Who’s leading the #لبنانيون_ضد_حزبالله discussion?

A new trending hashtag, #لبنانيون_ضد_حزبالله has emerged in the past few days, following the televised resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Lebanon and the start of the Lebanese-KSA crisis.


We briefly analyze the “Lebanese against Hezbollah” hashtag to better understand its origin and its propagation on Twitter.


Our sample of 117 tweets is extracted on Nov. 12, 2017 from Twitter using NodeXL and Twitter’s search API.

Fragmented Clusters

The structure looks like a set of fragmented clusters led by a broadcast leader. There is no real discussion about the subject. One tweet is launched and a group of followers is retweeting back. This does not seem like a genuine discussion, more like an “engineered” one.


With this shape of network, it is very unlikely that this would be a trending hashtag or that it will last for more than a couple of days.

Overwhelming Presence of Saudi Accounts

Given the timing of the launch of the hashtag, we wonder who has initiated it.


In the chart below, vertices are labeled based on their country of origin (COO) – vertices with a “zero” label do not have a country set in their profile.

Based on the above and on the pivot table generated (below), it looks like the “lebanese against Hezbollah” hashtag was mostly generated and distributed by KSA residents or citizen (25%) and not by Lebanese residents or citizen (less than 1%).


There is a margin of error to take into consideration (58% of the sample without a specified country). However, the overwhelming presence of declared Saudi residents/citizen against Lebanese residents/citizen in the sample, is significant enough.


COO Count of Country
Azerbaijan 1
Egypt 1
Indonesia 1
Iraq 2
KSA 27
Kuwait 3
Kyrgyzstan 1
Lebanon 1
N/A 61
Oman 1
Qatar 1
Romania 1
Sweden 1
Turkey 1
UK 1
Grand Total 106


Mayors and Diffusers of the Discussion

The chart below shows the mayors of the discussion with their respective weight (in-degree):


A Time-Based Animation of the Discussion


One Year of Presidency in Lebanon – A Twitter Discussion Analysis

The Sample

The following analysis is based on a sample of 11,919 tweets extracted using Twitter’s API. The search term for this sample is  #سنة_من_عمر_وطن  which is the  “one year from a country’s life” hashtag launched by the President’s movement(s). Twitter’s Search API is focused on relevance and not completeness. This means that some Tweets and users may be missing from search results. Unfortunately, it is not easy to determine the total number of tweets for this hashtag. However, we can roughly estimate this number to be between 20 to 30% of the total number of tweets for this hashtag.


Tweets have been grouped by cluster using the Clauset-Newman-Moore algorithm using NodeXL.

Almost Complete Absence of the March 14 Component

The most noticeable aspect of the discussion is the almost total absence of politicians of March 14. Saad Hariri was mentioned by some users but did not tweet himself (as least in our representative sample). Samir Geagea and Walid Joumblatt did not appear in the sample.


In fact, we double-checked Samir Geagea’s profile, and it looks like he never tweeted regarding the end of the first year of the presidency.


Only a very small group of people (9 users in our sample) attacked the regime and its relation with Hezbollah. Two other groups of 20 users (total) sarcastically commented on the President’s answers to the journalists.


The logical explanation for this behavior is the extreme polarization of the Lebanese society. In such cases of strong polarization, people from politically competing groups don’t use the same hashtags or join the discussion. This explains their almost total absence.


The Overwhelming Joy of Followers

The hashtag was launched by the pro-President movement. It is therefore logical to have an overwhelming presence of pro-President users tweeting and using the hashtag.


Pro-President users are not however a tight crowd, i.e. a close community. The largest group of tweeters is 493 users tweeting 2056 times. This group does not include a notable politician, not even the President.


A dismantled community

The fact that the largest pro-Aounists group of tweeters is leaderless could be interpreted as a symptom of leadership crisis.


This is also shown in the  way pro-President groups are divided:

  • A leaderless group (493 users, 2056 tweets)
  • A President-Bassil-Kanaan-Jamil el Sayyed group (96 users, 269 tweets)
  • The official account for the Presidency (77 users, 125 tweets)
  • An Alain Aoun group (57 users, 69 tweets)

While many bridges connect the Kanaan-Bassil-Sayyed group (Kanaan being the most retweeted) to the main group of fans, the connections between this group and the Alain Aoun group are almost non-existant (5 in total).


