An IBM (NYSE: IBM) analysis of social media sentiment indicates that Americans are increasingly upbeat about their plans for the Memorial Day weekend, with a huge increase this year in the amount of people talking about traveling and spending compared to last year.
In particular, the “Desire Ratio” – the proportion of positive versus negative comments about shopping – increased by a factor of five for this Memorial Day compared with last year.
The IBM Social Sentiment Index, which uses analytics and natural language processing technologies to aggregate and gauge consumer public opinions from Twitter, blogs, message boards and other social media, shows a 46 percent increase in the amount of conversations about Memorial Day travel compared to 2011.
This signal suggests travel providers and transportation officials could see a boost in demand and traffic during the holiday weekend.
Upbeat Discussion of Air Travel and Gas Prices
The Index also shows a large increase in social chatter about flying, with mentions jumping 65 percent compared to last year, while references to driving increased 13 percent.
Surprisingly, sentiment on the topic of gas prices, which have only recently gone down from their highest prices of the year, is considerably more positive than last year, with a 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative mentions in 2012 compared to a 1 to 1 ratio in 2011.
These combined trends may indicate that people are feeling better this year about their finances going into the Memorial Day holiday.
Retailers also could see a jump in consumer spending over the holiday. The Index, which looked at online conversations from January 1 to May 16 in 2012 and 2011, reveals an upward trend in positive sentiment toward Memorial Day spending.
The ratio of positive to negative comments about shopping and Memorial Day travel – which IBM calls the Desire Ratio — is 6.5 to 1 this year compared to a ratio of 1.3 to 1 in 2011. During the same period, negative sentiment around the topic of budgets decreased by 50 percent year over year [10.5 percent in 2011 versus 4.9 percent in 2012].
Social media analytics expose opportunities
“When analytics are applied to social media conversations, it identifies more than what people are talking about. This is valuable insight into people’s preferences and attitudes about a product or a service and helps us understand why people do what they do,” said Marty Salfen, IBM general manager, travel & transportation.
“Being able to predict, plan or act on sentiment around Memorial Day travel in real-time can be an opportunity for businesses to capitalize on fast-moving trends.
An airline could offer fliers different, more specific services or deals, transportation officials could provide more alternate routes, retailers could staff up for the long weekend.”
The wealth of online content around travel — from traveler review sites to public conversations on Twitter and Facebook — has become very influential in how people determine their travel plans.
Understanding the positive, neutral and negative nuances of their conversations and who is influential can help airlines, hoteliers and other travel service providers better market products and services to their customers, strengthen brand loyalty and respond in real-time.
IBM offers this infographic summarizing its findings:
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