used either once in a tweet or in threes. To confirm this, I took all the tweets which had a fire emoji and counted how many had one fire emoji, two fire emojis, etc. In line with observation, there where not as many instances of a two-fire-emoji tweets compared to one-fire emoji and three-fire emoji. My explanation for this is the linguistic rule of three or baseball’s own rule of three, specifically with respect to three strikes to a strikeout.

Media

This is the most uniform metric, because almost every team uses media for lineups, post-game scores and advertising. The Rockies, Mets and Pirates top the media metric by each sending over 1,000 media tweets in the time frame.

Yankees

I’m only mentioning the Yankees because they registered so low the last two times I ran these metrics. The Yankees had a total of 3 retweets in May with no favorites and no replies over that month. This time, they have improved replying 28 times, retweeting 12 non-verified tweets, and favoriting 247 tweets. This isn’t much of an improvement, but considering the low the interaction rate in the off-season and in May, it’s worth noting.

Notes

The emojis I count are the standard Unicode Consortium emojis. I did not tally All-Star Game hashflags, which were used for final voting. These aren’t technically emojis for a variety of reasons including they are only available on Twitter, aren’t uniquely identifiable and become discontinued after the event is over.

We hoped you liked reading The Use and Frequency of Emoji in MLB Twitter Engagement by Sean Dolinar!

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I code a bunch of things here. I really need to update my blog about statistics at stats.seandolinar.com.

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Bobby Ayala
Member

The marketing departments of many of these teams would probably pay good money for this analysis, nicely done! Kudos to the Cubs for so many responses!