In addition to providing comprehensive election news and real-time results, Bing Elections also provides unique social media insights and analysis. And as we count down to Election Day, social media buzz on the candidates, parties, issues, results and more are only intensifying. As a way to help people make sense of the noise, we created and report discussion levels for every major elections topic popping across Twitter on Bing Elections.

This discussion level scale is sourced by something that we call the Bing Social Media Interest Richter Scale, which categorizes the level of buzz on the presidential candidates across key issues popping in Twitter. The three levels are chatter (every day levels), discussion (an event), and hot (a major event). Generically, the discussion levels provide you with an easy to understand scale for how much social media is discussing a given person, sets of people, topics, etc. To provide transparency to these values, below is a snapshot of the Bing Social Media Interest Richter Scale, the proprietary tool, which we use to gauge discussion levels. The internal scale puts current values into historical context and provides people with an easy way to compare events. The scale is a powerful resource for anyone interested in benchmarks comparing the current and past social media interest levels on a given person or topic.

“Big Data” is a popular buzzword these days and there are certainly many places to find streams of data about all sorts of things; the trick is finding data streams that answer interesting and meaningful questions for their readers. Raw data totals are not helpful for most readers, because they lack context. What does X number of tweets or “likes” mean anyway? Opaque indexes hardly do any better. If you do not know what is going into the index, it is impossible to understand what the index means.

The discussion levels, outlined above in the Bing Social Media Interest Richter Scale, provide helpful context and are very transparent. The scale today focuses on Twitter data. We call this a “Richter Scale” because we use the same mathematical principles as the famous earthquake scale to convert raw data into an easy scale. Each higher number means 10 times the interest!

The scale can display multiple entities at a time to provide head to head comparisons, or entities can be combined to show the discussion levels around groups of people or topics. Above is the scale for both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney during the hectic few weeks around the Democratic Convention through the first presidential debate.

The historical data puts the magnitude into perspective. Major set-pieces of the campaign, Obama’s speech at the end of the DNC and the first debate, scored 5.6 and 5.5 respectively; only these huge events enter the realm of hot! Unknown major events, such as the assassination of the US ambassador to Libya and release of the hidden video of Romney at a fundraiser, scored lower on the scale with 4.2 and 4.0 respectively; these memorable events are in the realm of discussion. Of course, those events also unfolded over a long period of time, with less concentrated spikes. So far, the last few days of the campaign have lingered in this elevated discussion level.

Knowing how much social media buzz is happening is important and meaningful, because it may be a bellwether for the impact of major events over time. This is true both in terms of magnitude at the time and whether or not a major event will be discussed in the days and weeks to come.

Future iterations of this scale will provide more details on who is talking: gender and geography. As we work to evolve and deepen our analysis, it can continue to grow in providing a critical pulse on the conversations that are happening across many segments of voters – helping to provide an early indication on the true impact of social conversations.

To see our discussion scale and more social media analysis around the elections, please visit This is joint work with Emre Kiciman of Micrsoft Research.

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