Twitter popularity and success

Updated: January 31, 2013, 3:39 PM ET
By Elizabeth O'Brien | IBM

As Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka both repeated as the singles champions at the Australian Open this year, a parallel competition was unfolding on Twitter.

Following her quarterfinal upset of Serena Williams, Sloane Stephens more than doubled her Twitter following from 17,000 to over 34,000 in 24 hours. She currently has over 60,000 followers. Despite this increase, Azarenka defeated Stephens both on court and in the volume of tweets. Stephens, however, won the fans' hearts. A hotly debated medical timeout by Azarenka drove a spike in the percentage of negative sentiment focused on Azarenka to 74 percent. Azarenka recovered to win both the tournament and an overall two-week positive sentiment rating of 77 percent.

Over the past two weeks, the clear women's winner on Twitter has been Serena Williams, despite her quarterfinals loss, garnering more than 600,00 tweets, 72 percent of which reflect positive sentiment.

On the men's side, Djokovic won on the court and in the hearts of Twitter followers with 87 percent positive sentiment. When he came on court during an exhibition dressed as a paramedic to "revive" Henri Leconte, fans were laughing, snapping mobile phone pictures of him and tweeting about the joke. Overall on Twitter, though, Djokovic was edged out by Andy Murray, who with a tally of more than 1 million tweets was most tweeted about player of the tournament.

How do we know all of this: this year's Australian Open site. Fan Centre features the Australian Open Social Leaderboard, which is using IBM analytics to track Twitter posts to determine the popularity of players, whether fans are talking about Roger Federer's new pink tennis shoes or Serena's hair style.

On the social leaderboard, fans can find out which players are the most popular on Twitter on a daily basis or overall for the tournament and whether positive or negative things are being said about them. Fans can also look at statistics that provide even deeper insight into major trends throughout each day.

The more that fans tweet about their favorite players, the higher they climb on the social leaderboard.

The hash tag #ausopen has been tweeted by more than 635,000 fans. Although the number of tweets is interesting, analyzing the data behind the tweets helps tournament organizers, players, coaches, media and fans to spot trends and better understand the social and sentimental dynamics driving the world of Grand Slam tennis.