Can social media be used to predict the X Factor Winner?

The X factor 2012 final to be aired across a pair of two-hour shows on 8-9 December.At Brandwatch we’ve decided to turn our hand to a little online palm reading. With three weeks to go before the X Factor final, we wanted to see if we could predict the final results. Even if you’re not hooked on James Arthur, read on; you might just get some ideas for how to use a social media to benchmark and predict your brand’s success.

Last week we ran some analysis on the online buzz of the five quarter finalists, and then sat back to see if our predictions came true. Some background for those of you who didn’t catch the results show this weekend: Rylan Clark and Union J were in the bottom two after receiving the fewest public votes, and Rylan was then voted off the show by the judges.

Want to know your future? Learn from your past

We chose X Factor to demonstrate how you can use social media data to predict the future because there’s plenty of data we can learn from. When working with social data, benchmarking is paramount – how can I know what good looks like if I haven’t seen bad?

We studied the last month’s X Factor quarter finalist discussion and compared it with the five acts that made it through to last weekend’s stage in 2011, looking at exactly the same period of the competition.

Buzz volume alone is not enough to predict a winner

If we look at discussion volume for the five acts leading up to the quarter final, we can see that James Arthur was by far in the lead, with his greatest competition for the title coming from boy band Union J.

However, if we look at last year’s buzz from exactly the same point in the competition we can see that the buzz leader then was Amelia Lily (who?!) and Janet Devlin, who was given the boot that very week.

Our eventual winners Little Mix were languishing in third at that point, so it looked like all of this year’s acts still had everything to play for.

But that’s okay; we can look at much more than just volume…

To take this one step further, we took a look at which of the acts from this year and last year were most associated with winning at this stage in the competition.

We looked at anywhere that terms associated with “winning” appeared within 5 words of each of our acts. Since we’ve already established that volume isn’t everything, we’ve worked out each act’s winning buzz as a percentage of their total buzz to make a fair comparison.

Winning Buzz before the Quarter Final Show:

The results are in:

When we looked at who was most associated with winning the week before the quarter finals last year, suddenly we saw our winners Little Mix at the top and poor old Janet in the relegation zone at the bottom.

In fact, for those of you who don’t remember last year’s running order in perfect detail, this winning buzz chart displays the quarter finalists in exactly the order that they were eliminated from the competition (bottom to top).

Ranking this year’s acts in the same way, we were able to accurately predict which two acts were in the bottom two from the public vote, two days before the live show. Of course, the buzz ranked Union J lower than Rylan Clark (who went home on Sunday), but once the bottom two are chosen it’s the judges who decide who leaves, meaning that buzz tracking could not predict this part of the show.

So who’s our money on to win?

If you’d have asked us last week, our money was squarely on James Arthur, but there have been some interesting developments in the last two days that are starting to make us wonder if Christopher Maloney may cause a stir in this year’s competition.

Controversial contestant Christopher has avoided being in the bottom two, despite consistently gathering criticism from the judges, as he’s been saved each week by the public vote. After being saved yet again on Sunday, speculation is rife that X Factor saboteurs are at work once more (remember the “Rage Against the Machine” Christmas number one plot?). The idea is to discredit the franchise by voting for the less talented Christopher to win, something which Simon Cowell is keen to avoid.

If we look at each contestants winning buzz percentage for the last two days, the picture looks very different:

Winning Buzz: After the Quarter Final Show

So, will the campaign to bring Christopher to victory prevail, or is it all just hot air? We’ll be keeping our ear to the buzz closely over the next two weeks to see if we can figure it out. Stay tuned!