Guest Post by: Monica Shaw
One of the things that continues to amaze me about social media measurement is how quickly our abilities are evolving with the ongoing changes in technology and the Internet. Computers are getting faster, math is getting slicker and the number of people working on social media measurement is multiplying like a viral tweet.
These new technologies are a digital gold mine for marketers – not only will our lives get easier, but our planning will become more robust and our marketing efforts more successful. After all, that’s what this is all about – using technology to do a better job and in less time. So what’s shaping the digital future? Here are five major trends to keep an eye on.
The Social Web
The web has changed from a database of informative web pages to a social space where people discuss, link to, review and share articles. The result is a massive interconnected network of people and links which we can track and measure.
This network also represents a web of conversations among real people talking about every topic under the sun, from health and sex to products and brands. As more people integrate social media into their own websites, the web will only get more social as time goes on. For marketers, the social web offers an ocean of consumer insights. The trick is knowing how to find and sort those insights into meaningful information. This is where data mining comes in…
Data mining is all about extracting patterns from data automatically using computers. One the web, the data we’re talking about are the huge amounts of text, links, video and other content found on the web. We can “mine” that data to find patterns in what people are searching for, talking about, linking to, retweeting, “liking”, and so on.
For brands, data mining makes the social web useful. It allows us to find patterns in consumer attitudes, patterns that would be extremely difficult and expensive to find through surveys or other traditional marketing techniques.
“Data is the new oil – let’s work on refining it.”
– Ashley Friedlei, CEO of eConsultancy
Social Network Analysis
Social network analysis is a branch of mathematics that maps the connections in the social web. These maps can be used to measure the value of people in the network based on their connections. For example, consider all of the people on the internet talking about the Kindle, linking to articles and reviews, and debating the merits of the Kindle versus the iPad. All of these conversations form a network of connected links and words; social network analysis lets us determine who in that network is most popular and most influential. Needless to say, this is an invaluable tool for marketers who want to find influential people and organizations related to their brand.
Natural language processing
Natural language processing (NLP) is a field of computer science and linguistics concerned with the interactions between computers and human languages. The idea is to create computer programs that “understand” human conversations and can analyse those conversations to understand the needs of their human users.
NLP can be used to discover useful facts in a large amount of text, such as that found on the social web. Already, we can use NLP to discover prominent people, places, topics and phrases in conversations. For example, what are the most popular brands of hand soap in the UK? Or, what words do people use when they talk about The Gap? This kind of information is hugely useful to brands who want to discover key issues and opinion leaders on topics related to their brand.
Sentiment analysis is an area of NLP that uses computers to determine the attitude of the writer on a particular topic. We can use sentiment analysis to determine whether what someone says is positive or negative. This has huge benefits for brands wanting to measure reputation, track a campaign or manage a crisis.
These technologies will have a huge effect on how we do social media measurement in the future, and they’re certainly in our toolbox for projects to come. What technologies are shaping YOUR future of social media measurement? Please let us know in the comments!