Part of the Pro-President group is discussing with the Kanaan group (224 incoming connections and 142 outgoing connections) while other users from this group are discussing with Alain Aoun (52 connections and 35 outgoing connections). An explanation would be that, while the President’s fans are all happy with the “successes” of the first year of presidency, they look divided in terms of affiliation.

Hezbollah’s Support

It is rare not to see Hezbollah’s fans join political discussions on Twitter. In the case of the presidency’s hashtag, we notice some very strong support from Hezbollah’s users with tweets about the alliance between President Aoun and Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.


The Importance of the Role of Mr. Gebran Bassil

While the discussion was primarily centered around the presidency, it is important to mention that a discussion about the positive role (as a supporter of the Hezbollah) and another one about the negative role of Gebran Bassil (corruption) was taking place.


Even though only a few users discussed the role of Mr. Gebran Bassil, this shows that he is a major concern (positive or negative) to many citizen.


Suleiman Frangieh Supporters

Finally, the most important aspect of the debate is probably the fact that the second largest clique in the discussion is a group with several discussion “mayors”, the most important two being Suleiman Frangieh supporters, Sleiman Frangieh (note that this is a different Suleiman Frangieh – @avsl_frangieh) and Georges Bou Nassif (@georgesbnassif). These users challenge the so called “success” by asking “which country are you talking about?”

Independents and Journalists, like Mariam al Bassam (New TV) and Yazbeck Wehbé (LBC), are also part of the debate against the “happy ones”.

The absence or at least very small involvement of people from the Future Movement, the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb is noticeable.


As a result, we suggest that the real skirmish today is between the President’s supporters and Mr. Suleiman Frangieh’s supporters, while other Christians and ex-14 March groups are taking a distant neutral and silent stance from the joy or the frustrations of the first year of Presidency.


K2PCenter Training

Third training session about Twitter discussion analysis at the Knowledge to Policy (#K2Pcenter) Center of the American University of Beirut. Social Graph visualization using NodeXL. Thanks for all those who joined the #k2pworkshop discussion.

Twitter double authentication and security via SMS

A few months ago, I posted two tutorials about login approvals via SMS on Facebook and two-step verification on Google.

In this walk through, you will find the steps required to do the same on Twitter. Once these steps are performed, a secret numeric code will be sent to your phone by text message (SMS) every time you or someone else tries to log in to your Twitter account. This code will be required with your password to authenticate you and allow you to log in and access your account.

1- Login to your Twitter Account

2- Go to Settings


3- Click on security and privacy on the menu (left). If you already have a phone linked to your account, skip to step 5. Otherwise, you should see an “add phone” link:


4- Click on add a phone and type your phone number. You should receive a code by sms to verify your phone number.


5- Once you have linked your phone number to your Twitter profile, check “send login verification requests to #your phone number#”. Note that you can also choose to send verification codes to your phone via the Twitter app (rather than by text messages / sms) if it’s already installed on your phone.



Simple Walkthrough to Visualizing Twitter Data on NodeXL

In this post, we will consider analyzing the Arabic hashtag 1 with NodeXL. If you’re searching for a Latin string or hashtag, go directly to step 3.

1- On some computers, searching for an non-Latin string may cause NodeXL to return a null result. The safest option is to convert the Arabic string to URL code. Several websites offer a conversion tool. Look for “URL encode decode” on Google. We will use the following website: http://meyerweb.com/eric/tools/dencoder/.

2- type the hashtag in the text box and press “encode” then copy the resulting code:1 2

3- Open NodeXL and select “import from Twitter search network”:


4- Paste the code from step 2 in the search box. You may want to limit the number of tweets (in this example, we limited the number of tweets to 1,000). Note that you may need authorize NodeXL to use your twitter account if this is your first Twitter analysis.


5- The worksheet is automatically filled after the search. In the vertices sheet, you can check the names of the tweeters and some useful information about their popularity (followers) that can be combined with other data in your analysis:


6- Choose the “Harel-Koren” algorithm and “show graph”:


In its current state, the graph doesn’t say much. Yet, it can give you an idea of the structure of the network and you can mouse-over the vertices to read the tweets and the mentions. We will improve the layout in the next steps.

