Social media listening can help the entertainment industry predict hits

Technology Writer

Social media listening data can help the entertainment industry get a better idea about which properties are likely to catch on. Social media has been around for more than a decade, but there is currently a critical mass of the population on Facebook and Twitter, among other networks. Analyzing the discussions on these platforms can help Hollywood film studios and television producers plan future programming and marketing strategies.

Social media listening in Hollywood

A few years ago, studios conducted consumer surveys a month before a release and used those findings to tweak marketing messages around a film. More recently though, the studios are using social media listening to track the chatter about a film a year or so before its release, as the New York Times reports.

There are a slew of analytics software and services that slice and dice the data. Some try to prognosticate box office takes by looking at social media trends. Others look at demographic data to study film ideas that are still in the concept stage.

Studios are using the information to discern the most potent method to market their movies. For instance, Sony employed such tools to figure out how to use Eminem's song "Guts Over Fear" to generate interest in "The Equalizer" among young men, as the New York Times article explains.

Finding key data

Because raw social media data is archaic, it's important to know which data is most important. One metric that has emerged is a comparison between "consumer," which is organic sentiment among consumers, and "push," a metric based on a studio's marketing, as Deadline reports. If the former is larger than the latter, then a movie is in good shape. However, a film with more "push" than "consumer" needs some help.

Such data is also helpful when comparing competing titles on an opening weekend. For instance, Lionsgate used social media listening to determine that its film "Divergent" didn't have to worry about competition from "Muppets Most Wanted," which was opening the same weekend. television channel

The TV industry uses social media data to determine and foment buzz around upcoming shows as well. For instance, going into the 2015-2016 television season, social media buzz determined that Fox's "Scream Queens" was the most-discussed new show in social media, as CMO reported. Unfortunately, that didn't translate into a ratings hit. "Scream Queens" pulled in around 4 million viewers for its premiere, but that number leveled off to 2.5 million, as the website TV Series Finale reported.

Another way to employ such data is to discern the demographic breakdown of the audience. For instance, according to Marketing Land, an analysis of the season premiere of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" found that 47 percent of posts before the premiere came from people under the age of 18 but 45 percent of the posts after the premiere came from people over the age of 35. Such demographic data can help guide a network's ad buys both before and after the premiere. The analysis also found that the "Grey's Anatomy" audience is 53 times more likely to be interested in Snapchat than the general Twitter population, a finding that indicates that a Snapchat ad buy would make sense than a Twitter ad buy.

Social media analysis can also help writers chart plotlines as they note the audience's reaction. Characters and actors that resonate with an audience can also be amplified. Such tinkering is nothing new: The 1980s and 1990s sitcom "Family Matters" wound up featuring the Steve Urkel character much more after it noted a strong audience reaction. These days, the data comes in real-time via social media.

Room to grow

As Fox's experience with "Scream Queens" illustrates, using social media data to determine hits is far from foolproof. Moreover, extreme fans can sometimes give the impression that there's a groundswell of support for a property when there isn't. The practice is still new though and likely the methods of parsing data for the entertainment industry will only get better.

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