What’s Behind the Tweets

A Twitter analysis of the rhetoric surrounding Gauley season 2013.

Gauley season is a whitewater rafting season that takes place on the Gauley River in West Virginia for 5 weekends every September and October. According to National Park Service, 60,000 people a year take part in the season, many using commercial outfitters.

For this research, I wanted to examine the how those going to Gauley season use Twitter to portray a certain image, and how brands can utilize this knowledge to create relationships with them. Tweets were retrieved by searching the term ‘Gauley’ and ‘#Gauley’ using the online analysis tool Topsy from September 1, 2013 through October 26, 2013. The results translate beyond Gauley season giving insight into why people say what they do on Social Media and how to use that for your benefit.

Social Comparison

Before diving into the actual results I will explain the theoretical basis behind my research. Social comparison theory states we gauge our own abilities and opinions based on other people’s abilities and opinions. We’ve all done it at some point in our lives; the act is universal. Diving deeper into the theory, however, provides insight into when and why people turn toward social comparison, and the characteristics they display.

Whether or not someone is predisposed to take part in social comparison, times of uncertainty or stress brings it out in everyone…enter first time adventure tourism consumers. The characteristics displayed by those in this situation are those of overconfidence and even narcissism. They tend to use first person references more, and are highly attentive to the image they are portraying to their social audience.

Fear and Affiliation

What can a company do with this knowledge? When consumers display such characteristics they are not looking for someone in the same situation to calm their anxieties, they are looking for experts in the field to align themselves with…enter outfitters.

For example: When someone can’t wait to knock the sh#@ out of the Gauley, simply respond with how long and successfully your company has been rafting the Gauley. While they may not give you a shout out on Social Media, they’ll be drawn to your experience and look to you to purchase a trip.


Knowing those in this situation want to speak in first person terms portraying to their audience how they personally conquered the challenge, brands or companies need to find incentive for these people to spread some electronic word of mouth (eWOM) by mentioning your brand. Tactics include retweeting these people to align your own brand with them. Once others see this happening, they will also work to get the attention of the brand.

Research Results

  • 743 Tweets
  • Spanned 12 countries
  • 573 Tweets by individuals
  • 170 Tweets by companies or brands

Mention of a company or brand

  • 99 (13.3%)
  • 61 times by an individual (10.7%)
  • 38 times by a company (22%)

Use of first person

  • 343 (46%)
  • 319 times by an individual (56%)
  • 24 times by a company (14%)

For the full paper click here

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