The Sharks and Icebergs of Social Media Measurement

March 25, 2011 | Comments Off

It’s all very deceiving. Social media measurement is superquick and feeds everyone’s desire for instant gratification. Want to measure something right now, lickety split? Here you go!

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, nor do you want it be that simple. Behind every “instant analysis” are hundreds and thousands of hours of tedious, painstaking work. Let’s take a brief climb up the social media measurement iceberg and check out where the data quality sharks are hiding.

Taking much of the time, the bulk of the iceberg, and many of the data quality sharks is sentiment analysis. There’s no point in being amazed at how quick your measurements were generated if those numbers have no bearing on the true sentiment of a brand.  The data quality sharks biting at the validity of your data include things like failing to measure  “the bomb” correctly and forgetting to measure “FTW.” If these sharks aren’t addressed, your amazingly quick measurement will be wrong.

The next chunk of the iceberg that rarely gets seen is the work that goes into developing variables. The data quality sharks here include recognizing that “tasting success” and “tastes in music” aren’t discussions of how deliciously yummy something is. Behind the scenes, people must spend icebergs of time making sure those invalid mentions are identified and ignored. Otherwise, your instant measure of whether people are happy with the new flavour of Doritos will be wrong.

Now we’re actually ready to gather YOUR data. As always, you can go online and quickly gather a ton of information about Ford or Sears or Harley, but your data quality sharks try to stuff in mentions of “my mayor, Mr. Rob Ford” and “sear the meat quickly” and “my dog Harley.”  If you don’t take the time to kill those data quality sharks, your instant analysis will, once again, be wrong.

The last chunk of work goes into removing spam and irrelevant data. Of course, you can easily set up an automated system to detect and delete spam but you must always be on the lookout for new and improved spam. This data quality shark sneaks in when you least expect it. No checking means no validity.

And now, we’ve climbed to the top of the iceberg, to the last tiny percent of data work that is visible to the outside world. Enjoy your magical, instant measurement. It wasn’t that instant after-all, was it!

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