Who's St. Louis' NFL team now?
Since the Rams went west (and south, if you count their record), who did St. Louis pay attention to in the NFL this season?
One way of answering that question is to look at who fans tweeted about. Using Twitter's streaming API, we collected tweets using hashtags associated with NFL teams throughout the beginning of the season. After we were done collecting, we had more than 3 million tweets using more than 6 million hashtags.
Of course we wanted to know what people from around St. Louis were talking about. We decided to not rely on geocoded Tweets (i.e. when you tweet from your phone and it attaches the location to the tweet automatically) because they're a very small portion of all tweets. Instead, we used the user's location field and searched all the tweets for variations of "St. Louis", "St. Charles", "314" and other signifiers of our area.
And one more point before we get into the data: It's important to note that we didn't look at whether these tweets were positive or negative. We can't really say whether people are fans of these teams — someone hate-watching the Rams and tweeting about them with their hashtag counted the same as a die-hard fan in our analysis.
Here's what we found:
The Rams still on top the list
Hashtags related to the Rams made up nearly 15% of the NFL-related hashtags used in St. Louis. This is significantly higher than how much the Rams were talked about across all of football — they made up just 1.2% of all hashtags.
Other favorites were mostly regional
Teams unsurprisingly over-represented here compared to across Twitter were Green Bay, Kansas City, Tennessee and Chicago. Other teams with local buzz included Denver and the also-formerly St. Louis-based Arizona Cardinals.
Some additional caveats
This is not a scientific survey: Working with data like this isn't perfect. Here are a few of the things we ran into when exploring it.
Due to "hiccups" in the software collecting the Tweets, we didn't collect data continuously and we didn't collect it for the entire season. Thus teams may be over- or under-represented because of week-to-week matchups. For example, it's possible that teams in the Monday Night Football game get tweeted about more that week no matter who they are.
Hashtags can be used for many things. For instance, spammers tend to use trending hashtags to get their messages in front of as many eyes as possible. But it's not always nefarious: There's more than one team called the Giants, for instance, and both the Major League Baseball and the NFL team by that name were playing in September. We did our best to account for this overlap by looking for common tag intersections (for instance, if a tweet used #giants and #mlb or #giants and #stlcards, it's a good bet it wasn't referring to the NFL team).
Finally, there are "superfans". While we removed obvious spammers, some folks just really, really love their football team. Some teams had more people tweeting about them less often, while others had fewer, more devoted followers. For example in the St. Louis area, there were nearly 200 people tweeting about the Rams, with five of them accounting for about a quarter of those hashtags. Denver, on the other hand, had fewer than 100 local tweeters, but its No. 1 fan accounted for more than 30% of the times its hashtag showed up.