CLEMSON — As the 2016 presidential election heats up, Clemson University’s Social Media Listening Center (SMLC) and WYFF 4, the top-rated television station in South Carolina’s largest media market, are teaming up to analyze social media conversations playing out online in the months leading up to Election Day.

Joseph Mazer, associate professor of communication, is leading 13 communication students as they bring insight and expertise to the analysis of social media conversations surrounding the presidential race. Building from the success of a similar partnership between Clemson University and WYFF News 4 in 2014, the partnership is designed to bring fresh insight to what voters say about the presidential candidates, their platforms and the overall election. Mazer, the director of the SMLC and associate chair of the department of communication, is leading the team of students in his social media senior capstone seminar.

Utilizing Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s Radian6 software, students will analyze more than 650 million sources of social media conversations from across the web. They will gather publicly available data from Twitter, Facebook, blogs and mainstream news sources.

“Students will use Clemson University’s Social Media Listening Center to dig deeper and gather relevant data for what will likely be one of the most memorable presidential elections to date,” Mazer said. “Voters will receive real-time information that can help them make decisions as they cast their ballots on Election Day. Like our 2014 partnership with WYFF News 4, Clemson students are at the center of it all.”

Mazer’s class met with WYFF News 4 executives at the station’s Greenville headquarters in late August to finalize the partnership and develop story ideas and strategies.

“WYFF News 4 believes this partnership will ultimately help voters to be better informed and more prepared as they make key decisions about the future of the country,” said Bruce Barkley, WYFF 4 news director. “We call our election coverage ‘Commitment 2016’ and our partnership with Clemson University’s Social Media Listening Center truly reflects that commitment.”

Students will share their findings with featured weekly reports airing Wednesdays on the NBC affiliate’s nightly newscasts. The first report aired last week on WYFF News 4. The partnership will culminate on election day Nov. 8 with WYFF News 4 reporting live from Clemson’s SMLC in Daniel Hall. The center houses a 152-inch video wall that vividly displays real time social media content in an accessible manner and conveys sentiment, share of voice and trend information related to presidential election chatter from across the country and state.

Patrick Hussion, WYFF News 4 anchor and reporter, is leading the station’s “Commitment 2016” social media coverage.

“I am very excited for our partnership with Clemson’s SMLC this election season,” Hussion said. “The analytics we will receive from the center will help to support the news that we deliver and give our broadcast more meaning to our viewers.”

Students are regularly meeting with Hussion to discuss social media data and curate story ideas.

“This is going to be an exciting semester,” said Rachel van der Meyden, a senior communication major. “Social media is changing the way our generation stays informed with the news and coverage of the election. The increased use of social media from 2012 to 2016 sparks new dialogue about the way people think and talk about the election.”

The Social Media Listening Center is housed in the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences and is open to all areas of the university.

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