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American Idol: Clear Reflections and Distorting Variables

This post was written by Phil Kam, Cision Analysis’ director of new services who is integrating social media analysis into general PR measurement protocol.

It’s been clearly established that social media activity reflects real world action. Unfortunately, the reflection isn’t always clear. Think of it like the hall of mirrors at the carnival—in one mirror, I have a giraffe-like neck, and in another, unusually robust calves. In the same way, to understand an online community, you have to understand distorting variables, like what kind of language is used to express intent. A quick look at buzz about the recent American Idol finals shows that measuring without understanding will keep social media analysis from delivering actionable insights.

Votes vs. Buzz: 100% Correlation

We looked at American Idol buzz on performance days, analyzing data and making predictions a few hours before the final contestants were announced. In all, we included 110,000 mentions on Twitter and Facebook.

Simply by measuring how often each contestant was mentioned, we predicted all 10 finalists.

Expressing Intent

We then experimented with different search terms to see how the results changed. When including only mentions about voting, our accuracy dropped to 7 out of 10. This highlights an important principle: that there are infinite ways to express intent. When @Cailin_Heartxx tweets, “Scott McCreery, will you marry me?” there’s a reasonable chance that she’ll vote for him. But would you have thought to include nuptials in your search terms?

Rating the Judges

USAToday says that Idol is back strong from a string of weak panels which have played a part in its floundering ratings. The team seems to be working well together, but how do their performances as judges compare against the contestants’ singing?  Without question, Jennifer Lopez is the star of the show with twice as many mentions than any of the contestants, while last night’s show would have been Randy Jackson’s last. New addition Steven Tyler would have barely made the top 5.

Looking to the Future

As an indication of the season’s likely ending, the boys got twice as many mentions as the girls. In the more immediate future, however, here is the buzz for this week’s contestants, using only names as search terms. Let’s see how tonight’s results compare.

Tags : social media

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