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SAS unveils social media analytics suite

SAS has released an on-demand social media analytics suite that the vendor says will help companies track and understand consumer sentiment.

SEATTLE -- Social media sites were abuzz today with the news that SAS Institute has released a new social media analytics suite.

The new on-demand applications collect and analyze relevant blog posts, Tweets, Facebook updates and more to help companies determine what people are saying about them on the Web, understand the impact the online discussions are having on their corporate brands, and design more effective marketing campaigns, according to SAS.

The applications can present the collected social media data in a number of visualizations. Users can see what percentages of Tweets are positive, negative or neutral in the form of pie charts, for example. They can also track customer perception over periods of time with line graphs.

Users, most likely marketing and PR pros, can then dig into the data to understand who are the most influential social media users as it relates to their corporate brand. They can also find out which forms of social media are having the biggest impact on their reputations and predict how customer sentiment is likely to progress over time, according to Mark Chaves, director of media intelligence products at SAS.

Combined with traditional, structured data, the new app represents “a data miner’s dream,” Chaves said at a news conference this morning at the company’s annual user group meeting in Seattle.

The application’s analysis can also be integrated with existing CRM applications to help sales departments understand their customers’ online behavior.

Consultant Katie Paine, chief executive of KDPaine and Partners in Berlin, N.H., said social media analytics is a potential game changer for marketers and PR pros. Paine, who helps her customers manage their brand images, said social media analytics will help companies respond more quickly and effectively to potential PR disasters by enabling them to identify who is leading the conversation.

If a group of Twitter users with a high number for followers and retweets is responsible for most of the negative comments about a particular company, for example, social media analytics can help users identify and respond to them.

“It’s a huge connecting of the dots,” Paine said.

Other enterprise software vendors have tried to harness the power of social networks to better understand customer sentiment, but the market has yet to take off. That is partly a result of the relatively low accuracy rates of some of the tools.

SAS, which has years of deep data analytics experience, says it has addressed the accuracy problem with complex algorithms and rules that other vendors lack. According to Chaves, SAS Social Media Analytics is 90% accurate when it comes to determining the sentiment – positive, negative or neutral – of blog posts, Tweets and other social media data. The application was built on top of text analytics technology SAS inherited when it acquired Teragram in 2008.

Chaves also thinks companies are just now getting the message that social media can make or break an organization’s reputation. “Four years ago, that wasn’t the case,” he said.

SAS Social Media Analytics is available only as a SaaS application. The typical customer can expect to spend about $50,000 for two to four weeks of set-up by SAS, followed by monthly subscription fees of between $5,000 and $15,000, Chaves said.

In other news from the conference, SAS also announced a new mobile dashboard for iPhone, BlackBerry and other Windows-based mobile devices, and new SAS/IML and JMP interfaces for R, the open source statistical language.

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