Big Brother’s Radar, Social Media and Public Votes
Big Brother is undoubtedly one of the most popular Australian shows on Social Media. Outside of ABC’s weekly hit Q&A, our 2013 study of Australian TV found Big Brother was constantly the show with the highest levels of conversation on Twitter, while precise Facebook data is hard to quantify, but the Official Big Brother page boasts 790,000 likes and over 38,000 comments since the start of the series, it has established a firm presence on that platform too.
Given this popularity, and a significant overlap between the target market for Big Brother viewers and the social media platforms, it will be interesting to observe the extent to which social media activity (and perhaps, eventually, sentiment) acts as a predictor for votes on the show. In this blog, following the first round of nominations, first eviction and the first round of single nominations, we are going to look to the data from the last 2.5 weeks to try to test whether social media activity acts as a predictor of public votes.
So far, at least, it has been a mixed bag, but let’s start with the positive; the public vote for the ‘Perfect Pair’ dance competition, in which the winners were awarded $30,000, was held between the final two pairs – Lawson and Aisha & Dion and Jason. The public then voted for the pair with the best dance through JumpIn, but did they actually just vote for their favourite pair? If we use social media activity as a barometer, it seems that could be the case. Our data showed a tight race, which Lawson & Aisha just pipped, and indeed the public vote came back 51.8% in favour of Lawson & Aisha. Perhaps, if they had been up against, say, Travis and Cat – who were hardly mentioned this week – they would have won by even more:
Lawson also tells an interesting story in the overall polling; as seen in the chart below which highlights the running total for all housemates; largely anonymous until the dance-off and his decision to give Aisha the lions share of the prize money ($20,000) was rewarded in the social media volume.
Below is a running total of Twitter mentions for the pairs since launch night, however we will focus on the last week’s long-winded and highly debated eviction process for the time being. Nominees made up 5 of the six most talked about housemates on the night before the eviction process began, and the ones not being talked about were being carried by their partner based on the pairs table:
We can of course ask some other interesting questions from these charts: where were Skye and Lisa when they were ‘saved’? Were Jake and Gemma losers in the public vote due to anonymity, or hatred? What caused David and Sandra to be saved, when they were virtually anonymous through the first week, and only talked about subsequently in regard to David’s chauvinistic comments. Was it better for David to be hated, rather than not talked about at all? Related to this, there is the question of screen time and popularity inside the house, allowing us to address what went wrong for Gemma this week, given her achieved intent to secure airtime?
Up for eviction this week were Skye & Lisa, Jake & Gemma, Travis & Cat and David & Sandra. Ever since the Katie & Priya first week fiasco, Skye & Lisa have been by far the most talked about pair of the season and consequently were saved on Monday night as per our prediction based on the previous graph, with Skye & Lisa the most popular pair on the 22nd September. Interesting here, however, is that Gemma & Jake were the pair with the second most social media activity, and the most popular during the nomination period, indicating that the sentiment will also be a significant factor in creating further predictions.
While we have our own tool monitoring Big Brother discussion (http://bigbrother.thehypometer.com), Channel 9 (Mi9/JumpIn) have also launched a counter, the “Big Brother Radar”, which captures tweets and Facebook statuses by those who seek, deliberately, to be noticed by the radar using official C9 hashtags (e.g. #BBAUGemma). Our tool, by contrast, attempts to measure the underlying volume of discussion (and, by possible inference, interest) in the competitors as a whole, on social media.
Going forward, we hypothesise that those housemates who the public have no interest in will be those who struggle in a ‘vote to save’ format. That said, it’s probably not advisable to bet based on this information. It may be that the Radar format serves as a better prediction of those likely to be evicted (i.e. the effort to post with the correct hashtag is correlated to the effort to vote), it may be that sentiment proves highly significant, or indeed it may be that social media is not a good barometer of the BB voting public. Whichever of these proves to be the case however, the data is sure to be interesting.
Finally, it is worth noting that one of the problems of a lack of live feed – which we have ranted about previously – and indeed this year any live updates at all is that it allows producers to largely control the message; hence, social media reaction largely follows the amount of airtime given to contestants and the plot lines developed, much like a soap. By contrast in the USA, with 4 live camera views running 24 hours a day, users are able to create and share their own storylines about the housemates — generating ‘hype’ for the show which we do not see here. In Australian Big Brother we are told what to think, and we’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader how that reflects on wider society. Finally, we’ll leave you with a running total of the housemates mentions to date, where Skye continues to lead the way: