Getting Sentimental About Social Business Intelligence


From the person we choose as president to the amount of groceries we buy next month, our emotions often drive our decisions. Today, marketers and others can read and interpret those emotions to predict things like how much of the household budget we might spend on entertainment and even the kinds of movies we are likely to see.

Monitoring these emotions is at the heart of a new kind of social business intelligence on the Web that uses a process similar to the way text analytics evaluates documents in your company's email and archives and on the Web. "Feelings -- even beyond mere positivity and negativity of Text Analytics 101 -- are pervasive and inform actions. Expressions of anxiety, calmness, and other sentiments present in social media can be extrapolated to predict people's behaviors -- things like spending and voting," as Joe Stanganelli, a marketing consultant and AllAnalytics.com community member, put it in an email interview.

Like few other technologies, social media gives marketers new clues to those emotional states with every tweet and every Facebook update -- clues they can then read and interpret with the tools of social BI.

"Sentiment analysis of social media is getting more sophisticated insofar as that it is now being leveraged to look for subtle cues instead of obvious statements," Stanganelli said.

Mining data on the "sentiments" of social media users goes far beyond simple brand or product preference.

"Someone's post on Facebook or Twitter about how much he or she loves a certain product -- while it does convey important information -- does not necessarily translate into that person buying more or less of that product. Today, sentiment analysis is looking at how a particular individual is feeling in general in his or her life, and how that relates to particularized events," Stanganelli explained.

For social media marketers, this approach represents a Holy Grail of sorts in that it gives them a glimpse of something far more important than which instant coffee the majority of social media users prefer.

"What this really gets down to is the organic nature of social media," Stanganelli said. "For years, marketers and analysts have yearned for technology that would allow them to know exactly what people (i.e., brand consumers) are thinking and doing at any given time in their own homes. Social media comes very close to offering that solution."

What deeper questions can social business intelligence answer that marketers might really need to know?

"If the sentiment of the general populace is more worried and anxious, most of them probably aren't planning on, say, buying a new car in the near future," Stanganelli explained.

What burning questions do you have about your business customers? Measuring their sentiments more accurately with social business intelligence may begin to give you the answers. They're thinking aloud via Facebook, Twitter, and perhaps other social media platforms every day for all to hear. With technologies available via social business intelligence, you now have the tools to listen.

Shawn Hessinger, Community Editor

Shawn Hessinger is a community manager, blogger, social media and tech enthusiast, journalist, and entrepreneur based in Northeastern Pennsylvania. He serves as community manager and blogger for BizSugar.com, a business news and information Website, and contributes regularly to the online business news source, Small Business Trends. He is the founder of PostRanger.com, an online content and media community, and has provided blogging and social media services and consulting for companies all over the world. He researches and writes on a variety of business, Internet-related, and other tech topics including business intelligence and analytics. He is also keenly interested in computer-aided data management as it relates to his various online ventures. A newspaper journalist with more than 11 years experience as a reporter and then managing editor, Shawn began blogging in 2006 and now provides a variety of consulting and outsourcing services in Search Engine Optimization, Web development, and online marketing to companies large and small. He is a strong advocate for the use of BI and related computer data management in business decision making, whether using software as a service (SaaS), cloud, or other applications, and in the opportunity these technologies provide to transform small startups and larger established businesses alike.

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Re: Beyond sentimental value
  • 8/10/2011 11:04:49 PM
NO RATINGS

Don't we all, Broadway? Don't we all?

Re: Beyond sentimental value
  • 8/10/2011 10:17:58 PM
NO RATINGS

I agree to disagree ... except on your last point, Shawn. Most people most of the time fail to act in their own best interests. I agree on that whole-heartedly---and often do so myself!

Re: Beyond sentimental value
  • 8/9/2011 9:57:17 PM
NO RATINGS

Hi Broadway,

I suppose we can agree to differ here. It has been my experience that, despite all the hype out there about manipulative marketers, it is quite difficult, particularly these days, to convince people to want something they do not. It is more likely that we are simply uncomfortable with the fact that people sometimes eat too much fast food, drink too much alcohol or consume other products and engage in other behaviors that are not good for them. It is far easier to have some other explanation for this behavior rather than being confronted with the fact that sometimes people simply do not act in their own best interest.

Re: Beyond sentimental value
  • 8/9/2011 9:24:48 PM
NO RATINGS

@Shawn, it is one small step from observating already existing sentiments to trying to manipulate or even create such sentiments out of thin air.

Re: Beyond sentimental value
  • 8/8/2011 11:10:04 PM
NO RATINGS

@Broadway, we're in agreement here. I'll toss in here, too, that perhaps companies that resort to micro-targeting strategy would be rather short-sighted and too narrowly focused. 

 

Re: Beyond sentimental value
  • 8/8/2011 10:53:04 PM
NO RATINGS

Broadway,

I'm inclined to agree that some of this does have to do with how you use it, but, to be fair, the technology here has less to do with micro-targeting people on some kind of manipulative level then with simply taking the mood of the public to determine overall preferences and/or decision patterns. In theory, it creates a market more responsive to the consumer and thus less prone to manipulate in order to market products that are not desired. On the other hand, it could be argued that it follows the path of the lowest common  denominator. But on another level, no matter how it is used, it is simply a means of understanding what sentiments are already present influencing decisions. A useful tool perhaps to understand social interaction and its implications if nothing else.

Re: Beyond sentimental value
  • 8/8/2011 10:08:50 PM
NO RATINGS

@Beth, analytics is a powerful tool, and like the Force of Star Wars fame, it can be used for good and for bad. I guess it's up to who you talk to to define what's bad and what's good. But I think micro-targeting people based on their emotional responses (or instabilities) to sell them junk food, consumer electronics and the like leans toward the bad .... then again, I don't get paid to market and sell junk food, consumer electronics and the like.

Re: Beyond sentimental value
  • 8/8/2011 9:38:26 AM
NO RATINGS

@Broadway, all this talk does start to make you think about all those far out and wacky mind control scenarios playing themselves out in sci-fi movies -- heck, even Pixar's Wall-E with the chair-bound obese population relying on automated systems for just about all their decision-making! Are we moving toward such scenarios as reality?!

Re: Beyond sentimental value
  • 8/7/2011 9:02:49 PM
NO RATINGS

I wonder whether companies should apply this sort of emotional manipulation if it is indeed possible and effective. Advertising and marketing already attempts to get into our heads enough ... I'd fear any more such mind melding.

Re: Beyond sentimental value
  • 8/1/2011 2:19:04 PM
NO RATINGS

Joe, I can see there's a lot of potential here but I'm still a tad of a skeptic about how all this will play and ultimately what value companies will realize from these efforts and how they'll measure it. 

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