Social Analytics

Not long ago, Christopher Nolan’s cult movie, Inception, received overwhelming viewership and critical acclaims globally. In the film, the protagonist conditions human mind to incite it and draw out a particular behavior. Inception’s success reflects our fixation with the human mind.

For years now, we have been obsessed with the idea of predicting human behavior. We have developed several disciplines that undertake microscopic analysis of human behavior. And now, we have gone a step further with the social analytic solutions.

Enterprises today are engrossed in applying technology to human behavior. Companies like IBM, SAS and SAP are busy developing and pushing out solutions that monitor social exchanges between people to identify important behavior patterns.

The Eavesdropper

It’s no secret that social media has challenged and redefined the way we communicate with each other. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter have so much going on within them that it’s beyond human comprehension. People collaborate on these networks to connect and comment.

The social networks have thus become treasure troves for the prying eyes and ears of analytics solutions. These solutions monitor what people say on social media platforms and analyze them to glean information from online conversations. The business intelligence solutions further utilize this information to enhance organizational decision-making. They help enterprises identify a particular behavior pattern or predict an event.

Marketers are tremendously excited about these solutions as they give them a better idea about how well their marketing efforts are being received. Social media buzz about a product or an ad campaign can radically impact brand value. Similarly, blasphemy of corporate policies by employees on social networks can demean corporate image. Add to that the emerging trend of corporate theft over social networks and you have a grave situation on hand.

Hence, monitoring the social media to scout for information is becoming the norm.

Social Analytics – Subjective Analytics

Now here’s the thing – there is no dearth of information out there. What we lack is the ability to prioritize it according to relevance and importance. We can get oodles of data. What matters is extracting the right kind of value out of it.

Secondly, conversations on social networks are highly subjective making analytics a relative concept. A person might use the word ‘good’ 10 to 20 times in his post about your product. What does this say? That he is happy with it. But what if the word is preceded by the word ‘not’ or ‘very’? The preceding words here change the tone of the conversation. Thus, solutions that depend on words alone need to recognize the context as well to be accurate.

Also, what we ignore is that there is an underlying segment of people who sign up on social networks fundamentally for work or merely for the sake of it. When an individual joins a social network primarily for work, he is going to be very careful and deliberate about what he posts. Similarly, when a person joins a social network merely for the sake of it, he is going to be absolutely reckless in what he posts. He might just rant and rave or vent his frustrations. How much do we want to rely on these types of exchanges?

Privacy Issues

Recently, when Facebook changed its privacy policy to make “friends list” a publicly available information, it was met by a lot of hue and cry. Now add to that the ability of corporates to watch you like hawks.

Not everybody enjoys the attention. There is going to be a large segment of your customers who may not like you prying into their lives. Some might even view it as violation of their privacy.

Reactions Awaited

The proponents of social analytics contend that the fundamental principle of web 2.0 technologies is transparency. When you join a social network you willingly waive your privacy and mash up your professional life with your personal life. So what’s all the hoopla with corporates monitoring them? Well, only time will tell how the online community takes to such monitoring.

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