7- In the NodeXL ribbon tab, click on “Graph Metrics”. Then, “Select All” and “Calculate Metrics”.


8- The data compiled can be used to analyze the network and its characteristics (outside the scope of this article which is limited to retrieval and display). Note, that in the vertices sheet, the “in degree” represents the number of times the tweeter was mentioned and the “out degree” the number of times he mentioned someone else. 2

9- In this step, we will group the vertices into clusters. In the NodeXL tab on the ribbon, click on “groups”, “group by clusters” and put neighbourless in one group to avoid having all your singletons displayed as a stand alone group:


Note the Groups and Group Vertices worksheets.

10- In the layout algorithm dropdown, select “layout options” and “layout groups…”



11- The resulting graph show small independent clusters with no interaction between each other. Note the singletons in the first group (people who were never mentioned). Check the following article for details about twitter network structures: http://www.smrfoundation.org/2014/03/02/6-kinds-of-twitter-social-media-network-structures/


12- To display images instead of dots, in the vertices sheet, select “image” in the shape column, go to the NodeXL tab in the ribbon, select group, group options and check “the shapes specified in the shape column….” to use the shapes defined in vertices sheet instead of those defined in the Group Vertices sheet (this also works for colors).


Note the size and opacity options you can also use to improve the layout.

13- The Autofill option allows you to quickly fill a column to modify the layout of your graph (note that you need to refresh the graph to see the results). Try to change the shape, opacity, etc.


In this screenshot, the size varies from 1.5 to 100 depending on the in-degree (number of times the user was mentioned):


14- To ungroup the vertices, select layout options from the algorithm dropdown in the graph and select “layout entire graph” instead of group… (see step 10)

15- to save the graph as an image, right-click on it and select “save to image”

16- to share your work with others (optional), choose “export to NodeXL Gallery” from the NodeXL tab in the ribbon

Articles and videos to watch and read:

– About Twitter Network structures: http://www.smrfoundation.org/2014/03/02/6-kinds-of-twitter-social-media-network-structures/

– About social networks, mapping and measuring Connections: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5RonanIOF8#t=26

– A walkthrough to using NodeXL to visualize twitter networks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PC-PgkhpsNc

How to count your shares

Some social plugins give you a total number of shares without specifying exactly where those shares came from.

Also, you may need to find if someone shared your link on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking websites:

Count your shares on Facebook:

– http://graph.facebook.com/?id=YourURL, e.g. http://graph.facebook.com/?id=http://nasri.messarra.com/use-two-steps-authentication-with-google-easy-steps/

Count your shares on Twitter:

– http://cdn.api.twitter.com/1/urls/count.json?url=YourURL, e.g. http://cdn.api.twitter.com/1/urls/count.json?url=http://nasri.messarra.com/use-two-steps-authentication-with-google-easy-steps/

Count your shares on Pinterest:

- http://api.pinterest.com/v1/urls/count.json?url=YourURL, e.g. http://api.pinterest.com/v1/urls/count.json?url=http://nasri.messarra.com/use-two-steps-authentication-with-google-easy-steps/


6 Common mistakes businesses make on Facebook

Online Social Networks (OSN) are the new trend in marketing. Every business wants to be on Facebook but it all seems to be revolving around a single variable, the number of fans. The number of fans – even fake ones – seems to arouse entrepreneurs and business man and give them a (false) feeling of success. Reality is that virtual fans don’t always make real customers and there is more to social media than a fan count.

1.     Likes and Customers

The first and most common mistake an entrepreneur could made is confuse fans (likes) with customers. Research has shown that, on the personal level, the number of friends has a positive association with the feeling of well-being. This is why most people tend to increase their online social capital by adding acquaintances and even relative (or complete) strangers as friends. Yet, the same studies show that online popularity does not translate to a better status IRL (in real life). Managers are falling into the same trap and online media salespersons are luring them with fan counts and “virtual” fame. Terms like “brand awareness”, “virality”, “e-WOM” (electronic word of mouth), SMM (Social Media Marketing), etc., are carefully used as decoys to prevent the manager from seeing the real problem at hand: how to increase the number of offline customers.


