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Do You Know Where Social Data Comes From?

February 28th, 2012 · 6 Comments

What IS Social Media Analytics- Can we Agree?


Social Media Data is a commodity - Tools and approaches are not.
(Social Media Expert Interview Series Part 3 of 3 - Part 1, Part 2)

I just did a brief panel interview with Useful Social Media ahead of the Social Media Analytics Summit. We were asked four very interesting questions. I think there are some big differences of opinion on what constitutes social media analytics. Surprisingly, what I think we were all able to agree on generally is what constitutes social media data used in text analytics. If we’re all using the same data, then the data is a commodity, which means when selecting an analytics vendor there is little need to consider data in the equation. Decisions should be made on which text and data mining tools are most effective for your specific use case.

Q. When you think of “Social Media Data,” what do you think of first? Second?

Tom (OdinText): First I think about all the data that we are generally not getting. The rich juicy stuff such as the connections between people on Facebook and the comments on their walls, even discussions in LinkedIn groups etc.

Then secondly I think about Twitter and blogs (RSS data), which is where the majority of the “Social Media Data” folks use is actually coming from - just because it’s easy and free to get to.
Don’t get me wrong, with a little thinking ahead of time you can get some very actionable data and insights from what’s already available, and it doesn’t have to be limited to Twitter and blogs. But if you believe your social media monitoring firm is delivering the web to you, they’re not!

Chris (Gnip): I think of the opinions, debates, thoughts, and insights that are expressed via public social conversation and how this data has unlimited potential to fundamentally change the way businesses operate.

My second thought is around some of the key publishers that are facilitating the generation of such valuable content: Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Wordpress, Disqus, etc.

Nathan (Social Target): I was trained by the early concerns about what people were saying in social media-only it wasn’t called social media at the time. So the first thing I think of is the content people create: the blog posts, reviews, tweets, videos, and everything else they put out there for the world to see.

The second is the data created by all the observable actions people take in social media settings: connecting with friends; following interesting people; sharing, tagging, and linking to content; clicking on “favorite” and “like” buttons; voting on reviews… Most of the new features in social media create still more data, and the young companies that dominate the space don’t seem to be out of ideas.

Kami (Zoetica Media): Social media data are at the heart of understanding your community. Far from being cold and impersonal, data call tell a story that intuition alone cannot deliver. As much as we like to believe that we fully understand our community, what people say and what people do are often very different. Data can help to guide intuition.

For that reason, the second thing I think of when I consider social media data it’s importance as a tool to diagnose, prioritize and evaluate what you are doing as an organization and use it to make course corrections.

Q. Do you think there is currently a common understanding as to what constitutes social media data?

Nathan (Social Target): Definitely not. I can usually tell what a person’s job is by the way they discuss social media data and what it’s good for. That specialization is natural, because there’s so much to learn, but it’s keeping us from having a common vocabulary across disciplines.

Superficially, you can measure at least four categories of data in the social media context: the content people create, information about the creators of that content, information about the audience of the content, and information about how people connect and interact. I don’t know if we’ll ever agree on our terminology, but we can avoid misunderstandings by being clear about which data we’re talking about.

Chris (Gnip): Definitely not. For example, some think of social media data as Twitter data because Twitter has done a better job than some other companies of making their data available in a full coverage, reliable, scalable format. The reality is that social media data comes in lots of different forms from lots of different sources. We’re working hard to help companies understand how different types of social data can be useful for different types of analysis.

Kami (Zoetica Media): I think there isn’t a clear consensus. Is it text analysis, sentiment analytics, something else? I also think it is being marketed to a constituency that doesn’t necessarily have the background to understand some of the differences. There is also a difference between an academic view of data and harnessing data to provide actionable insights that can drive business decisions

Tom (OdinText): Common to certain groups perhaps, but not between groups. Developers for instance often begin building a tool because a certain type of data is easy to get to. Klout is an excellent example. It’s totally reliant on Twitter even though less than 9% of the US population is on Twitter. Facebook is far more popular of course, but you can’t get to that data without users opting in.

But then if you look at groups who use some of these tools to make marketing decisions, they don’t understand what’s missing. Someone could be very influential in social media and not be on Twitter or Klout. If they have 5,000 connections on LinkedIn Klout won’t know, and the maximum shown on LinkedIn is “500+”. Just giving an example, I think Klout can be a useful tool as long as you know what you are seeing and what you are not seeing.

Q. There’s a lot of social media monitoring vendors out there now. How do most of them get their data?

Tom (OdinText): Great question. As our text analytics platform OdinText is data agnostic, i.e. our clients are just as likely to use it for analyzing their Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys or CRM/Call Center logs as with social media data, I’m not afraid to answer that question honestly.

What a lot of firms who specialize in just social media monitoring won’t tell you is that they don’t acquire much, if any, of the data themselves. Sure a few of us may connect directly to the Twitter API for basic Twitter data, but more often even for Twitter and certainly for blogs firms just buy it from an aggregator, mainly Gnip.

