How Social Search is Predicting the Future of the Box Office

For years, search marketers have been utilizing search data trends to make predictions that help calculate the probability that certain marketing messages might connect with audiences. As one small example, you have no doubt noticed an increase in Fortune 500 companies using the term “Cloud Computing” as of late. Although this term is still somewhat esoteric to some, search strategists began noticing a sharp upward trend among certain geographic regions – notably in parts of India and the San Francisco Bay Area – back in 2008.
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“In the cloud,” domineers began snapping up cloud-based domain names, and search strategists began optimizing Web properties for related terms. Suddenly, as journalists began decoding the term for small business audiences, it became nearly common vernacular.

Now there is a second measuring stick that may prove to be nearly as useful to business: Social Search. While there aren’t currently any widely available tools that accurately measure social search (but there are plenty that look promising), HP Labs analyzed nearly 3 million Twitter updates that mentioned 24-major releases over a three-month period. The researchers factored in the date of a movie’s release and the number of theatres where it opened, predicting ticket sales with 97.3% accuracy. By measuring sentiment (e.g. customer reviews), they predicted the following weekend’s returns with 94% accuracy.

As an example, the researchers predicted that the new film Dear John would earn $30.71 million on the first weekend ( actual: $30.46 million). For the film The Crazies, the firm predicted $16.8 million (actual: $16.07 million).

We’re following up with the researchers to find out more about how they sorted the data (presumably from the Twitter API) and what common tools they used, if any, to make their measurements. Social search has come a long way in the past 9 months, bolstered by Twitter and Facebook deals with Bing and Google), greatly enhancing our insight into social network sentiment and chatter. Free services such as SocialMention offer a hint of what may be available in the future to help marketers prophesize which concepts will resonate with consumers.
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