Researchers Sitaram Asur and Bernardo A. Huberman from HP Labs in Palo Alto, California, have been using Twitter to predict the performance of Hollywood movies at the box office and believe that they can use social media to successfully predict far more:
… this method can be extended to a large panoply of topics, ranging from the future rating of products to agenda setting and election outcomes. At a deeper level, this work shows how social media expresses a collective wisdom which, when properly tapped, can yield an extremely powerful and accurate indicator of future outcomes.
You can download a PDF of their paper here. This is the abstract:
In recent years, social media has become ubiquitous and important for social networking and content sharing. And yet, the content that is generated from these websites remains largely untapped. In this paper, we demonstrate how social media content can be used to predict real-world outcomes. In particular, we use the chatter from Twitter.com to forecast box-office revenues for movies. We show that a simple model built from the rate at which tweets are created about particular topics can outperform market-based predictors. We further demonstrate how sentiments extracted from Twitter can be further utilized to improve the forecasting power of social media.