I answered this question on Quora and happened to see Indian news channels flaunting social media statistics on the National Elections the same day. That’s what inspired me to start writing this post. Why was the #Oscar selfie such a big deal and why is social media analytics so hot today?
History was created on Twitter when a tweet by Ellen DeGeneres was retweeted over 3 million times. As the MC, she clicked a selfie with some of the nominees and superstars at The Academy Awards. This act was seemingly spontaneous and the picture was clicked using a Samsung Note3.Arrabiata
Samsung was a sponsor for the show. Therefore, the host was using the Samsung device on stage. The product placement technique used was standard, the picture clicked was average, perhaps it was the moment which was magical.
This tweet was a big deal for Twitter, for Ellen and perhaps also for the Academy Awards. I did not understand how this could be a big deal for Samsung, especially going by the original tweet.
Most news channels and popular blogs are tracking the voice of the Indian citizens on social media as a run up to the general elections 2014. What is commonly shown across these trackers is a series of charts that compare the “share of voice” of certain politicians v/s that of other contenders. They further go on to publish the sentiment: X% of the mentions are positive and Y% are negative. Some even show word clouds, trend lines of mentions, gender and geographic split etc.
Social Media Statistics
Most of these trackers and news stories are backed by some very solid social media monitoring tools. The last time I checked, there were 350+ such tools helping you solve different types of listening and monitoring problems on the web.
What disheartens me the most on reading these news articles and ‘analysis’ is the fact that most of these tools are being used to perform shallow reporting. Let’s get one thing straight: reports, analysis and insights are not the same. Crawling data points and visualizing them as charts is perhaps one small feature most evolved listening tools provide you with. What they also offer the user is the ability to mine insights by analysing the data in a much deeper sense.
While it is interesting to be a part of the historic tweet by Ellen DeGeneres, it is sort of funny to link the success of the tweet as a return on investment for Samsung’s sponsorship efforts. Sure it did get Samsung a large number of mentions, but it did the same for Apple as well (Ellen’s actual phone was an iPhone5s).
News channels, on the other hand, just show a split of sentiment and a share of voice, without explaining the universe they are measuring. Some of these listening tools can actually be deployed to mine insights that will indicate the key issues that concern citizens in various constituencies and how they relate these with prospective candidates from those constituencies.
Perhaps a real time variant of exit polls may emerge. Sentiment % without reference is baseless. A higher share of voice may not always be an indicator of popularity. Publishing such statistics without context on national television can be misleading and dangerous at different levels.
I’m not taking away the credit from Samsung’s marketing team on the feat, neither am I doubting the analytical capability of the editorial teams at our national news channels. All I think is that it’s time to move ahead from the social media and big data is like teen sex phase. It is time to apply our analytical frameworks and statistical models to build rigor into our work that may eventually culminate into a harmonious fusion with offline data models. That is when we would have ‘arrived’.