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Analyzing Star Trek Into Darkness On Chinese Social Media

By Huan Sun | Small Business

Earlier this year, China overtook Japan to become the largest box office territory outside the US. The box office of American movies in China increased 31% and the worth of the market reached $2.75 billion last year. This year the predicted Chinese movie market value is $3.3 billion and Hollywood movies at least are going to share half of it. With half of 2013 passed, how are Hollywood movies performing so far? At Soshio, we analyze the pulse of Chinese social media, so we decided see what people in China are saying about these movies and what drives their decisions to buy tickets.

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Star Trek Into Darkness Poster in China from Mtime.com.  In the past week, we have been tracking conversations about Star Trek across several social media platforms in China. It is the third week in theatre and one of the most anticipated Hollywood films in China this year.

Trends and Sentiments

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Figure 1 Trends of Social MentionsFigure 1 shows the number of mentions of Star Trek using the Chinese characters. June 13 (PCT) was China’s Friday, we saw a peak in social volume. As expected, at the end of a week, when people need a movie to unwind, they also talk more about it on social media.

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Figure 2 SentimentsThink about how you personally choose one movie rather than another? You probably consult friends, look up critic’s reviews, and nowadays when many of us constantly connect with social networks friends’ review becomes increasingly relevant. Figure 2 gives us the overall sentiment towards Star Trek in the past week on Chinese social media. 27.6% posts gave positive sentiment on this movie while we only find 8.5% negative sentiment around it. The sentiment from microblogs and social networks can be seen as an alternative metric of movie review score and it probably weighs more in people’s decision to buy tickets. Measuring sentiments overtime can also give professionals signals when they need to invest more in marketing efforts.

Discovering what aspects of movies are driving most social buzz

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Figure 3 Context CloudDo Chinese people on social media like to talk more about storylines, movie celebrities or visual effects? What aspects are they most interested in? Answering these questions can be crucial for movie marketers as well as investors. We have been using our context cloud to identify phrases and keywords around Star Trek. Many times, a phrase cloud is more helpful in giving the context due to its richer content. It also offers a better entry point when digging into specific posts to understand how rich a discussion is on social media.

As shown in Figure 3, Star Trek is often discussed with the movie “Avatar”. Exploring this keyword further by using our Conversation Explorer, in Figure 4, we saw a lot of posts on the actress Zoe Saldana and her performance on Avatar which evidently has left a lasting impression on the Chinese audience. In this particular case, the movie characters seem to be driving the content of social media discussion, but the context cloud allows us not only to understand what the major talking points are. It also help us find potential important factors that can play a role in the online conversation.

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Know Your Competition

In the context cloud (Figure 3), we can also see several other movies on theatre were associated with Star Trek. Digging it further in original posts might give us a better idea of moviegoers choices and decisions. For example, in the following post, a moviegoer bought a ticket of a domestic movie “Secret Fuchun Mountains” but regretted and said “should have gone to watch Star Trek.”

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Figure 5 Translated PostThe visual effect, the storyline, and the directing of Star Trek are certainly better than the domestic movie but if you are a long time movie observer on Chinese social media, it is easier to understand people’s choices like this. This domestic movie has been having high social volume and got bad reviews across many social media platforms. Some posts even claim “it is so bad that it is worth seeing how bad a movie can be.” Sometimes people prefer to go for a bad movie so that they can talk about it with friends.

Social media is challenging traditional efforts in marketing movies. For many Hollywood movies, when marching into the Chinese market, they should think beyond the quality of the production, the celebrities and other elements that define a good movie, because the social review (no matter it is bad or good) is weighing higher than before.

Since local competitors are often more aware of what happens on major Chinese social media platforms, understanding contents and sentiments of the posts about domestic movies is crucial for Hollywood companies to stay updated on the competition. Having the information, Hollywood companies can better position themselves in the competition and actively adapt their marketing strategies for the media ecosystem.

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Note: Figures in this post are screenshots from our Soshio dashboard. For communication purposes, the highlighted yellow part is our adaption of the Google Translation of original posts in Chinese. Feel free to contact us if you have questions.

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