Simply put: Fans are a liability, customers an asset. All fans are not customers! If you don’t have your figures right, you may end up paying for the illusion of fame without any return on investment. As your online social network evolves towards an “unnatural” mix of people, its attraction to real customers will decrease and the system will probably backfire at some point.


Moreover, recent studies show that, as the number of fans increases, their engagement diminishes. This can be explained by the difference in nature between small groups (elite groups, strong ties, high centrality, high density, etc.) and very large groups (low density, heterogeneous community, etc.).

2.     Value of fans

The second common OSN mistake is thinking that “all fans are equal”. This is definitely not true. In sociometric terms, fans can be hubs, bridges or fringes. Hubs are highly connected people within your network. When a hub comments or likes, dozens of people are immediately notified by Facebook. Bridges are links between your network and other networks. Fringes are the extremities of your own network. They are hard to reach.


Sociometry also offers other metrics like centrality that will help you understand the flow of information and the importance of each individual fan, independently, within your network.


Any serious OSN strategy should focus on targeting one or the other type of fans using proper methods and strategies for each different type. For instance, a politician would target bridges between his network and his adversary’s network to convert people from the other network to his side. A company, on the other hand, could decide to target hubs when announcing a promotion for regular customers or fringes when trying to expand its customer base.


Moreover, your initial group of fans (initial seeding population) is the cornerstone of your online presence: choose the right fans to start with and your network will grow naturally and efficiently; start with the wrong fans and your mess will be harder and harder to clean as your (unwanted) fans count grows.


Strategists also talk about “influencers” and “super-fans” because it often takes one fan to make or break a brand.

3.     Fake likes

The industry of fake fans is rapidly growing with new services like fake posts and fake comments as additional services. A recent article talks about 40% of fake fans for French artists and politicians. With or without notifying the customer, some social media services companies will buy packets of fans either to lure the client or customers and real fans.

Of all the bad online strategies, this is undeniably the worst:

–  There are several methods to detect a fake population, especially when you try to exceed your fan base beyond any logic. One of the ways to detect this is through last week’s “most popular city”, a metric available to any fan. The reason is that fake fan don’t always match your default customer profile (gender, country, age). So, if you’re a Lebanese company trying to buy tens or hundreds of thousands of friends at a good price, you’ll probably end up buying Egyptian, Iraki or far-east fans.

caption: Standard metrics for two Lebanese companies following a significant fan increase
Standard metrics for two Lebanese companies following a significant fan increase

Other methods can also be used to verify the authenticity and origin of fans using the new Graph Search, for example: “Fans of a-Facebook-page who live in Iraq”.

Iraqi Facebook fans of a Lebanese page
Iraqi Facebook fans of a Lebanese page


–   When you post information on your page or profile, Facebook transmits it to 13 to 17% of your fans (empirical statistics), sometimes less. If half of your population is fake, this is approximately half your reach going to waste. If you’re paying to boost (promote) your posts, this is half of your money gone.


– All your metrics and statistics will be biased and any future communication strategy will be based on erroneous estimations.


– The maintenance cost of a fake fan is exactly the same as a real fan minus the benefits.


4.     Virality & Frequency


The most ridiculous and recurring advice managers hear and follow is: “publish more posts to attract more fans”. Of course, the statement is carefully loaded with the usual flashy social media talk: “virality”, “awareness”, etc.


This urban OSN legend about frequency and success has made its way throughout social networks: business men think or are often advised to post more frequently to increase virality and attract more fans. In fact, more posts are an increasing “unlike” risk. People get bored, see this as harassment. In short, they don’t want to hear about their favorite brand every day but only when it counts.


Frequency is a very delicate matter. It’s easy to determine the right amount of posts for a blog or a website because your main objective is to get noticed by Google and people come to you when they need to (Google search), not the other way round (Facebook newsfeed).


Virality is not linked to frequency. If you manage to create a viral post, you won’t need to post another one as long as the contagion is increasing. If you post a video and it starts spreading at the rate of 1,000 views per day, your smartest move would be to promote it more, not to post other information. With its “KONY 2012” video, Invisible Children inc. reached more than 97 million people worldwide and mobilized thousands of people AFK (away from keyboard). The same can be said about Matt Harding with his series (one video every 2-4 years): “where in the world is Matt?”

