Three Buckets of Social Media Data


buckets of berriesIn preparing for last month's Social Media Analytics Summit, I needed a talk on the emergence of the social media analytics industry—which was tricky, since I don't usually talk about social media analytics. I didn't want to set up an elimination round of buzzword sweepstakes, arguing for this usage or that. Instead, I looked for a unifying theme, which led to a new question and three categories of social media data.

I've used a disappointment setup in my presentations for a while. "What's the best tool?" "It depends." The point is to get people thinking about what they're trying to accomplish, rather than jumping on the bandwagon for a popular tool. One of the questions I've suggested is "how do you measure social media?" There's an assumption hiding in that question, which became a limitation when I tried to update my slides. I needed a better question.

What can you do with social media data?
The key was to focus on the basic building blocks of analytics: data, analytics, and application. We tend to focus on the analytics technologies and the end-user applications, but what about the data? What if we focus on social media as a source of data? Ah, there we go.

What kind of data do social media give us to work with? If you look at the various specialists working the question, I've found three basic categories:

I'll go into each of these categories in the next few posts, but first, let's acknowledge that these are not rigid boundaries. Mixing data types and analytics lenses is definitely something to encourage, but if we want the data types to play together, we should understand what they are, first.

Next: Working with Social Media Data: Content

Photo by hugovk.


Nathan -

I'm looking forward to your series. I hope that when you get to the Activity section, you encourage readers to look beyond "fuzzy" social media metrics!


If you use too many fuzzy metrics, you end up with a bunch of lint?

Thanks, Patrick. I think you'll like where I'm taking it.

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About Nathan Gilliatt

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  • Voracious learner and explorer. Analyst tracking technologies and markets in intelligence, analytics and social media. Advisor to buyers, sellers and investors. Writing my next book.
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