Remarkable findings from a University of East Anglia study have found that Twitter posts offer a more accurate prediction of in-play football results, compared to online odds given by Betfair.
Researchers from the University’s School of Economics analysed 13.8 million tweets during the 2013-14 English Premier League season and compared them with prices given by Betfair.
They found that if the combined tone of supporter tweets at any time in the match was positive, then the backed team was more likely to win than the odds Betfair suggested.
Using Twitter made for an average return of 2.28% from more than 900,000 bets, while combining results from more than four million bets across all 372 matches analysed yielded an average loss of 5.41%.
These results were described by those conducting the research as “quite striking”.
Dr Alisdair Brown, the lead researcher, said: “The modern forecaster has a number of tools at their disposal.
“In particular, prediction markets and social media have proved extremely popular.
“We know that prediction markets, such as Betfair, generally lead to accurate forecasts, and outperform individual experts and polls in many settings.
“However, we wanted to find out if social media has anything to add. Can we combine probability forecasts from prediction markets with social media output to improve our predictions?
“We find that Twitter activity predicts match outcomes, after controlling for betting market prices.
“Much of the predictive power of social media presents itself just after significant market events, such as goals and red cards, where the tone of Tweets can help in the interpretation of information.
“In short, social media activity does not just represent sentiment or misinformation. If sensibly aggregated it can, when combined with a prediction market, help to improve forecast accuracy.”
The study, published in the Economic Inquiry journal, is said to highlight a “wisdom-of-the-crowds” effect where, if we listen to the right parts of the crowd, we can gain more information and make better predictions.
Dr James Reade, Sports Economist at the University of Reading and co-author of the report, said: “This is great for football fans who always want to know what others think of their team.
“Betting prices, allied with the general mood on Twitter, can give a really accurate picture of where a match is going, in real time.”