Can Social Media Predict Who Will Win the Oscars?

Photo courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Before you fill out your ballot sheet for the upcoming Academy Awards, you may want to check your Twitter feed.

Marketing and advertising firms are analyzing mentions on social media, a method called “social listening,” to predict who will win the Oscars. According to Variety, this kind of brand tracking has gone on for decades and use to consist of counting newspaper clippings to estimate brand reach. Today, it’s an automated tally of Facebook likes and Twitter mentions. Last year, the advertising tech company, Amobee, correctly predicted the winner for Best Picture as well as all four of the major acting awards by analyzing social data from the week after the nominations were announce and the activity around each film’s release.

So what’s happening here? Is social media becoming so powerful that it’s swinging Academy votes? Not exactly. The demographic of social media users is relatively young, whereas, the average age of an Academy member in 2014 was 63 years old. These older voters probably aren’t heavily influenced by hashtags and retweets.

However, there is no denying that there is a correlation between Oscar buzz and Oscar winners. In last year’s race, social media attention for Birdman soared the week before the ceremony, and the film went on to beat the once favored Boyhood. This year, Leonardo DiCaprio, the Best Actor front-runner, has garnered double the social engagement as Matt Damon, his closest competition.

Despite a celebrated career, DiCaprio has famously never won an Academy Award. The Revenant star is a near lock for Best Actor, and it’s hard not to acknowledge social media’s influence on his successful Oscar run. Since he lost to Matthew McConaughey in 2014, fans have feverishly campaigned for DiCaprio to win his elusive Academy Award through hashtags like #LeoForOscar and even an 8-Bit video game, where the actor runs through a series of obstacles in an attempt to win his golden statue. Using social media to definitively predict this year’s winners isn’t foolproof, but there’s no doubt that these platforms are influencing our opinions during award season.