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Published December 7th 2012

Can Social Media Predict TV Show Votes?

The final is nearly upon us, and after correctly predicting the last two week’s worth of eliminations (Rylan Clark and Union J), we were feeling pretty confident that we had got this X Factor prediction lark down.

By tracking the percentage of each contestant’s buzz that mentioned terms associated with winning, we saw that the acts with the lowest association would be the next to be voted off.

However, controversial contestant Christopher Maloney has thrown a bit of a curve-ball into our analysis, meaning we’ll have to dig deeper into the data before placing our bets this time.

The Story So far

A little X Factor 2012 back-story, for those who don’t follow: Liverpudlian contestant Christopher Maloney has caused controversy throughout this year’s competition as many people feel that he is out-dated and not as talented as the other contestants.

He has failed to win over the judges but has been spared from their vote as he has been kept out of the bottom two by the public.

As a result of public votes, he has now made it into the final. This week he overtook the other two finalists (Jahmene Douglas and our previous favourite James Arthur) in terms of association with winning in online buzz.

Can the least-talented singer actually win?

Our previous hypothesis, based on data from last year’s X Factor, was that a higher proportion of explicitly ‘winning-related’ mentions indicated a greater chance of success.

However, the controversy around Christopher Maloney has caused a lot of conversation about him winning that does not fit last year’s pattern.

We’ve taken a closer look at Christopher’s “winning” mentions, and broken them down by popular themes.

The pie chart shows that at least half of the buzz about Christopher winning can be attributed to jokes, neutral comments about Simon Cowell’s fear that he will win (reported in the press) and negative comments such as “if Chris wins, I’ll never watch the X Factor again”.

5% of mentions about Christopher winning say it would be funny to discredit the X Factor and even get the show cancelled.

We’ve labelled the 38% of jokes “popular jokes” as these were widely retweeted (mostly about his Nan and her poor phone bill after voting him through single handed… aaw).

We haven’t exhaustively labelled all of the jokes, meaning that some of that 50% of general “winning” mentions is likely to contain less widely shared wit.

Looking at this breakdown, it seems less likely that all this winning buzz is going to translate into votes and victory for Christopher Maloney. Shame.

 So who to pick?

If we’ve ruled out Chris, we’re down to Jahmene Douglas and James Arthur. These rivals are running a very close race in terms of association with winning (15% and 14% respectively).

To pick between the two, we’ve written a search query to bring back mentions that contain voting declaration or intention (I’ve voted for, I will vote for, etc.). The chart below shows the relative share of “Voting” buzz for each artist over the past two weeks.

If online mentions of voting are anything to go by, James Arthur has this one in the bag.

Of course, anything can happen on the night: the online world does not completely represent the offline world.

Just because more people are online talking about voting for James, doesn’t mean there isn’t an army of Jahmene voters who are less chatty in social media, and you never know how much door to door campaigning Christopher’s Nan’s been doing!

What’s exciting to us isn’t so much who wins, but what this demonstrates in terms of how we can use social media to understand unprompted consumer attitudes, and start to understand how this might relate to off and online behaviour.

Through detailed analysis of social data, we can provide our clients with meaningful insights that can really impact business decisions.

PS – If Christopher Maloney wins, we’re never watching the X Factor again…

 

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