This was a watershed year for social media analytics in many respects. Major social media issues that touched analytics circles in 2011 include management of unstructured data, big data, sentiment analysis, and text analytics.
In this post, three AllAnalytics.com community members and thought leaders in the field share their takes on social analytics in 2012.
Big opportunities, big challenges
Seth Grimes, principal consultant at the business analytics consulting firm Alta Plana, sees major opportunities and challenges in unlocking the true potential of social media analytics. This field offers what Grimes calls “slice and dice” analysis, including counts of social media mentions by keyword, source, and a small collection of demographic variables. However, it does not tie these mentions to anything concrete.
For example, social media analytics provides little or no linkage to purchases or other online or offline transactions. The rare exception is the ability to trace electronic coupons back to the social platform that issued them, Grimes said in an email interview. This makes measuring the impact of social media on offline behavior like spending difficult or impossible.
Social media analytics also fails to measure sentiment adequately, he said. Many tools can't even determine whether a message has a positive, negative, or neutral sentiment, nor can they measure “connectedness” or “message propagation” -- the “social” part of the social media equation.
“The good news is that we're definitely moving toward solutions that overcome major [social media analytics] limitations, solutions from both startups and enterprise players and companies in between. 2012 will be an interesting year!”
Much remains to be done
Marshall Sponder, a senior analyst at WebAnalyticsGuru, an AllAnalytics.com blogger, and the author of Social Media Analytics: Effective Tools for Building, Interpreting, and Using Metrics, focuses on the mammoth amount of work that awaits.
In an email, Sponder pointed to failings in areas such as analyst training, agreement on the scope and structure of analysis, and standardization of methodology.
He offered an ambitious list of goals for 2012 through 2015. He advocated focusing on problems such as big data, unstructured data, data warehousing, the creation of standards and governance, geolocation support, and bigger budgets for better social media analytics efforts.
Pierre DeBois, the founder of the Web analytics firm Zimana
and an expert AllAnalytics.com blogger, called social media analytics a field that's in its earliest stages and has much room for improvement.
“We’re at the very beginning as far as social analytics is concerned,” DeBois said via email. Developers are introducing dashboards with social media capabilities, and more filters are needed to distinguish users from networks and sort out other details in the social media soup.
However, DeBois also says solving the problems of social media analytics will open doors to better data management. “For example, we speak of big data because of the awkwardness of managing data, but to solve it we will need an idea of what we are looking for. Social analytics may provide some clues and influences regarding the methodology for establishing context.”
What do you think the future holds for social media analytics? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.