It’s a well-kept secret though. Most of these firms and I could mention several, want clients to think that the social data is part of their value- add when in fact it isn’t. Clients should be choosing social media analytics platforms based on how well they meet their specific use case. That is, are you comfortable with how their text analytics engine works and how well/easily does the software get you the insights you need.

It’s often the first thing I tell a potential client who is using some other social media monitoring platform; we can use exactly the same raw data they already use and provide more useful information for those who want to go beyond Public Relations engagement… [Read the full Q&A]

Marketing Research, PR, Brand Managers, HR etc. are and should all be looking at social data, but the tools we use should also be different.

What do you think?

@TomHCAnderson

@OdinText

PS. Check back here on the blog later this week as I talk to the Top 10 Most Influential on Social Media. Should be a fun series and I think we’ll learn something as well ;)

[Post to Twitter] 

Tags: Anderson Analytics · Conferences · Datamining · Interview · Kout · Linkedin · Marketing research · NPS · Odin Text · OdinText · Sentiment Analysis · Social Analytics · Social Analytics Summit · Social Media · Social Media Marketing · Text Analytics · Text Analytics Summit · Twitter · facebook · text mining · tomhcanderson

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Meta Brown // Feb 28, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Tom,

    I’m surprised to see the words “Social Media Data is a commodity” here. Some information is widely available, at least to those who can pay an aggregator, but there is so much more that the networks, by reason of choice or obligation, hold close to the chest.

    Recently I read a commentary on sports analytics which took quite the opposite position on that field. Smart analysts could be obtained by anyone, the author said, so the real opportunity is in developing useful proprietary data. Many social networks have that. (Sorry, I couldn’t find the link to that commentary right away.)

  • 2 Tom H C Anderson // Feb 28, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Meta, not sure quite what you mean. The definition of a commodity is a class of goods for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a market. A commodity has full or partial fungibility; that is, the market treats it as equivalent or nearly so no matter who produces it.

    I am speaking about the text data used in social media monitoring. All social media monitoring firms are using exactly the same data (from Twitter, the index of blogs and discussion boards, as well as that which is publically available on Facebook). Naturally Facebook has access to more data than what the aggregators provide, but no one can get access to that, so it’s a moot point.

  • 3 Patrick Furey // Feb 28, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Technology is never proprietary for long ….. the quality of the analysis (BI) is the differentiators. Pilot skill is ALWAYS the prime component of success vs. jet design. Technology assisted human analysis is the ultimate formula for BI in my view.

  • 4 Jeremy Muratore // Feb 28, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    Hey Tom,

    Solid post, great panel Q’s. Definitely agree that everyone who’s using Social Media to achieve a business goal/objective needs to look at the data (Social, Business, Web Analytics, etc.), know what it means and be able to act on it…

    Did you discuss the prevalence of issues around having great tools and a knowledge gap preventing customers/clients from being able to use them effectively?

    Thx!

  • 5 Lukas Womack // Mar 4, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    I’ve been working on a new idea. I come from the artificial intelligence / web worlds. I created an idea/site/app that captures end-user feeling based data in a neural-net architecture. The data is tied to a user ‘demographic profile’, but the user remains anonymous. This data creates a new index on ’search’; an index for who (dynamic demographic groups of religion/race/gender etc) is feeling, what they are feeling, and what content these feelings are tied to.

    Power: example: Find the latest content where christian males are feeling upset. [tagged with concept xzy][etc] I can’t do that on google.

    The same technology can easily be applied to a truly targeted advertising model; (I’ve already coded that too but don’t want the idea stolen) one that does not violate privacy. I don’t dare nor do I need to violate privacy to deliver ads that users love and respond to. The everyday feedback data itself is the algorithm to dictate the matching ad profiles. Campaigns can easily be set up that tap into this powerful dataset. No tracking, no ip searches, no cookie cracking needed. I have a provisional patent for temporary protection. The every-day-activities… the ’share this’… the thumb up or thumb down the social world uses goes directly to use. The technology was designed to use this information not as an after-the-fact thought (how do we monetize this?) but as a foundational principle. I use this data to build an intelligent set of extremely useful information.

    Through “FRANK” any user can create a set of ‘things’ they want their own web users to have access to. (examples: https://www.feelzy.net/2012_frank_demo.html, electionhawk.com, abovevip.com, http://www.monitorthemedia.com/) In other words, you don’t have to use feelzy.net to use feelzy.

    Anyhow, I have a ‘day’ job to pay the bills and can’t chase this too much and I don’t want it to go to waste. It is sort of just sitting out there right now. I found this link via ‘linked in’ and thought I would drop this plug.

    Surely this technology could be userful.

    Cheers,

    Lukas K Womack

  • 6 Tom H C Anderson // Mar 5, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Sounds interesting - we’ve been doing somewhat similar work. Might be fun to chat sometime.

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