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Study: Film had varied effect on Facebook's image

"The Social Network," tops at the box office for the second week in a row, likely gave young filmgoers a more positive impression of the real Facebook than they had before.

Opinions were mixed as to whether the film "The Social Network," which topped the U.S. box office charts for the second week in a row, would have a positive or negative effect on audiences' perceptions of Facebook as a company. On one hand, CEO Mark Zuckerberg is depicted as a harsh megalomaniac; on the other, the well-received movie is a sexy, stylized look at Silicon Valley that certainly makes hacking and engineering seem a bit more titillating than it is in real life.

YouGov, a market research firm that's been monitoring Facebook's "brand perception" for some time now among U.S. audiences with its "BrandIndex" product, says the answer is twofold: Young adults' opinions of Facebook have gone markedly up since the October 1 release of "The Social Network," but in the 50+ demographic it remains quite tepid.

That's not surprising. With its young cast, edgy electronic soundtrack, and plethora of scenes set in college dorms and at parties, the film is skewed toward an appeal to young audiences in the first place. And in this case it seems like the cinematic version of Facebook may have given them a better impression of the real-life social network.

Granted, YouGov didn't specify whether the people it polled had seen the movie or planned to. But Facebook's brand perception took such a sharp jump up among the 18- to 34-year-old demographic right around the film's release that it's difficult to argue that there wasn't a correlation somehow. YouGov charts its BrandIndex on a scale from -100 to 100 (negative to positive) and in the 18-34 demographic, Facebook went from a score of 23.5 on September 22 all the way to 46.4 on the film's opening day, and then climbing even further to 51.5 the following week.

Adults between 35 and 49, according to YouGov, were less swayed by the effects of the movie. But as press and hype built up in the days before the theatrical release of "The Social Network," the BrandIndex score for Facebook among adults over 50 reached a low point of 13.7 on September 28. It had returned to its previous position in the low 20s within a few days of the film's release.