Using Social Media to Predict Economic Activity in Cities

Economic indicators in most developing countries are often outdated. A new study suggests that social media may provide useful economic signals when traditional economic data is unavailable. In “Taking Brazil’s Pulse: Tracking Growing Urban Economies from Online Attention” (PDF), the authors accurately predict the GDPs of 45 Brazilian cities by analyzing data from a popular micro-blogging platform (Yahoo Meme). To make these predictions, the authors used the concept of glocality, which notes that “economically successful cities tend to be involved in interactions that are both local and global at the same time.” The results of the study reveals that “a city’s glocality, measured with social media data, effectively signals the city’s economic well-being.”

The authors are currently expanding their work by predicting social capital for these 45 cities based on social media data. As iRevolution readers will know, I’ve blogged extensively on using social media to measure social capital footprints at the city and sub-city level. So I’ve contacted the authors of the study and look forward to learning more about their research. As they rightly note:

“There is growing interesting in using digital data for development opportunities, since the number of people using social media is growing rapidly in developing countries as well. Local impacts of recent global shocks – food, fuel and financial – have proven not to be immediately visible and trackable, often unfolding ‘beneath the radar of traditional monitoring systems’. To tackle that problem, policymakers are looking for new ways of monitoring local impacts […].”


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4 responses to “Using Social Media to Predict Economic Activity in Cities

  1. ” In this study, we use a random sample of interactions on Yahoo Meme from
    its birth in 2009 until the day it was discontinued in 2012 (Table 1). ”

    It appears that the data for the study was during a time of relative growth and stability. No boundaries were crossed where Brazil went into a recession. It would be nice to see how it works before and after a crisis period.

  2. Reblogged this on Cem S. Sütcü and commented:
    Relationship between social media and economic activities.

  3. Pingback: Foresight at the forefront: Examples in action | Voices from Eurasia - We help build better lives.

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