Spotify has a ‘Rainy Day’ playlist? I should pack my umbrella today.

Weather plays a huge part in our every day life. From deciding whether (ha) or not to wear rain boots to trying to find a way to start a conversation, weather affects each of us all the time. However with the development of social media and increased digital usage, the access to weather info and ability to adapt to various situations has grown enormously.

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For the digital and social world there are some very obvious ways and other more covert ways that weather has been integrated into our online and mobile use. Let’s start with the obvious.

Natural Disasters

It’s August 1969 and Hurricane Camille has just hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Families are displaced, communication is sporadic, and aid is slow. Now fast forward to 2012 when Hurricane Sandy hits. After the bulk of the storm had past, 10,000 Instagram posts were uploaded per second tagged with the hashtash #sandy making each post part of a large collection of pictures documenting the damage and difficulty facing the victims. It’s a very different picture from 43 years prior.

Social media has changed the scene surrounding present day natural disasters. You can now post to Facebook to update family members, you can check Twitter to see how the government and support agencies are helping, and you can post pictures to Instagram of your surrounding environment. The access to such a large network is really important not only for individuals but also for natural disaster relief. Organizations such as the Red Cross will look at social media data to prioritize areas with the most need. During Hurricane Sandy the Red Cross used that Instagram data saying it was a “real-time pipeline of information of victims’ needs” that allowed them to be more effective in their efforts.

Social media also makes donations to help with relief more easily accessible. Today much more aid comes from strangers and foreigners for natural disasters in all parts of the globe than it did even 10 years ago.

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Within hours of a disaster hitting social media sites can have a quick click-to-donate process in place. The American Red Cross’ $10 text message donation initiative for relief for the typhoon in the Philippines was spread virally through Facebook and Twitter, before major traditional news media caught on. For the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the Red Cross was able to generate over $5 million via text message donations in the 48 hours after the earthquake hit. There was more than $30 million raised in a short amount of time. Now individuals can sign up for Twitter alerts and push notifications so that they can receive messages from news outlets and major agencies in real time. Electricity companies are also using a similar message to tell people about service times and any extra relief such as tents and generators they have in place.

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There have been some disadvantages noted from the use of social media during a natural disaster. Because of our need for instantaneous information there are often rumors or untrue pictures (#fakenews amiright) that spread quickly throughout these networks. Additionally, inconsistencies in hashtags can make it difficult for organizations looking to use that data for the best results.

Real Time Weather Updates

On the other hand, weather is part of our daily online lives but on a less extreme level. News stations need to be able to deliver real time weather data to their audience at any time throughout the day. Long gone are the days where you got your weather updates solely from a segment during the 6 o’clock nightly news. Push notifications are sometimes the first point of contact between notable changes in weather and smart phone users. Everyone from insurance companies to personal delivery companies are capitalizing on it.

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Washington post asked readers for pictures of them in the cold and set up a page with directions on how to use Snapchat and send in cold pictures. When waiting for how organizations are going to react to big changes in weather we are glued to our phones. I know we all have stalked BC’s Twitter and Facebook for updates for snow days. Even from when we first unwrap our new smart phones a weather app is already installed with additional apps available to download.

Some research has shown that social media can even help predict severe weather.Research from University of Warwick this March shows tweets with certain words relating to high water levels can indicate an impending flood. The same goes for pictures with similar messaging on Flickr. Researchers found that these “risk-signaling” words could act a “social sensors” which along with other tools of physical meteorologic can help evolving extreme weather.

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Weather and your Music Preference 

Another less obvious way that weather has been integrated into our digital interactions can be seen in a partnership between Spotify and Accuweather. The two companies partnered to make the site Climatune that provides listeners with music that they will statistically enjoy based on the weather. The research includes forecast data from 900 cities and 85 billion song streams. They came to the somewhat expected conclusion that when it is sunny people prefer “happier and high energy music”, “lower energy and sadder sounding with more acoustic” when it was rainy, and instrumental when it snowed. For example, on a Wednesday in New York City, the temperature was 60 degrees Fahrenheit the playlist for the city included ‘Kill em with Kindness’ by Selena Gomez and Carrie Underwood’s ‘Dirty Laundry’ due to their upbeat nature. There are even certain cities they found more musically affected by the weather. NYC and Philadelphia are two cities really affected by rain and Dallas and Fort Worth for snow

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Have you ever checked weather on social media?

Of course! Is there anyone out there who hasn’t? You can’t avoid it!

Every time you take a picture on Snapchat and scroll through the filters you see the degrees or a filter for extreme weather.

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If I have ever been some place warm in the winter know I have definitely used that filter to rub in my weather conditions to friends in Boston.

And no matter what we are feeling….

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You know you can always count on social media and digital apps to keep you updated!

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10 comments

  1. cjprall · ·

    Great post! Adding push notifications for rain was a game-changer for me. I always find myself completely oblivious to rain going to class but always having the weather forecast in my pocket is definitely something I take for granted. Anytime there’s the chicane of a snow day, I’m checking a local news app to see updated snowfall total maps. I am starting to regret all my warm, gloating spring break Snapchats since most other schools had break after us and now everyone else’s beach days are pouring in.

