All day, every day, ordinary people are adding more and more information into the world’s largest public space. Statuses, tweets, blog posts and hundreds of other media are uploaded, day after day, month after month, fresh, for the world to see. These little bits and bytes aren’t just a novelty for your friends and family to see. When added together, the little statements we make for free harbour useful information that can be gathered, cross-referenced and used by companies across the globe.
Supposing, to borrow from Google’s Glass advertisement, you wanted to tell people you just visited your favourite bagel truck, so you tweeted about it. Well, so what? There will have been thousands of other tweets just in that second. What makes yours so special? The thing is, if all of these thousands and thousands of tweets can be analysed, not only can not only can your favourite bagel truck can be found, everyone else’s can be as well. Therefore, a clever investor can find the best bagel truck in, say, New York City, and invest with minimum risk.
This doesn’t just extend to investing, either. Twitter has published what they’re calling a life-saving tweet on their yearly review. Although it’s not too related to social media analytics, it’s a pretty cool story and gives some idea of just how powerful a tool social media can be.
Currently, Facebook is building another vast data centre in Sweden to compliment the two others it currently has in the US, just to measure the data stream that’s being created as more and more people like, share and discuss products and brands on the web. And they’re not the only ones. More and more companies, over the past few years, have sprung up hoping to sell product information to other companies from this form of analysis, and this has created a huge job market – people are needed to analyse this information if it’s to be of any use.
190 million tweets were posted every day in 2011, and that number is set to increase rapidly over the next decade as better technology products and internet services become available in the developing world. Sadly (as far as the technology companies are concerned, anyway), not all of the information can be condensed and ingested by a computer program – people talk differently to each other, so one simple algorithm will never realistically be capable of pulling all of the information in the blogosphere and putting it to use.
That’s not even the start of the problem – the different, individual patterns of speech that different people use is further complicated by the hundreds of different languages that people speak in, each of which has it’s own quirks and abbreviations. Additionally, not all of the tweets, statuses, etc. that people make are useful. When Sandra, 14, tells the world that she’s in her friend’s garden, there’s not too much a company looking on can garner. So analysers have to take the usefulness of information into account in their research and algorithms.
When this kind of research is mastered (and it will be – there’s too many good brains and too much money being thrown at it to not be), technology companies and investors will have an enormous wealth of information beyond anything they have seen before. The next time you tweet, remember something may well be watching, and someone will be spending money to hear what you have to say. The statements you give for free aren’t, suddenly, so free after all.
Sergio Lee is a social media and advertising manager at Edictive. He started his career as a Social Media Analysis and now provides an enterprise solution for the same.