Matt Harding mobilizes hundreds of complete strangers worldwide to meet with him at specific locations and dance
Matt Harding mobilizes hundreds of complete strangers worldwide to meet with him at specific locations and dance

As a business example, with its crazy idea of blending everything on video (iPhones, iPads, marbles, golf balls, even CDs of Justin Bieber, etc.), Blentec became the most notorious manufacturer of blenders worldwide.


The main idea is to prioritize quality over quantity. People have a limited time to spend on Facebook every day. They need their timeline to be neat and interesting. If they get ten posts from the same company every week, chances are they will unlike the page. Avoid the usual “hello world”, “trivia quiz”, “quote of the day”, “funniest joke”, “TGIF”, and other completely irrelevant posts, you don’t want fans liking you because you’re funny, you want them to like you because you’re funny – or not – AND because your product is something they will like and buy.


In short, frequency is important but should be combined to quality: if you have nothing smart to say, say nothing.


5.     What is the cost of fans?


The fifth mistake is underestimating or overestimating your costs. It is important for an entrepreneur to know what are the different costs at hand:

– Strategy: This is the building of the action plan. Usually handled by a consultant or a specialist. Prices vary depending on the person or company’s qualification.

– Content creation: this is the creation of text, photos, videos based on the strategy. Prices vary depending on the person or company’s qualification and the type (text, video, photos) and number of posts to be created.

– Fake fans: the cost for fake fans (not recommended) starts at around $8 for each 1,000 fake fans. Depending on the nationality of the fake fans, prices can climb up to around $17 or $20 per 1,000 fans.

– Real fans: the average cost for real fans, based on statistics, varies from $0.5 to $2. This includes any type of Facebook advertising or promotion used. Of course, cost will vary over time. Based on experience, the marginal cost for a fan (cost for every additional fan) will decrease when you start your campaign (first few thousands likes) and then increase as you try to get more and more fans.

Sample Facebook fan marginal cost curve
Sample Facebook fan marginal cost curve

6.     Reach and dispersion


One metric that is often disregarded is the reach. Basically, when you post information, you can reach fans, friends of fans, friends of friends of fans, etc., to the nth degree. Basically, you can have 1,000 fans and reach 50,000 people or a million depending on the heterogeneity of your network, on the virality of your message and on your post promotions (ads).


There are three types of reach:

– Organic: Facebook will display your post, free of charge, in average, to 10 to 17% (based on statistics) of your fans.

– Viral: if these fans like or comment your post, 10 to 17% of their friends are informed, and so forth. This is also free.

– Paid: You can “pay” Facebook to boost your post (pay for additional organic reach by displaying your post to more fans and friends of fans) or target a broader range of people related or unrelated to you (by country, age, sex, interest, etc.) using other types of Facebook ads.


It is important to mention that, if your network is composed of, let’s say, 50% of fake fans, a corresponding amount of messages will be propagated to these fake fans and thus lost in cyberspace with no ROI. This is why it is important for a business to think about his online social capital not as a total of likes but as a group of individual fans, customers, influencers, advocates, etc.


The difference between fans and customers is huge. Yet, most of the time, managers fail to see it. By experience, I saw companies forced to increase their prices to cover the expenses incurred on Facebook to grow and maintain their Facebook fan base.

Ask yourself how come you have tens of thousands of fans on Facebook and only a few hundreds buying from your store. Ask yourself how you’re going to cover for the expenses of a Facebook fan campaign if your product’s price is 1$. Ask yourself if your strategy is bringing customers to your shop, not fans to your Facebook page. Ask yourself what is the formula to translate virtual fans into real customers knocking on your door…

Before going social, ask yourself the traditional, old fashioned, down-to-earth questions that count.

Writing Upside Down in Twitter, Facebook, Website, etc.

If you ever need to do this, the short way is to go to http://toolsgeek.com/upsidedown.php, type, copy and paste the text anywhere else.


For a detailed explanation of how this work, visit:


This works perfectly on Facebook and Twitter (including their mobile apps) but will not work on all websites, especially if you’re using an admin to manage them (including WordPress).