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Lights, Camera … Social Sentiment?

November 28, 2012

It’s that time of year. The temperatures are dropping, the sales are in full swing and the movie companies – well, they’re fighting for our attention. But there’s a new twist on the old box office. Crowning a winning film each weekend used to be as easy as counting ticket sales; the one with the largest number of receipts won. But today, movie studios can go one step deeper and get to “the voice of the crowd.”

USC Annenberg Innovation Lab and IBM teamed up to use big data for real-time social sentiment analysis in a project called the Social Sentiment Index. Using IBM InfoSphere Streams, which enables real-time analytics processing, the Index combines sophisticated analytics and natural language processing technologies to assess opinions – whether positive, negative or neutral – shared in millions of public tweets. Last weekend, the Social Sentiment Index was used to measure moviegoers’ thoughts on the biggest four-day movie stretch of the year: the Thanksgiving holiday.

It should come as no surprise that “Twilight” led the pack, by far. And what’s interesting is that even though the positive sentiment dropped, the index captured that some of the negative tweets stemmed from those expressing sadness about the series ending. In other words, it can tell that some “negative” tweets are positive for the movie itself. I can only imagine what would’ve been measured if this had been around during the release of “Terms of Endearment.”

But more impressive than the sheer volume of tweets analyzed is what this means for an industry that hasn’t changed in nearly 50 years. Thanks to the real-time processing power of InfoSphere Streams, movie studios no longer have to wait to see how their movie performed. They can get feedback as it’s happening. And what does this mean? Well, it can change the way the studio markets the movie when it goes to DVD. It can shape the conversation around a movie. When you not only know what’s being said but which groups are talking about your movie, it makes it easier to know your target audience.

That’s the power of big data. It enables you to learn what’s happening as it’s happening, and use what you learn to change what happens next. Sounds like a futuristic sci-fi movie itself, doesn’t it? But with big data technologies like IBM InfoSphere Streams, these things are happening today.

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