Politicians need to take note of Twitter if they want to succeed in the forthcoming General Election in the UK. A new service called “Tweetminster” is analysing all the political tweets and using that information to predict the result of the election. At the moment it is suggesting that the Labour Party will get the largest number of seats, but will fall short of an overall majority, leading to a hung Parliament. But can the information be trusted or is it just fun?

Predicted revenue compared with actual box office receipts

Predicted revenue compared with actual box office receipts

Research conducted by Hewlett Packard would suggest that the Tweetminster results are entirely accurate. In an analysis of over 3 million tweets, Dr Bernardo Huberman has been able to show that Twitter can accurately predict the box office receipts of new movies. His research (PDF) looked at 24 new cinema releases and analysed the tweets about those films. The study then predicted the box office income simply from the number, frequency and content of those Twitter messages. Then the researchers compared their findings to the published box office receipts. As you can see from the graph (right) taken from the study, the lines are almost identical. The accuracy of the prediction is remarkable.

What this research suggests is that the “Twittersphere” is entirely representative of the “real world”. It shows that the results suggested by Tweetminster are highly likely to be correct.

The HP study also means that you can rely on Twitter searches to give you a realistic snapshot of what’s going on in your marketplace. By using Twitter Search you can get an idea of the frequency, recency and the kind of tweets on any subject. These are the factors which will enable you to predict the potential for any product or service in your industry.

In other words, Twitter is no longer a plaything, a device for updating your friends on which pub you are in. This study proves that it is a serious market research tool. And on the political front it suggests you are in for months of turmoil and indecision as we are almost certain to get a hung Parliament – which in itself can’t be good for business. That means that Twitter could be even more important in predicting fluctuations in your marketplace that will be inevitable in times of political uncertainty. Effectively, if you are not using Twitter to conduct market research in the coming months, your business could seriously suffer.

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