Social Media Analytics-The Road Ahead

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 2084 , Published on 26 September 2014
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According to Nielsen research‘s digital consumer report 2014, two thirds of the overall social media users state that they use social media sites at least once a day. With reference to the news and statistics on the social media platform every second 2 new members join LinkedIn, YouTube reaches more U.S. adults aged 18-34 than any cable network, there are 189 million of Face book’s users who are 'mobile only’, LinkedIn has a lower percentage of active users than Pinterest, Google+, Twitter and Facebook and 93% of marketers use social media for business. These facts are among the few of the many that depict the enormity of the social media and its ability to initiate, drive and sustain several businesses.


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With an increasing influx of information all around us, social media information regarding a person’s relations with his/her friends circle or regarding one’s online activities have become paramount for several businesses. At the forefront of this entire phenomenon is the social media analytics (SMA) and the debate regarding the breach of an individual’s privacy?

There has been a sudden surge in  the social media analytical tools that track the activities of individuals ranging from the kinds of ads they click to the patterns of his/her interactions with the social circle formed in the social media channels. Political groups, marketing and advertising agencies, research firms and many other organizations and businesses are relying upon the data derived from the social media to drive their work. All this is leading to the state where an individual’s online activities on the social networking platform are constantly under the scanner for the use and benefit of many organizations that has indeed become a threat on the privacy of individuals.

The analytics quotient applied in extracting the personal information

Right from businesses who want to know how their consumers feel about their brands, products and competitors to the research organizations that deal with the study of the interpersonal connections or the political groups trying to increase their fan base ,social media’s information provides an immeasurable source of revenue and knowledge for various firms to leverage upon. Measuring the social media, especially with the context of an individual has become increasingly imperative for many businesses to understand its customer’s sentiments. This is not just restricted to the businesses but also governments and other organizations operating in the various sectors where the ability to measure how an individual feels about the product or service is clearly of great value. But one of the main benefits derived out of this social media analytics is to understand the consumer’s sentiments without having to directly interact or extract information on an individual basis.

One of the very good examples of social media analytics playing a major role in understanding the consumer’s sentiments is derived out of our Face book page activity and the associated ads that we click while being logged on to Face book. This has an immediate impact on the associated ecommerce websites that want to capitalize on the information related to an individual’s activity. If he/she has the tendency to click on certain e-commerce related websites it would often prop up invariably leading the individual to the respective ad website that may eventually result in revenue generation.

With a  2010 study stating that of the 20 brand marketers worldwide the top 1% of a website’s audience shares up to one-fifth of all links to the site and influences up to one-third of the actions taken by other users. Social media analytics is thus critical in determining the key users being satisfied, engaged, and helping a business market its products either through its own website or via the word of mouth through these users’ social networks.

As stated in the table below, with over 500 million users on Facebook and 75 million users on LinkedIn, the potential to tap into personal information and to apply analytics to further the business in any field is a lucrative deal that can hardly be ignored by the companies.

 

This picture becomes more pertinent by understanding the structure applied to social media analytics that incorporates a 3 stage process comprising of capturing the data, understanding the data and presenting the data. The capture stage involves extracting the pertinent information from the data, understanding stage removes the noisy details and performs advanced analytics in the form of sentiment analysis or topic modelling to extract the intricate details .Lastly the presenting stage finalises the outcomes and predicts information such as forecasting the growth of customer sales or staying ahead in terms of customer sentiments. Hence decoding , accessing the personal information  and studying the various patterns on the social media platform has become easier than ever before for the businesses or for any other organisation who are willing to cross that extra mile in extracting information .

 

What qualifies as data intrusion?

 

But the question amidst the plethora of such data mining is about where to draw the line when it comes to extracting the information about individuals from the social media platform .Should there be certain standardized privacy norms and regulations that need to be introduced to restrict the extraction of certain data. Will this move potentially lead to the growth of an already emerging business of data protection on the social media platforms? There are several social media analytical tools that extract information down to a granular level. Tools such as opinion mining or sentiment analysis leverage upon the computational linguistics or natural language processing to extract the user sentiments and opinions from text sources to any level of granularity and potentially extract subjective information regarding people, products and services.

Jon Leibowitz, the chairman of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC),coined the word ""cyberazzi"" similar on the lines of paparazzi who stake out restaurants in Hollywood, and who snap pictures of celebrities in indiscreet situations.Cyberazzi describes the phenomenon where the companies trawl the internet for information on consumers and extract web browsers and mobile phones to quietly harvest data on what you like, where you go and what kind of questions you ask on. With a recent research from Net Base and J.D.Power suggesting that 51% of social media users want to talk about companies without them listening in , 43% think social media monitoring invades their privacy and 64% of the consumers feel that the brands should respond to the complaints only when they ask for their help. The research reflects upon the fact of what qualifies as data intrusion given the accepted norm that there is a certain amount of privacy loss on the free internet platform. There have been several instances when the customer tweets about the brand but does not ask or request for any help, he/she may not encourage companies to get directly involved with the customer to extract certain data. This bottles down to the question regarding the amount of engagement that companies can make by extracting the data from the social media platform and how far can social media analytical tools stretch to extract the data content. Although this may do very little for the companies to stop monitoring the online activity it’s an initiative for companies to think about the ways and mannerisms of engagement.

 

The Road Ahead

 

With Facebook, twitter and Instagram all providing people the means to delete their web content has the time come where there have to be a laws enforced for the companies to incorporate privacy into their design of digital content? For a start, there is a new California law that provides young people the chance to scrub their online activity clean. However although most websites at times allow us to opt out of receiving the online advertisements, it is up to the discretion of the websites to define the terms with respect to data privacy .With an onset of such intrusion there are certain websites such as the account killer that instructs people to delete their profiles from the social media platforms but as such there is no obligation of any of the website operators to remove the content unless they get a court order. With the social media playing a critical role in the social and professional aspects of an individual’s life there has to be a platform for the individuals to provide a fair hearing to explain the extent of data intrusion and to give the freedom to monitor the detection of data. This should be an imperative move as the social media content can at times harm one’s reputation or make it hard for a person to attain a job.

 

There is a certain need for a charter to be laid out that restricts the companies from unlawfully extracting personal information regarding an individual’s activity .Instead of merely activists and certain database marketers battling the scene for defining data privacy there has to be a timely intervention from the world wide web consortium to lay out certain amenable rules .This would govern the extent of data privacy and would provide the much needed relief for individuals who can feel secure about their presence in the social media platform without the breach his/her privacy.

The Article has been authored by Amrutha A, TAPMI


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