Social media analytics software going through growing pains

Justin Aucoin, Associate Site Editor

Social media analytics software going through growing painsWith more and more people joining social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, companies are also turning to those sites not to play games like Mafia Wars or upload family photos, but to do marketing, gather customer data and, with the help of social media analytics software and text mining tools, find out what the public is saying about their business. But is social media analytics just for retail companies, or can organizations in other verticals also leverage the emerging business intelligence (BI) technology?

In this special report, you’ll find expert advice, news and best-practices tips to help you decide if social media analytics is right for your business. You’ll also learn about the maturity level of social media analytics software and the skills and cultural attributes that companies need to have for a successful social media analytics project.


Table of Contents

* Is social media analytics ready for prime time?
* Companies that are primed for social media analytics
* Commitment and experimentation key to social media analytics success
* Social media analytics: a potential gateway to pervasive BI


Is social media analytics ready for prime time?
With everyone and their grandmothers having Facebook and Twitter accounts and businesses turning a marketing eye to those sites and others, BI and analytics vendors are racing to be at the forefront of an emerging social media analytics software industry. 

Last year, for example, SAS Institute released a social media analytics suite aimed at helping organizations understand the impact that online discussions are having on their products and corporate brands. And IBM introduced an upgrade of SPSS Modeler, a tool bought as part of its 2009 acquisition of data mining vendor SPSS, with nearly 200 industry-specific taxonomies designed to recognize wording used in social media outlets such as blogs and tweets. Even Facebook and Twitter themselves are jumping on the analytics bandwagon.

But is social media analytics software ready for mass consumption? Vendors will say yes, of course. But not everyone is so optimistic.

Katie Paine, CEO of consulting firm KDPaine and Partners LLC, says that most of the social media analytics tools now on the market will do a “terrible” job of giving companies a true idea of how the public perceives them. Collecting data is easy, she says, but making heads or tails of it is “extraordinarily difficult” because most of the information is “drivel or irrelevant.”

Still, sentiment analysis technology has become more capable in recent years, and Angela Chen, director of BI at financial trading firm Liquidnet, said she thinks it has significant potential to help companies if it continues to grow and mature.

Companies that are primed for social media analytics
Are companies in certain industries in a better position to take advantage of social media analytics than other businesses are? According to Jill Dyche, partner and co-founder of Baseline Consulting, the answer is yes and no. Even though some companies in industries with more customer service demands than others have might be a natural fit for social media analytics, Dyche says that any business looking to get to know its customers better and track its public image can utilize the technology. 

To Dyche, the big question is how to make effective use of social networks and the social media data you collect. In a recent Ask the Expert Q&A, she writes: “The problem with social media is just like the classic BI problem: When you get it to work, what do you do with it? A social community is buzzing about your flagship product? Awesome. But now what?” A successful social media analytics program can help answer that question, she adds. 

Commitment and experimentation key to social media analytics success
The world of social media analytics is largely uncharted territory, and current users are the Lewises and Clarks of the technology, chronicling their trials and tribulations and clearing a path for other companies to follow in venturing into the social media analytics frontier in the future.

And these social media analytics adventurers are finding that commitment and experimentation are the keys to success.

For example, Pradeep Kumar, vice president and customer intelligence director at advertising firm DraftFCB, believes his social media analytics program will pay off eventually, though he’s unsure of how or when. Kumar says mining and analyzing social media data takes multiple tools and the flexibility to experiment with those tools to see what works – and what doesn’t.

Businesses also shouldn’t forget the human-touch side of social media analytics, according to Kumar and others. They warn that sentiment analysis tools aren’t very accurate, often failing to pick up on sarcastic or colloquial language.

Social media analytics: a potential gateway to pervasive BI
recent survey of BI users by the U.K.-based Business Application Research Center revealed that a mere 11% of respondents said their companies had deployed business intelligence tools to more than half of all employees. Even so, vendors, consultants and businesses alike are talking about, and hunting for, the technological unicorns that will bring “BI to the masses.”

And social media analytics software might be one such unicorn.

Jim Kobielus, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, thinks social media analytics will be integrated more with traditional BI platforms in the future, meaning that even casual BI users in companies will be able to use the software and see what the wired-in world thinks of their organizations.

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