Detroit Social Media Data: QLINE Conversations

By: Alex Macksoud

The QLINE – Detroit’s first streetcar in decades – has been one of the most talked about infrastructure projects in Michigan this year. But the transit system has ostensibly been a polarizing topic.

To get a better idea of what the public actually thinks about the QLINE, we leveraged Identity’s social listening and analytics platform – NetBase – to gauge the mood of digital conversations taking place on social media and media sites. We also used NetBase to identify some of the most shared public content and stories.

QLINE social media conversations timeline
Here is an overview of online conversation about the Detroit QLINE taking place between April 23 and May 23. Unsurprisingly, the chatter spiked on its grand opening day – Friday, May 12 – and dropped off shortly thereafter.

Interestingly, the conversation wasn’t largely positive or neutral – with net sentiment hovering below 60%. While sentiment is metric that can easily be contested, this aggregate overview gives us an idea of how the conversation was leaning leading up to the QLINE’s launch.

Breaking down the sources, we can see how conversations and content across news sites, Twitter, Instagram and other channels spiked as the grand opening neared. Opening day resulted in more than 2,000 tweets and thousands of blog and news mentions. This was driven by dozens of updates from several prominent news outlets, as well as riders sharing their “first-ride experiences” across social media channels.

If you look at the top terms by sentiment, positive words far outweigh the negative. And if you check out the word cloud showing the emotion drivers for this topic, we can clearly see that the QLINE grand opening was largely successful – albeit for a few unhappy citizens. News stories about power line trouble also infiltrated the sentiment analysis, resulting in several negative terms

QLINE top social media posts
In terms of popular public social media posts based on engagement, the top QLINE posts can be attributed to the announcement of free rides, a Facebook video from the Henry Ford Health System, multiple posts from District Detroit, a video from Twitter user @eviewebbie and updates from the Detroit Tigers.

Surprisingly, the most popular link shared on social media was not the Detroit News QLINE preview story or the NPR launch post. The Metro Times piece on the Pure Michigan QLINE spoof video received the most link shares during the reporting period.

What are our key takeaways from the QLINE social media conversations?

  • The announcement of free rides generated the most public buzz and conversation. The announcement was also a strong catalyst for prompting interest in riding the QLINE during a busy opening weekend.
  • Local brands and companies were invested in supporting the QLINE. With tweets and posts from local sports teams and some of the region’s largest employers, the QLINE received some great support from organizations.
  • While there were dozens of positive and neutral news stories about the QLINE’s launch, a humorous parody video dominated part of the social conversation.

This post was co-authored by Brandon Chesnutt.