Do you want to see into the future?
You might be able to just by pulling up the Twitter app on your smartphone. Sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google have reached critical mass in the United States, allowing the Average Joe to track trends that can potentially predict events in the future. Google, for example, tracks search queries related to the flu, and has been able to measure flu outbreaks.
We have found a close relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. Of course, not every person who searches for “flu” is actually sick, but a pattern emerges when all the flu-related search queries are added together. We compared our query counts with traditional flu surveillance systems and found that many search queries tend to be popular exactly when flu season is happening. By counting how often we see these search queries, we can estimate how much flu is circulating in different countries and regions around the world.
Data like this could prove to extremely powerful for health organizations as they plan their annual budgets. One day, perhaps we could even use data like this to quash the outbreak of a virus like the swine flu.
The same patterns could help us predict the winner of the 2012 presidential election. We took a look at several elections in 2010 and 2011 and, not surprisingly, found a strong correlation between winning candidates and larger Twitter and Facebook followings. To that end, we’ve compiled the numbers for the 2012 Presidential election also. The results are in…and they are very interesting.
Regardless of your politics, do you think that social media will predict the election?