The Year of Living - & Measuring - Socially

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 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 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.

Early stages
Pierre DeBois, the founder of the Web analytics firm Zimana and an expert 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.

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, a business news and information Website, and contributes regularly to the online business news source, Small Business Trends. He is the founder of, 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: Foundation Setting and Social Media Analytics
  • 1/14/2012 2:23:32 PM

Louis, good points. Also necessary besides procedures are standards and accreditations ... to scare away all the social media analysis "expert" charlatans out there.

Re: Good Year
  • 1/14/2012 9:22:33 AM

So many people complaining about something means that they were all using it. I'm interested to see what happens this year.

Foundation Setting and Social Media Analytics
  • 1/4/2012 5:19:10 AM

I agree that social media analytics is in it's infancy stage and I think the study will present a huge challenge and opportunity for those going forward. 

Disciplines and niches must be carved out and techniques further refined,but the good news is that many are well under way working towards that.

I think ultimately the major players in the social media world will continue to drive innovation and tool creation mainly due to their economies of scale  however, we should expect to see some upstart competition as well.

The laying of a concrete foundation is what I think the immediate focus and future of social media analytics is at the moment.

Re: The problem of measurement
  • 1/3/2012 3:25:05 PM

Thanks for that. If I bothered to know more about Facebook partnerships I might have seen that back in 2010.

Re: The problem of measurement
  • 1/2/2012 7:22:30 PM

@ tinym.  If a partnership between Amazon and Google , that would truly be a terrifying power. Google already has Amazon results based on websearches. Additionally, with Google toolbars, iGoogle and other features Google already attemps to personalize searches. 

Re: The problem of measurement
  • 1/2/2012 7:09:21 PM

Thanks, that's not scary at all...

Re: The problem of measurement
  • 1/2/2012 5:14:23 PM

@ tinym:  Thank you for sharing the link. 

I would think that a company such as would have some greater insight regarding the linkage of sentiment analysis to actual purchases than most companies. 

Does anyone know how Amazon approaches this topic?  If Facebook and Amazon were to team up, they would be a scary  force to be reckoned with.

Ahh, I am already corrected. It appears they have since 2010.

Amazon connects to Facebook – A new era begins!


Re: The problem of measurement
  • 12/31/2011 11:10:13 PM

Most certainly, the dashboard is free and bare bones.

Re: Living and Measuring Socially
  • 12/31/2011 8:51:55 PM

Re: "the true eureka moment will be when sentiment can be measured effectively and accurately and then related to actual behavior and buying patterns."

It already can to some degree (e.g., box office receipts, elections, etc.), as I discussed here a some months ago.

Re: Good Year
  • 12/31/2011 8:50:08 PM

Hi, scucci.

Interesting that you include Klout in that list.  For all of the criticism that Klout gets, the huge amount of complaining and whining and boo-hooing that occurs when Klout changed its algorithm earlier this year may indicate that Klout is on to something (as I discussed about a couple of months ago, it rather reminded me of the way gray-hat SEO chumps whine and cry whenever Google updates PageRank).

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