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Twitter a poor predictor of movie success

Weak link between good reviews and real-world success could mean marketing rethink

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Twitter users' reviews of movies are kinder than those found on other social networks, but none are good predictors of how a film will fare at the box office.

That's one of the findings from a study of movie-related Tweets, plus posts to IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, by a trio of Princeton students.

Why Watching Movie Tweets Won't Tell the Whole Story?, by Felix Ming Fai Wong, Soumya Sen, Mung Chiang, is the result of research that gathered fifteen million tweets that mentioned one or more of 34 movies either in contention for the Academy Awards or released in January 2012. Those Tweets were analysed in various ways to make sure the data was valid, with one cleaning method weeding out posts containing terms like “the help” which also happened to be the name of a movie.

The results of this analysis showed the number of positive re-views on Twitter indeed exceeds the number of negative reviews by a large margin for almost all the movies tracked.”

This observation holds some promising implication in developing general marketing strategies for sellers and distributors. For example, instead of focusing on reducing the negative reviews from a few dissatisfied customers, it may be better to focus on enhancing the already high proportion of positive reviews on online social networks and use viral effects to influence consumers.”

The trio then “collected data from IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes for box office figures and the proportion of positive user reviews per movie” and studied “how well … pre- and post- release hype on Twitter correspond to a movie's eventual ratings from the general population on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes.”

That analysis revealed weak correlation between positive pre-release Tweets and eventual performance. “We need to be cautious in drawing conclusions about a movie's success from observed Twitter trends. Even accounting for the hype and the approval level in Twitter may be insufficient to predict a movie's rating from the general online population.”

Overall, the trio conclude that “scores computed from Twitter reviews and other online sites do not necessarily translate into predictable box office.” ®

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