For decision-makers in the entertainment industry, analyzing social media can be a fast, accurate and cost-effective approach to understanding viewer opinions and preferences. Writers, producers, actors and others associated with shows can use social media analysis to quickly find insights about what viewers think of specific elements of a show. For instance:
- Got a news show? What do viewers think of your lead anchor or your weather person?
- Got a kids show? What do kids and parents think about your mascot?
- Got a comedy show? What do people think of your running gag?
- Got a radio program? What do people think of your call-in segment?
Researchers using traditional methods to find answers to such questions have to take into account such considerations as: How big is the sample? How long does it take to get feedback? How can we get this level of insight on our five competing shows/properties?
For each of those considerations, social media is an improvement over traditional methods, enabling managers to answer questions and find insights with lightning speed. This case study about Dunder Mifflin, the fictitious company in the hit NBC comedy show The Office, shows how.
About Dunder Mifflin
Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc. is a fictitious paper sales company featured in the United States television series The Office. The series takes place primarily in the Scranton, Penn. branch of the company, where the series’ main character, Michael Scott, played by Steve Carell, is the painfully awkward but kind-hearted branch manager. Until very late 2009, Dunder Mifflin supposedly traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol DMI. You can visit the Dunder Mifflin website to read more about the company.
Viewers like the Dunder Mifflin employees, especially Michael Scott, followed by his sidekick Dwight Schrute (played by Rainn Wilson).
- Farewell, Michael Scott…greatest boss at Dunder-Mifflin Scranton branch…it’s been a great 7 seasons…“That’s what she said”….. (source)
- Michael Scott will always be the funniest Manager at Dunder Mifflin Gonna miss his character though. (source)
- I’m willing to argue that the television show “The Office” is one of the greatest shows of all times. Alot of the show’s popularity has to do with the character Dwight Schrute, Dunder Mifflin’s best salesman. If you’re familiar with the show you’ll know Dwight has a bobblehead of himself at his desk. Dwight is truly one of a kind, and with the likeness to Dwight that this bobblehead possesses – it’s a special one of a kind too! (source)
People love their “Dunder Mifflin T-shirts.”
- So I got like $2 off my pizza because the cashier liked my Dunder Mifflin shirt! With this and all the compliments that I get for this shirt it has more than paid for itself! (source)
- I love my Dunder Mifflin shirt. Can I go back to the NBC store and buy 100 more just like it or. (source)
Many viewers say they’d “like to work at Dunder Mifflin.”
- If I had the choice to work for any company in the world, i’d probably choose Dunder Mifflin…….Scranton branch of course. (source)
There are many posts where viewers express their opinion on what actor should replace Steve Carell as the new branch manager. James Spader got the most votes, followed by Will Ferrell and Jim Carrey.
- I think James Spader is the best choice for manager of Dunder Mifflin. Different enough from Carell, while still a loose cannon. (source)
- I am excited Will Ferrell is getting Steve Carrell’s job at Dunder Mifflin. I hope he does not mess up! NBC got a huge name, should work. (source)
The biggest negative theme by far is disappointment about Michael Scott leaving. While that’s a negative because viewers are sad or disappointed, it’s also a testament to how good he was in his role.
- Man, the episode of The Office last night was really hard to watch.[face_cry] I just can’t imagine Dunder Mifflin without Michael Scott.[face_rose]. (source)
- Royal wedding? Tonight Dunder Mifflin loses it’s greatest employee ever:( sniff, sniff. Goodbye Michael Scott! My Thursdays will never be the same. (source)
- No one wants to see Steve Carell’s Michael Scott leave Dunder Mifflin, least of all the producers of The Office… (source)
Posters had various reasons for not liking specific storylines or episodes or the show in general. Many feel the show has jumped the shark.
- The Office – The show has really lost its footing in the last few years, feeling increasingly gimmicky and contained versus long-term storylines, whether they be office-related (like the multiple season implosion of Dunder Mifflin) or character-related (hello romantic storylines). There have been some laughs this season, but overall its kind of par for the course of the latter Office seasons. (source)
- In the brutally protracted hourlong episode (witlessly written by Rainn Wilson), everybody at Dunder Mifflin seemed to be torturing one another, whether it was Dwight traumatizing Jim (Ellie Kemper) repeatedly insulting Holly’s looks. Here’s a better question: When did The Office become a drama? Darryl (Craig Robinson) squabbled with his ex over Christmas custody of their daughter, Michael (Steve Carell) declared “I’m dead inside” after learning Holly and A.J. (source)
“Casting” and “Characters” are much-discussed aspects of the show, with viewers expressing their opinions on specific decisions.
- I’m so disappointed that Kelly isn’t the new branch manager at Dunder Mifflin! @mindykaling I was holding out major hope. You’re a genius. (source)
- Ergo, in my OPINION – not stated or implied fact – the show has gone on so long that the antics of Michael and Dwight SHOULD have changed into real character development so that they would better complement the cast of office workers rather than being the two WILD misfits. Everyone at Sabre (Dunder-Mifflin) is a stereotype that we all recognize…but Micheal and Dwight go about their stereotypes in a distracting and irritating manner, once again, in my opinion. (source)
Uh-oh. Here’s someone dissing the Dunder Mifflin T-shirt, which was the second biggest Positive Theme.
- I’m gonna go out on a limb here.. and say that the Dunder Mifflin Shirt isn’t really that cool anymore. #NeverReallyWas #Sorry@ryanooo. (source)
An episode of a TV series, once it’s aired, can’t be changed or improved. But the “product” is the ongoing series, and feedback from viewers, like feedback from consumers on tangible products, can be used to shape and improve a series going forward. A tool like NetBase is an ideal way to keep tabs on that feedback.
Entertainment execs can also examine social media to gauge fan feelings about the direction of a series. For instance, there are many factors that go into a major decision like who should be the next manager of the Dunder Mifflin Scranton office, but audience preference has got to be one of them. Sure, NBC can ask fans to vote for their choice on a Facebook page or other site, and can get a read that way, but using a tool like NetBase that scans more than 95 million sources—forums, blogs, reviews, microsites—gives a much more complete picture. Even though we didn’t specifically search on the question of who should replace Steve Carell, the leading choice for viewers was James Spader. NBC execs might take note of that.
Execs could even choose to examine public opinion of James Spader and the other potential replacements to aid in the decision. Would anyone like to see a netnography of James Spader or some other actor? Let me know and I’ll put one together to illustrate this.
The show’s writers and producers can analyze results of a netnography like this one to see what viewers think of storylines, character development, casting decisions, specific episodes and more. For example, opinion was sharply divided on the hour-long finale where Michael leaves. While writers probably won’t always want to “give the audience what it wants,” it’s still useful for them to see—right after the episode airs—what the reaction was to the latest plot twists and developments, and analyzing social media is an ideal way to do that.
About Our Approach
This case study is a form of social media analysis called a netnography—a qualitative, interpretive research methodology that adapts the traditional, in-person ethnographic research techniques of anthropology to the study of online communities.
To write this netnography, NetBase analyzed thousands of posts from consumers about the brand. The posts are automatically sorted into Positive or Negative classifications by our natural language processing (NLP) engine, then we manually sample those posts.
To summarize a netnography as we’ve done here, we distill our findings into useful insights about how the brand we studied is positioned and perceived. We can provide our source data and confidence intervals for the percentages in the theme charts upon request.
Read more: The Best Salesman Ever?