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Despite lost luster, social media analytics tools can tell tales

Social media analytics has had to make room for other applications in the big data spotlight. But effectively analyzing social media data can still be a source of enlightenment for businesses.

At first, social media analytics was the brightest star in the big data firmament -- a shining example of the potential business benefits that big data applications could provide. Collect tweets and Facebook posts, analyze the text for keywords and customer sentiment, then use the findings to plan social media marketing and outreach strategies and to react to complaints and criticisms before they go viral. That was the idea, at least. In practice, deploying and using social media analytics tools turned out not to be so easy.

As a result, analyzing social media data has lost some of its luster. For example, in a "hype cycle" report published in August 2014, consulting and market research company Gartner Inc. included sentiment analysis, text analytics and content analytics in a list of technologies and applications that were sliding into what it calls the trough of disillusionment due to a failure to meet user expectations. And in an April 2014 article posted in his Breakthrough Analysis blog, Alta Plana Corp. consultant Seth Grimes quoted other industry experts on the challenges of analyzing tweets and other casual forms of text. "It's still a bit of a crapshoot," said one. "Performance goes down pretty steeply," compared to assessing more "well-behaved text," said another. Meanwhile, other big data analytics applications have started burning more brightly -- analyzing machine data from sensors on the Internet of Things, for example.

But there's still business value lurking in social media data, if it can be successfully uncovered. SearchBusinessAnalytics has published several recent articles that offer insight and advice on how to get started on social media monitoring and analytics initiatives. One story catalogs social media analytics challenges to be aware of. A case study focuses on one company's efforts to mine social media data for useful business information. And in another article, consultant David Loshin looks at different facets of the social media analytics process and the benefits they can provide to organizations that manage the process effectively. Hopefully, if your organization decides to move forward with a deployment of social media analytics tools, they'll be a source of enlightenment internally -- dimmed prospects or not.

Craig Stedman is executive editor of SearchBusinessAnalytics. Email him at, and follow us on Twitter: @BizAnalyticsTT.

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I certainly agree that social media analytics tools can provide value - but have no illusions that it'll be easy to extract that value. I do think the point about 'enlightenment' is a good one - sometimes simply surfacing information gathered via social media can be a good first step toward changing habits and perceptions.
I think this has a lot to do with the obnoxious gaming of SEO for several years, to the point where many of us don't even try any longer. I personally found the practice so distasteful that I stopped much caring if the content I provided leveraged it. the good news is that the people who reacted and engaged with me did so because of a genuine connection. Wonderful to have, but devilishly hard to pin down exactly what it is.