Can future behaviour be predicted through Twitter?

What digital media strategist wouldn’t want to be able to predict the future behaviour of corporate stakeholders by analysing what they do on Twitter – or any social media channel?  In an article on the MIT Technology Review blog, the challenge is posed how Twitter can reveal buying habits, movie tastes and even what stock market shares users might buy. Well, researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara think they might have a clue – it’s in your genes.

More specifically, your “social media genotype” as they term it.  This is a fixed set of interests that determines how you will behave on Twitter. This is evidenced by the hashtags you prefer or even create and the areas of interest you follow. Meanwhile, down the road at the IBM Almaden Research Centre in San Jose, California – they’re looking at psychological factors that could predict behaviour on Twitter. Demographics and buying habits don’t tell you much, they argue, what you have to look at is “deep psychological profiles”.

The Economist has reported on this research which takes as its starting point the five main categories of personality: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openess to experience. So what kind of language from corporates would these people react to on Twitter?  The boffins argue that extroverts choose Coca-Cola while the agreeable would opt for Pepsi.  An extrovert would react positively to promotions for mobile phones if they promised excitement as opposed to convenience.  Neurotics picked up on words like “awful” and “depressing” – hardly surprising but not exactly a gift to a marketeer.


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