Tonight, a new season of The Bachelor premieres on ABC. While the casual viewer may just now be making plans to open a bottle of red and turn on the TV at 8 p.m., Suzana Somers, the data analyst behind the popular Instagram account @bachelordata, has been prepping for this night for months.
Somers, 32, is a former elementary-school teacher with no formal training in data analysis. But she became an expert back in 2019 when she applied for a technology director role at a school district that required her to learn how to use Excel. “I put on my application that I was proficient in Excel when I most definitely was not,” she laughs. “Two months into the job, I realized I needed a way to learn, and I found that YouTube was so boring and not relatable.”
As a longtime Bachelor fan, she decided to start tracking the Instagram followings of the contestants on Colton Underwood’s season, plugging the data into Excel to practice different equations. “I basically used the show as a fun way to learn Excel for the next two years,” she says.
At first, Somers shared some of her findings with die-hard fans on message boards, and in 2020, she officially launched her Instagram account, where she shares her impressive data visualizations and analysis about the show every week with her 129,000 Instagram followers (and counting). By the end of 2021, Somers made @bachelordata her full-time job, becoming something of an influencer herself for, yes, tracking other influencers. (Somers also teaches instructional Excel courses online themed around — what else? — The Bachelor.)
During each episode of the season, Somers (with the help of another part-time data analyst) collects data about the contestants’ Instagram followings, screen time, buzzwords they use on the show, and even the colors of the gowns they wear (red is the most popular for the limo entrances, by the way). You can get a taste of her meticulous work from this video tracking finalists’ Instagram growth during the finale of the most recent season of The Bachelorette:
And, yes, she’ll be watching tonight, too. In the meantime, Somers has some surprising predictions for this year’s Bachelor, Zach Shallcross, and his 27 female contestants.
Let’s start with your process going into a new season — what kinds of data do you start collecting?
The work starts months before the season starts. As soon as the potential cast drops, we start collecting their first and last names, finding them on Instagram and on TikTok, and then we also start doing a little bit of research into their age, their careers, and their locations in the U.S. When the season’s actually starting, we prep a lot of our novelty data like the order of the limo entrances and other things that we can anticipate people will be thinking about during that first episode.
When you sit down to watch the premiere, what are you tracking in real time?
Screen-time data and other novelty data like any time we see a contestant kiss the lead. Any time that we see something special happen, like a first-impression rose or a date, we document that. And then it’s go time: Once we have all that data, we start pumping up graphics and figuring out what stories we’re going to tell that week. We also keep a really close eye on social media, between Twitter and Instagram and Reddit and all the live threads, to see what people are discussing. And we’re adding TikTok this season because this is the first cast that we’re really seeing that is truly active on the platform. From there, we can find out what pieces of data that will be the most popular based on the trending questions and topics.
Then, the day after, when the episode drops on all the streaming platforms, we can go in and extract the closed captioning, and we can do all of our word analysis. So that’s when we pull, like, how many cuss words there were in an episode versus how many times the word love was said or “right reasons” — all those different popular words that people are looking for.
In your research on this season’s 27 contestants, what sticks out to you? Is there anyone we should pay special attention to?
This is my favorite question because I truly feel that this is the most interesting cast that I have seen in years because we’re seeing a really big change. And it’s not that the cast is getting younger — I have to remind people this often, especially as somebody who started watching this show in college, which is over ten years ago now, that the cast is not getting younger; we’re just getting older. But with this cast in particular, what I’m finding very interesting is that we’re starting to see a change in the careers of who’s being cast on this show. The person I find most fascinating in this cast is Victoria J. She is a contestant who I think went under the radar because on Instagram she has 121,000 followers but on TikTok she has close to 1 million followers, which is more than most people have been getting in the last two years on this show.
There’s always the conversation whenever people watch the show of “Oh, they’re not here for the right reasons; they just want to be an influencer.” It’s always been that way, even before Instagram: People went on the show to become models, actresses, E! News hosts. So what’s interesting about Victoria is that she’s already achieved what a lot of people go on this show to do, which is to become a full-time be-your-own-boss content creator.
We’ve heard quite a bit about how restrictive and insane these contracts are that they have to sign to be on the show. I look at Victoria J., and I see somebody who’s giving up a lot of money to go on this show, and I don’t think it will necessarily benefit her. And there are a few other contestants who have a decent-sized following or are full-time influencers or they work in marketing or influencer marketing. They could be taking anywhere from six to nine months of a pay cut.
What about the lead, Zach? Could he become a bigger social-media star this season?
You know, absolutely not. He has one of the worst follower counts that we have seen for any lead. I think it’s really interesting because he is getting a lot of hate for being undesirable and whatnot, but he is exactly what people have been asking for when it comes to how he uses social media. Zach does not come across as a person who wants to be an influencer. At all. Which is what everybody wants!
This interview has been edited and condensed.