Having been involved in the business intelligence side of public social media for the better part of the last decade, it amazes me that I still occasionally run into organizational leaders who haven’t been introduced to the practical business use of social data. To make understanding this easier, I want you to flip the funnel for a second and not think of social media as a place where you should just be reaching your audience, but rather a place where you can be researching your audience (yes, ideally you are doing both).
Consider these quick stats:
- World Population: 7.2 Billion
- Active Internet Users: 3.0 Billion
- Active Social Media Accounts: 2.1 Billion
- Number of Data Bytes Created Every Day : 2.5 Quintillion (that’s 18 zeros)
Out of those 2.1 billion active social media accounts, it can be safely assumed (same numbers keep popping up in various research studies) that somewhere between 20% and 25% are regular content creators, not just lurkers or spectators. Therefore, in effect, we’re looking at about 500 Million people regularly creating new data and metadata to feed the massive global social dataset, which is now essentially owned by Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple.
And, while admittedly most of actual complex data mining is happening in-house, there are numerous free tools available that allow you to access a good chunk of this data, as most of it is in the public domain.
As in all research, the secret to obtaining useful information lies not in the tools themselves, but in asking the right question(s) and having a clear research goal in mind. Therefore in the examples below, I have only provided a use-case for each tool as it applies to the goal of “finding potential volunteers for your organization.” These tools can be used in much more complex manners; however, I will keep things basic for the purpose of this post.
Tool #1 – Facebook Graph Search (Facebook Account Required)
Main use: Slicing and dicing public Facebook user data.
- Go to your Facebook settings and ensure that your language is set to “US English.”
- Go to the search bar and type in: “People Who Live In [your city] and Like [volunteering].”
- Press “Enter.”
- Now, click on the “people” tab just below the search bar.
Results: You will be provided with a list of all the people in your city who proactively and publicly stated on their Facebook profiles that they “Like” to volunteer.
Tool # 2 – Manage Flitter Account Search
Main use: Searching for keywords within Twitter bios.
- Go to the search bar and type in: “[your city name] [your topic area] [volunteer]” (e.g. “Ottawa health volunteer”).
- Press “Enter.”
- Click on the Twitter handles of the users that show up to see their bios (I recommend adding them to a Twitter List).
- To obtain information about their own networks of additional potential volunteers, use the tool below.
Tool # 3 – MentionMapp (Twitter Account Required)
Main use: Instant visualization of a specific user’s recent Twitter interactions.
- Click on “sign in with Twitter” to connect to your Twitter account (you can revoke access at any time by selecting “apps” in your Twitter account settings).
- Type in the Twitter handle of one of the users that you found using the tool above (i.e. ManageFlitter).
- Press “Enter.”
- You should now see an interactive map of key people this person interacts with and the key hashtags they tend to use.
- To further analyze hashtags that you find, use the tool below.
Tool #4 – Hashtagify
Main use: Useful for finding key influencers of a hashtag as well as related hashtags.
- Go to the search bar in the top right corner and type in a hashtag that you came across. Or, just type “volunteer” for the purpose of this example.
- You will now see an interactive visualization of all the related hashtags.
- Place your mouse cursor over a related hashtag to see its correlation level.
- Click on the “top influencers” tab at the top of the page.
- You will now see the top influencers based on influence vs. specialization.
Tool #5 – Google Trends Explore
Main use: Search trend identification and seasonality analysis.
- At the top center of your page, select your country (Canada in my case).
- Underneath that dropdown menu, find the word “Compare” along with another dropdown list immediately to the right of it.
- Select “Time Ranges.”
- Click on “+add term” and type in “volunteer.”
- Click on “+add time range” and select 2012, and then do the same for 2013, 2014, and 2015.
- You should now see something similar to the screenshot image I posted at the beginning of this blog post.
- This is a seasonality visualization, telling you (based on one of the world’s largest datasets) when people in your country/area are searching for information relating to volunteers.
What About Privacy?
In the examples above, only public data is used. It is my firm belief that the responsibility is now on the user to understand what the trade off is in using any form of social media (i.e. data in exchange for a service). That being said, I realize that there is still a massive knowledge gap in this area, and we have a long way to go before Internet users become aware of the extent to which their data is being used. I’d like to point you to two presentations I uploaded to SlideShare on this topic, as well as two related blog posts.
- Managing Your Personal Digital Footprint
- Trends in Social Media Governance and HR
- A long overdue call to action on cyber-bullying
- Downsides to the global democratization and sharing of content
And there you have it: five quick tools and specific instructions for you to get started. For those interested in more complex social network analysis/visualization using raw data (but still free), give a tool such as Netlytic a try.