How Big Data Can Help You Make Sense of Social Media

by   |   July 25, 2016 5:30 am   |   0 Comments

Bernard Marr

Bernard Marr

What would it be worth to your business to know what topics were going to go viral with your customers on social media before it happened?

If you could get a completely unvarnished view into customer sentiment toward your brand, how could it improve your marketing or customer relationships?

Social media holds the promise of all this and more for brands, but tapping into it has been a nearly insurmountable task — until now.

When we talk about the data tsunami, social media is an excellent example of what we mean. According to media website Visual Capitalist, in a single minute of real time on the internet, there are:


    • 701,389 logins on Facebook


    • 150 million emails sent


    • 527,760 photos shared on Snapchat


    • 347,222 tweets on Twitter


    • 28,194 new posts to Instagram


    • 1.04 million vine loops


    • 2.4 million search queries on Google


    • 2.78 million video views on YouTube


  • 20.8 million messages on WhatsApp


And that’s just one minute of one day.

So how do you make sense of it all?  How can you begin to glean actionable insights from this firehose of information?

Big data is the answer.  With machine learning and AI, companies are beginning to be able to winnow out the real insights from the never-ending stream of information that customers are volunteering across their social channels every day.

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For example, IBM’s Watson can be used to analyze all of a company’s tweets – and tweets about the company – to discover problems and opportunities. Twitter vice president for data strategy Chris Moody said, “Twitter is the world’s best focus group, we’re a data gold mine – we know a lot about the world and a lot about customers.” More than 6,000 tweets are published every second, and while IBM isn’t the only company offering insights into customer sentiment through analyzing tweets, it’s one of the few that can handle the full amount of data that is available.

One communications company was able to use the service to reduce customer churn by predicting loss of service due to bad weather.  A restaurant chain discovered that high employee turnover was a major factor that was impacting the value of their most loyal customers. These are the kinds of insights big data can produce.

“Social media data can help a company take corrective action to retain a high-value group of customers when predictive analysis on the social media data suggests they are at risk to move to a competitor,” said Stuart Wilson, UK Regional Vice President at Alteryx, a self-serve data analytics company. “Social media data, when aggregated across multiple users, can also help identify trends and prioritize them so brands can take proactive steps to improve the value of their offering.”

Starbucks used data from a variety of consumer research firms to determine its latest line of home brew products, like K-cups and instant coffees. The company learned that 43 percent of consumers take their tea (at stores) without sugar, and 25 percent don’t add milk to an iced coffee when they make it at home. These numbers induced them to introduce two unsweetened teas and two iced coffee products with no added milk or other flavors.

Even the classic Wimbledon tennis tournament is getting into social media analysis and predictions. The tournament is using predictive analytics and machine learning to discover what types of content fans are engaging with the most as well as to predict the sort of content fans will be interested in seeing. In theory, working predictively, Watson will be able to spot emerging trends – such as an unexpectedly good performance by players from a particular nation, for example – before they start to trend on Twitter.

“We will hopefully be able to monitor the particular interest in a particular court or, if there is one player garnering particular interest, we will be able to hop on and pre-empt that trend,” Alexandra Willis, head of communications, content, and digital at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, told me. The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club hosts Wimbledon annually. “We are hoping this will help in our quest, not necessarily to always be first but certainly to be early into the conversation when critical things are happening.”

As big data tools become easier and less expensive to employ and understand, companies of all sizes will be able to look to the web for a free and inexhaustible supply of customer data and sentiment that they can use to generate real insight and action to improve their business.

Bernard Marr is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, strategic performance consultant, and analytics, KPI, and big data guru. In addition, he is a member of the Data Informed Board of Advisers. He helps companies to better manage, measure, report, and analyze performance. His leading-edge work with major companies, organizations, and governments across the globe makes him an acclaimed and award-winning keynote speaker, researcher, consultant, and teacher.

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