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Phoenix Forward

Power tool: A new system analyzes online chatter

Ron Gdovic

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could instantly find out what TV viewers thought of the latest “American Idol®” contestants — who wowed and who bombed? Ron Gdovic, an instructor of information systems and technology at University of Phoenix, has developed a way to do exactly that, by monitoring social media to track public opinion in real time.

After more than 15 years’ experience as an IT and marketing professional, Gdovic created a system called ChatterFox that analyzes social media chatter from Twitter®, Facebook®, Flickr™, Google+™, YouTube™ and other social networks. It gauges what people think about movies, music, political events and other current topics.

Gdovic hit on the concept for ChatterFox after he downloaded tweets from the Occupy Wall Street movement and realized that the group was orchestrating its actions on Twitter.

“The idea occurred to me that I could turn ‘media chatter’ into ‘media intelligence,’ with actionable results and rankings,” Gdovic recalls. So, in November 2011, he launched BuzzSwat, a social media monitoring company that helps businesses understand the public perception of their offerings.

ChatterFox works by gathering thousands of tweets or posts on any given topic and running them through “Sentiment Analysis.” “Sentiment Analysis,” Gdovic explains, “is a linguistic program that looks at language to determine whether a person’s tweet or post is a positive or negative reaction to something.”

The idea occurred to me that I could turn 'media chatter' into 'media intelligence,' with actionable results and rankings.

People rarely tweet in grammatically perfect English, so the program must be sophisticated enough to understand the difference between something that sucks and something that is really sick, for instance.

Such a quick, comprehensive analysis could have a major impact on the entertainment industry. Take television: Forty percent of TV viewers use social media on devices such as smartphones while they’re watching a show. “During a live fashion show,” Gdovic says, “theoretically, a designer could use live feedback from social media and adjust runway outfits during the show.”

Hollywood filmmakers could use the technology to more accurately take a product’s pulse. If a movie garnered negative chatter during the preview stages, the creators could feasibly adjust the movie before its national release.

Gdovic points to the recent movie “John Carter” as a film that might have benefited from an early-warning system. “Early on, social media chatter about ‘John Carter’ hinted at a recipe for disaster,” Gdovic says. “Consumer sentiment reflected confusion about the title, the trailers and the story line — certainly not the buzz Disney was hoping for.” The movie was dubbed “2012’s first mega-disaster” and did poorly at the domestic box office.

That film’s troubles starkly contrasted with the buzz measured for “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.” “Social chatter for M:I 4 peaked at nearly 4,000 positive tweets per day,” Gdovic says. He believes the hyped chatter for the “Mission: Impossible” sequel played a significant role in the movie’s box office success.

ChatterFox’s scrutiny means that habitual tweeters and posters may wield increasing influence. What were once casual shout-outs could have a significant market impact, as Gdovic’s innovation brings new meaning to the chattering class.


American Idol is a registered trademark of 19 TV Ltd. and FremantleMedia North America Inc.
Twitter is a registered trademark of Twitter Inc.

Facebook is a registered trademark of Facebook Inc.
Flickr is a trademark of Yahoo! Inc.
Google+ is a trademark of Google Inc.
YouTube is a trademark of Google Inc.

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