Can Online Sharing Stats Predict the Oscars?

When it comes to predicting the future, we don’t need a crystal ball anymore. These days, we just need to look at how people act online – what they share with their friends on Facebook and Twitter – to predict things like box office success or the stock market.

With that in mind, we’re here to see if some social media statistics and science can help us call some Oscar winners a couple days early.

If you glance up on this page a couple inches, you’ll see the AddThis button. AddThis is one of the leading link-sharing services on the Web and sees over 1 billion unique visitors monthly from more than 8 million sites. Parent company Clearspring has leveraged this popularity to gather some data and show what films, actors and actresses are getting the most buzz in the month leading up to the Oscar Awards.

First, a little background. About six months back, HP Lab’s Bernardo Huberman released a study titled “Predicting the Future with Social Media.” According to Huberman, “social media content can be used to predict real-world outcomes.”

“We use the chatter from to forecast box-office revenues for movies,” wrote Huberman in the study’s introduction. “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.”

Let’s look at the most recent buzz, according to Clearspring:

If we look at this alone, the obvious conclusion would be that Jesse Eisenberg is going to run away with the award for Best Actor, but his recent appearance on Saturday Night Live might be something to keep in mind. Let’s take a look at what movies have been lighting up the Internet.

It looks like “Black Swan” with Natalie Portman is well ahead of Jesse Eisenberg’s “The Social Network.” And if we consider the fact that “127 Hours,” which features James Franco, is in second place for movies, we might instead choose Franco for Best Actor.

What do you think? Can social media mentions predict the outcome of this weekend’s Oscar Awards? Will Franco and Portman take it away, with Black Swan leaving with Best Picture? Or are the graphs telling the truth and showing a landslide vote for Jesse Eisenberg?

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