Researchers at Hewlett Packard have said that Twitter can be used to predict the future box-office takings of blockbuster films.
The researchers studied 3 million tweets about 25 movies, including Avatar and found the rate of the messages produced could be used to accurately predict box office takings before the film opened.
"Our predictions were incredibly close," said Bernardo Huberman, head of the social computing lab at HP. For example, the system predicted that zombie film The Crazies would take $16.8m in its first weekend in the US and it actually took $16.06m.
Again for the romantic drama Dear John, the team predicted it would take $30.71m in its first US weekend. It took $30.46m.
"We developed algorithms to analyse these tweets and measure the rate at which they were produced," said Dr Huberman. "Our intuition was that the faster people tweet, the more likely they are to go and see it." Huberman said it was an entirely new way of tapping into collective intelligence.
Jan Saxton, vice president and senior films analyst at Adams Media Research stated, "Word of mouth builds audience. If word of mouth becomes a faster, more effective marketing tool, then the effect on the movie business could be profound."
Both Huberman and Saxton have commented that the demographic of Twitter may limit the utility of the system for analysis of some trends, such as those aimed at children.
However the sentiment analysis is already planned to be used for other goods including technological advances to predict how well they will sell.
A company called Tweetminster will also be using this technique to monitor how each political party is faring in the run up to the general election next month.
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