If you do and another million Twitter users do the same, it can tell us a lot about what the stock market will do in the next couple of days. If you don't stay calm, it may tell us just as much.
Some insist the emotional state or feelings of users on vast social media networks like Twitter and Facebook (and now potentially Google+) are measurable and therefore useful for those trying to predict trends and events -- a process called sentiment analysis. Using semantic Web technology, this process determines the emotional state of communicators based on the valuation of words often ranked for basic emotional context.
But not everybody believes our ability to read these signals are advanced enough to make them useful in analytical models for marketers, investors, and others who might find the information helpful. Social media consultant Joe Stanganelli and Web analytics consultant Pierre DeBois recently squared off on the "sentimental value" of social media data in a Point/Counterpoint debate. Yesterday they ramped up the discussion in an instant e-chat with the AllAnalytics.com community.
"We can howl all day about how it shouldn't work, how stupid it is, and how there are all sorts of problems with it -- but time after time it's been proven by people who are way smarter than us," Stanganelli argued during Thursday's chat.
"I think it's early in the game to declare sentiment analysis as being an answer to marketers' prayers," DeBois maintained. The technique's effectiveness is too unproven for now, and "many businesses are still struggling with interpretation of data and how to incorporate social media into a strategy at the get-go."
What's more, DeBois said, measurement is still linked to basic Web architecture. As that architecture changes to address how we engage the Web today, the measurement process gets even trickier. Measurement "can be misinterpreted or overemphasized without context."
During the chat, AllAnalytics.com community member Cordell Wise sided with DeBois, citing his concern over selection bias. "Just because a bunch of people on [Facebook] launch a campaign to bring back butter pecan [at a local ice cream shop] doesn't mean it's a widely held view."
However, that doesn't mean the company should dismiss this data, Wise said, since it's still valuable. "Rather than looking for something that points to a broad sentiment, maybe it's more useful for spotting things like oversights or gauging reactions you didn't expect -- outliers, so to speak."
But Stanganelli has pointed to a growing body of research, including a study showing analysts' uncanny ability to predict stock market performance based on sentiments expressed on Twitter and another showing equally amazing accuracy in predicting motion picture box office receipts from Tweets. He insists that marketers and data miners should not disregard an application of such clear promise.
"That’s not to say we shouldn't still keep doing what we can to… hammer out the kinks, but there really is something here that can change the world," Stanganelli said.
You can read the entire chat exchange here, and you can share your thoughts on sentiment analysis. Can social media predict the mood of users across the planet, and can this data be mined and used for marketing or other purposes? How would your business or organization use such data if it became available? Please leave your comments and start a discussion below.