Social Analytics … At a Glance

First off, let me stipulate that I absolutely support the notion that technologists of a certain age (let’s go with over 40) should regularly evaluate what they need to ‘unlearn’ in order to make way for new thinking.

However, some older techniques really do stand the test of time when attempting to understand new concepts. Take Social Analytics. It’s a hot topic and information specialists are trying to get their heads around what it it and what the business benefits are.

To help me understand, I started researching in the usual way. Books, white papers, articles and opinion. But as I did so, I drew up a ‘Dimension Map’ and a list of questions. Two simple devices that are as useful today in clarifying information requirements and their usefulness as they were err, a few years ago.

The first, a dimension map, has as it’s columns, the dimensions of measurement. So a revenue dimension map would typically have columns for product, customer etc. The rows are hierarchical levels so time (and most things are measured over time) might be years, months and days. The final column is a list of metrics. These are the measurements that can be analysed by the dimensions so a revenue dimension map would include sales value, sales qty. Easy, right. The social media dimension map below is very much a work in progress but I trust you find it useful as a ‘Social Analytics at a Glance’ diagram from which you can expand your thinking in the way that I intend to.

The question list is self explanatory but is a really simple and illustrative way to remind us that the purpose of information is to make decisions by answering business questions.

Social Analytics Dimension Map


  1. Who does or does not like me|my product|my campaign|my brand?
  2. Who influences my customers?
  3. Do influencers like me|my product|my campaign|my brand?
  4. Are my customers talking more about me|my product|my campaign|my brand? than my competitors? i.e what is my share of voice?
  5. What are my customers saying about my competitor? i.e. what are the competitive opportunities or threats?

Social Media for the Keen Amateur

Social So Far

This week, I was asked to contribute some comments for an article in Vision, an IBM publication about Social Media. Clearly this was in my capacity as a keen amateur rather than a Social Media professional.

My interest in Social is partly driven by the converging fields of Social and Business Intelligence into Collaborative Decision Making Platforms but mostly as a fantastic way of reaching out and being part of a global conversation with those that share the same (and somewhat eclectic) interests.

We Don’t Own It

The key to being involved in Social, Twitter et al in a professional capacity (I only really tweet professionally) is to remember that it is not a marketing platform. First and foremost we corporate folk don’t own it! Social is a public conversation and like any other conversation, good manners and an authentic voice go a long way. If we are mindful of making a contribution to a conversation in a human voice then all other positive behaviours follow.

Vision Contribution

The article required a number of quotes about our experience as relative newbies in the world of Social. Not all of them were used, as is usual with any contributed copy so I have repeated them below for ‘the record’ Apologies to fans for the Emmin reference but I couldn’t resist;

Our Social Experience

1. With Twitter, we took time to listen first. We wanted to discover what others were saying, what generated interest, what subjects compelled a flurry of re-tweets. It gave us some interesting insights into what conversations were already taking place so that we could make contributions that would be considered fresh. We wouldn’t jump into any conversation without listening first and jumping into Twitter is like joining a conversation already in full flow.

2. Our Facebook friends and Twitter followers expect a professional tone on subjects that are related to our field which is analytics and information management. However, they also want to know that they are following a human, not a corporate collective mind. We have found that the occasional insight into how your day is progressing, the interesting people you meet or even something funny you heard on the train will allow your own voice to come through and make your company real to those that are following you. We don’t do it too often, maybe 1 in 10 tweets, but it’s interesting how often they get played back when you actually get to to meet.

3. It’s interesting who we have chosen to tune out over the couple of years we have been using Social media. Firstly the promoters, those that only tweet about their latest product or service offering are not kidding anyone that they are not contributing anything to the conversation. Their tweets are ad breaks and they get tuned out in the same way that we fast forward through the ads with our PVR’s at home. Secondly the road warriors. These guys only tweet about flight delays and long queues at the airport. It gets old quickly. Finally, those that I call ‘Tracey Emmin Tweeters’. These tweeters think we are interested in the minutia of their lives and tweet too often on subjects that really only tell us something about them and their lives. Apologies to the fans of Turner Prize winner Emmin but good conversations like good art tell us something about the world, ourselves and others not just you.

4. Blogging also takes time to get right. Don’t be surprised if there are times, after that initial burst of activity, that you feel like you are running out of ideas. Don’t expect to be a natural overnight and prolific blogger but don’t give up either. You will find that you need to read other peoples blogs to find out what your community are finding interesting. Like all Social Media interactions blogging needs to be more listening than talking. Take a leaf out of Seth Godin’s book (literally) He is a professional blogger but also an author of many books. I heard him comment on a radio show recently that he read 150 books as he was writing his recent (and inspiring) book ‘Lynchpin’.

What 127 Hours Tells us About Social Networks

In an interview this week for Mark Kermode’s Film Review show, Danny Boyle made it clear that he used the success of Slumdog to make a film that might otherwise not have been made. To leverage the success of 2010 most acclaimed film is an indication that 127 hours is more than this years ‘would you?’ movie.

It, it is the true story of Aron Ralston who gets trapped under a boulder whilst canyoneering alone in Utah. The desperate measure that he takes to free himself is well documented so it is not giving anything away to say that he was trapped by his arm, he has a multi-tool (a really cheap one) and a little under 127 hours to debate if he should … or should not.

Before, I go on you might be wondering what’s the connection between BI and Social Networks let alone the connection between Danny Boyle’s latest movie and Social Networks. Those that follow my posts and tweets will know that Social platforms interest me because I think they are changing the way we share and use information in business and will profoundly change the Business Analytics space over the coming years. A social platform has already made it into IBM Cognos 10 because these guys, again, are ahead of the game. Many don’t see it yet because the original use of social platforms have trivialised their significance but it’s there nonetheless.
Back to the connection. Aron Ralston, played by James Franco, is an all-American hero. He’s young, fit, strong, intrepid and independent. He is good at what he does, he has spent a lot of time in his chosen wilderness and is able to navigate it with speed and ease. In fact, at one point in his story, he briefly but convincingly takes the role of park guide. The hopelessness of his literal and figurative fall takes a long time to sink in for our hero. Indeed, when it does dawn on him that he could have shared his hiking plan with his friends or family it wouldn’t be exaggerating to call it an epiphany. It’s clearly a powerful realisation for Aron that he’s not a hero, he’s an arse.
There is a moment in the movie where Aron says ‘thank you’. It’s a strange moment. I don’t want to give away why it is strange but once you have seen the movie, you will know why. For me, it was significant because he knew that if he made it home alive (which was still, by no means certain) then he would be changed forever. He would live the rest of his life in the knowledge that however strong, smart and experienced he was that those tiny connections we all make each day matter. Sometimes in small ways because it’s just about about sharing. Sometimes in significant and surprising ways.

For me, I am continually and pleasantly surprised by what I learn on the subjects of analytics, organisational leadership, productivity, start-ups and social media in my twitter stream. It’s full of links to content that cover important ideas from solid thinkers. Admittedly none of them are life-saving but, at a stretch, a rare few might be described as life-changing. Each of them make a tiny but positive difference and sometimes someone in my network helps me (or me them) in a surprising way.