August 22nd write up – Passive Insights from Social data

Aaron Wallis from Lexer shared his thoughts on gaining passive insights from social data at our August meeting, which is a presentation Aaron also shared at Sydney Product Camp. Those slides are below.

Aaron’s company, Lexer, is a social/internet research group.  They use social data to help understand personas that are more real time and relevant than the standard persona.  The demographic and opinion of your users can be more accurate and real-time.

You can use this type of data to track adoption and to do analysis on why something might not be being taken up or understand the reasons for success.

Using this sort of information for research can provide insights you might not receive in the typical user research we all do. It’s amazing what people publish on the web and so the analysis and insight that can be gained above other product management research options such as focus groups or plain surveys is eye-opening.  The passive component is part of what makes that work as while those that post are aware they are sharing, they are less self-concious about what they say than a focus group environment and the inadvertent insights that can be drawn from this data are quite powerful as a result.

Keep in mind – you cannot answer every question you might want to pose to this type of analysis, either due to the fact that the demographic you are interested in is not on Twitter, your market isn’t sharing on Twitter/the internet, e.g. B2B or sometimes the commentary just isn’t frequent enough to draw conclusions from.

Some of the areas that make this hard to do and why Lexer specialises in this kind of work is understanding the difference between semantics that can be coded and those that need to be interpreted by a human.  A tough balance between too much data and information and not a simple enough design to allow room for interpretation by the customer/client.

With any form of research there is a danger that the answer to the question is not what you want to hear.  A number of stories Aaron shared with us showed that while businesses might be investing in this form of research, if the revelation or insight is not what they want to hear, it may still be ignored.

Aaron did provide some tips on how to give it a go yourself. Before considering a larger investment both in time and money, look at Twitter and Facebook yourself and just listen.  Twitter also allows you to add up to 20,000 accounts to a list for monitoring.  So a great way to dip your toe in and begin to appreciate the value of this type of data for yourself.

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