Is Twitter friend or foe?

An interesting SMH article today talks about a company (Julpan) just bought by Twitter for an undisclosed (probably astronomical) amount of money.

The company’s key piece of IP “is an algorithm which analyses all manner of activity on the social web - from Tweets to status updates - to provide a real-time snapshot of what the world is thinking and doing this very moment. The formula also takes a user's own social web activity into account to better interpret the context of a search to retrieve more relevant information.”

Here is the interesting question: Are these new tech companies / search algorithms stepping on our turf or do they represent a big opportunity?

You could say these new companies and advancements are threatening our fundamental core market research skills, such as our ability to collect data and inform clients about what their customers/potential customers are thinking. As more and more consumer information flows into the social media ecosystem via Twitter, facebook, Google+ etc, companies will start tapping into the topics, moods and needs of the market via these new tools.

While this might be a scary thought for some researchers, others could view these companies and advancements as opportunities to enhance what we already do - add value to corporate and marketing data 

The positives and negatives of using social media data

After attending the social media stream at the AMSRS conference this year, I walked away thinking more about how social media data could be used to help clients.

One thing is clear, there are currently differences in opinions - some are excited while others are skeptical. Here are some of the positives and negatives that came out:

To summarise:
  • It's cheap to gather social media data (you don't need to pay people to talk and they are easy to find), but you do need complex models, algorithms, linguistic inquiry software, or lots of time and people to code it manually to make sense of the data you are collecting
  • Data comes in at real time whenever you want it, but just like people - the moods and opinions of the social media ecosystem can change extremely quickly
  • Social media data isn't tainted by research instruments, but those actively using social media tools like twitter are far from representative of the general population
So overall, it's still early days for social media data. However, keep an eye on this space as collection methods and analysis tools improve.