No, Social Can't Predict the Oscars, But It Can Award a 'People's Oscar'

Oscar Voters Don't Always Reflect the Tastes of the American Public

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John Squire
John Squire

On the surface, Super Bowl quarterbacks and Oscar nominees don't have much in common. However, for those of us that are inspired by the analytical power of IBM's Watson computer, the social data created by fans provides amazing insight for a movie studio, a sports franchise, or a retailer.

Coming off our recent Super Bowl sentiment analysis, the University of Southern California Annenberg Innovation Lab and IBM turned our collective attention to the Oscars. In collaborating with the Los Angeles Times, we are measuring moviegoer social sentiment toward the Oscar nominees. I'm not talking about an informal poll being conducted on the red carpet, but rather using something we call a 'Senti-Meter,' which marries advanced analytic technologies and natural language processing. Through the Senti-Meter we can understand Oscar related opinions (both positive and negative) shared through millions of tweets.

What have we found so far?

  • To no one's surprise Meryl Streep is seen as the favorite to win the lead actress category. She is also the reigning queen of Twitter averaging 1,695 tweets per day.
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum is best picture nominee Midnight in Paris, which while consistently positive, has a substantially smaller number of Tweets.

What this data shows us is that critical acclaim and mass market appeal don't always align. In other words "The People's Oscars," doesn't always mirror who ends up holding the award on Oscar night. In this instance the reason is simple—as the Los Angeles Times recently reported, the demographics of Oscar voters are much less diverse than the actual movie-going public. Before now, box office receipts have rarely been a factor that leads to recognition and awards from the film community. But thanks to social media and the ability to share thoughts and sentiments in real-time, the general movie-going public's influence is rising.

Now of course the influence of the sentiment analysis extends far beyond just identifying the People's Oscar. By applying analytics to the rich information coursing through the social networks, movie studios can add a new layer of insight compared to traditional research and marketing tools like exit surveys at the end of test screenings. This marriage of science and social media will allow studios to better understand their audience preferences and improve both their marketing programs and box office results as effectively as Oscar himself.

For many organizations, including those in media and entertainment, there is a great opportunity to use blogs and social media content to shape their marketing strategies. Take as example the movie 'The Vow' where the movie marketers embraced social media and reaped significant benefits. After identifying the online buzz created from young women after the trailer was released, marketers quickly created video greetings from the male lead, Channing Tatum, which were then posted to Facebook. Quickly identifying a pattern and then applying some good creative social buzz proved to be such a successful tactic, the movie opened at #1 at the box office.

As I mentioned in my last post, the opportunities to use and apply analytics are endless. At IBM we are continuing to find new ways to use analytics in a wide range of industries that are hungry to better understand and connect to today's consumer. As we move forward, more and more marketing leaders will look to hone their social analytics skills, which is precisely the reason IBM continues to work with leading universities like USC. This partnership allows us to expose students to analytics technologies and in turn give them the opportunity to explore and understand data from diverse sources.

The opportunity to understand and react to social media conversations – in real time, is now a possibility. Whether you represent a movie studio, retailer, financial institution, or local energy company, marketers who use technology to tap into consumer preferences and infuse that intelligence into business decisions will inevitably build customer loyalty and solidify their brands in the market.

John Squire is the director of digital marketing and analytics IBM where he focuses on the company's Smarter Commerce initiative. John writes frequently, including for IBM's Smarter Commerce blog, and also loves to hear from readers. Follow him on Twitter at @IBMsmrtcommerce.
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