  2. Really interesting post Molly! I would never have thought that social media could possibly predict the weather. Could it be much worse than the weather app on my iPhone that changes its forecast everyday? I also think the ability to create playlists based on the type of weather is so interesting! I wonder if over time they will find that more people enjoy acoustic music when it rains simply because they make more acoustic playlists available when it rains. Also, from my internship experience, I’ve learned that other types of business can also use weather and geo-targeting to market to people in a certain area based on the weather. For example, pizza companies like Papa John’s send out ads to people in a certain area when it rains because they know people will more likely be inside and order a pizza delivery. Thanks for sharing!

  3. ItsUlker · ·

    Great post and you touched on some great points that I haven’t necessarily thought of before! I haven’t really used a push notification-based weather app, but I always make sure to check the weather on my iPhone’s phone screen. You are absolutely right in your observation of how weather has been integrated into our mobile use – I didn’t even notice it until I started thinking about it. I realize I check the Weather app multiple times throughout the day, when I just wake up, when I’m starting to get ready to leave the house, and right before I leave as well. I also found it interesting how Social Media can be used to predict severe weather, I think it’s a great example of collective intelligence that we have talked about before!

    As for the curated playlists, I love the idea and the insights behind it! I’ve noticed playlists like “Soak up the Sun” or “Rainy Day Mood” on Spotify before. I wonder if they would be able to go a step further and tailor them to each user’s specific preferences, as they do with some of their other personalized playlists – I personally would love to have one for every type of weather!

  4. terencenixdorf · ·

    Great post! Very witty and also extremely informative. I’m someone that constantly checks the weather and while it’s mostly through the Weather Channel app, there are frustrating times where the information won’t actually load. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that when that happens, I immediately go to Snapchat to use the degrees filter to figure out what the temperature is. I also had no clue about Spotify’s partnership with Accuweather but that makes perfect sense. I’ve definitely noticed the Spotify playlists that correspond to the weather but really never gave it a second thought until now. The analytics behind the instrumentals listened to in relation to the weather is awesome stuff to look at it. Big fan of all the graphics you used too!

  5. I find the idea of social sensors fascinating, since it’s such a simple way of indicating yet it’s only made possible through user contents that could have otherwise been underutilized or even unnoticed. I thought keywords and phrases were used for suggesting trending topics or relevant ads, but I never went beyond the surface-level connections between what is discussed and what is happening. Whenever I learn about unexpected collaborative programs like Climatune, I try to imagine what else is possible; how else can we connect and use different dimensions of social media with lifestyles? I appreciate your research and opinion on this, keep us informed of any other unusual partnerships you hear of!

  6. dcardito13 · ·

    I really enjoyed reading your post in which you analyzed three different applications in unique ways. This is a really good way to shed a positive light on the implications of social media, especially through the quick spread of information that allows more people to help those in distress from natural disasters. I had no idea that $5 million was raised in just 48 hours for those affected by the earthquake in Haiti. That’s amazing! I also am a new user of Spotify, and did not know about the Climatune function. I think it is such an innovative way to incorporate songs that correlate to the current weather. I’m definitely going to check that out!

  7. Ciaran_Cleary · ·

    Great post Molly! I’m a BIG checking weather on social media guy, and it is so different from when I was younger and just look outside to see what I would be wearing for the day. The Spotify partnership is an awesome idea that I can really get behind. I have stood next to the door of Rubi looking at the pouring rain and scrolled through my playlists for a slower/sadder playlist to take me through my rainy day, so I think it is a good option for Spotify. I also like that you do point out the positives of this social age. I think about the winter two years ago, hopefully if storms like that ever hit again people will be able to prepare better based on these available posts and updates.

  8. DanKaplan · ·

    Awesome job Molly! I feel as though I only check the weather on my phone and computer. What need is there for me to watch The Weather Channel or wait through commercials on the nightly news simply in order to see what the weather is going to be? If I just Google search “7 day forecast,” the first post that comes up is the weather near me this upcoming week. It is amazing how easy it has become to see what the weather is going to be. As for the Spotify playlist- it is funny that you mentioned that. I have listened to that playlist a few times and really enjoy it.

  9. Nice post! When Facebook’s began releasing features around emergency situations and natural disasters I remember thinking about just how useful and powerful that tool could be. On a lighter note, it is amazing just how often Snapchats revolve around weather. I think the ultimate goal of sending snaps when traveling is to showcase just how nice the weather is, just to rub it in the face of those who aren’t there. As a Floridian, I am definitely guilty of doing the same gloating. It is also funny when I look at this past weekend, my parents were doing the same thing. They were all on the beach just as I opened my window blind to find two inches of snow outside. Weather really has a powerful affect on social media because it has such a powerful affect on our mood and behavior.

  10. viquezj · ·

    Excellent blog about the connection between weather and social media, and its influence on the music that we listen to. I don’t even have to check the weather app anymore because it’s all in social media. You open snapchat and immediately you have access to weather information from several parts of the world depending on where your friends are. I agree that weather conditions impact your mood and even the music that you listen to in Spotify. It is interesting how companies are getting closer to understanding the user and they are finding better ways to satisfy the needs of the customer. At the end of the day, platforms like Spotify will continue to be successful as long as they manage to keep its users satisfied.

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