Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Turns Out Social Media Has Some Predictive Value

We've recovered from our Oscar party to find that we did pretty well in predicting this year's winners. Or, I should say, the social media data we analyzed did a pretty good job of predicting this year's winners.

We nailed three of the five categories we projected: Best Picture (The Artist), Best Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer) and Best Actress (Meryl Streep). On the other two categories – Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor – the data pointed us to a projected winner, but also told us to choose a "potential winner" as the results we're somewhat mixed. In each case, our "Potential winners" took home trophies. Our Best Supporting Actor “potential winner” Christopher Plummer won for his part in The Next (Jonah Hill was our “projected winner”) and Best Actor “potential winner” Jean Dujardin was recognized for his role in The Artist (Clooney, the eternal Oscar bridesmaid, was our “projected winner”).

To briefly recap, we analyzed social media conversations around the Oscar hopefuls and landed on three metrics we thought might help predict which would win. Those metrics were total social media buzz, total influencer buzz, and a sentiment metric that tracked what percent of social media mentions were positive (compared to the recent that we're negative).

While total buzz and influencer buzz were certainly important, positive social media seemed to be the best indicator of success. In three of the categories, the winner was the person or film that garnered the highest percentage of positive social media buzz from the time the nominees were announced. The two exceptions both came among the women. Meryl Streep won Best Actress where the most likeable entry was Michelle Williams, and Octavia Spencer won Best Supporting Actress even though Jessica Chastain held an advantage in the positive sentiment metric. But in both cases, the amount of positive buzz for Mss. Williams and Chastain were relatively low. Seems while they were certainly liked, they were not liked by enough people.

One other thing we learned was that when we analyzed the full year’s worth of social media buzz, the results were dramatically different. It was also not nearly as accurate at reflecting winners as the buzz from the few weeks leading up to the Academy Awards show. Seems recency of opinion has much influence on a voting event. And people are fickle.

The implications of this fun little exercise for brands are obvious. Having people like you and talk well of you is important. In fact, it seems to be more important than just being in the conversation. That would imply that the adage of “It’s better to be known a lot and disliked than to not be known just a little” for a brand may be misleading. It appears that being held in the public’s good favor means that people like you. And they like you now not just then, as our exploration of recency indicates.

Turning the goodwill of positive public opinion into success means that people are talking to others about you – all of our projected and potential winners were near the top of the buzz categories (an unfortunate learning for Williams and Chastain). But if you’re a brand today, whether you’re trying to win an Oscar or just more customers, getting people to like you appears to be a very important part of the puzzle.