With my colleague, Tony Savarimuthu, I am pleased to announce the publication of our recent study titled From Tweets to insights: A social media analysis of the emotion discourse of sustainable energy in the United States in the journal Energy Research and Social Sciences.
Social acceptance is essential to effective sustainable energy policy implementation. Social media offer new platforms to support policy work and, by allowing emotional expressions, help to create an emotion discourse. Emotions and the discourse around them impact social acceptance by influencing organizational legitimacy, supporting and disrupting institutions, and energizing policy actors. This research investigates how social media analytics (SMA) can be used to decode the emotion discourse on sustainable energy to fulfill diverse informational goals of policy actors. Applying SMA to 6528 Twitter messages for 27 U.S. electricity utilities over five months, we demonstrate how to measure and compare the emotion discourse of utilities over time. Using a variety of SMA techniques, we find the emotion discourse around sustainable energy varies across utilities in terms of both magnitude and polarity and we uncover four clusters of utilities having similar patterns of emotion discourse. We further identify three anomalous emotional events. SMA also reveal that joy and sadness are, respectively, the most common positive and negative emotions expressed. Finally, we use SMA to reveal how different actors contribute to the emotion discourse: utility followers are predominately responsible for negative affect in the emotion discourse. This work serves as a proof-of-concept showing how SMA can complement other techniques for gauging social acceptance, informing policy, managing sustainable energy programs, and developing effective communication strategies.