Q&A: Social Data and Gnip

Denver Post reporter Andy Vuong recently interviewed me for an article on social-media data provider Gnip, a Boulder, Colorado company. His article, Tweets and Facebook updates are valuable to more than social networks, appeared on October 29. I’m glad I could contribute, from my perpective as an industry analyst. Andy posed good questions, and my complete responses may have some value, so I thought I’d share our full Q&A:

Q1> Gnip mentions that hedge funds are big consumers of social data to help with bets and trades. What other types of businesses or industries can leverage or are leveraging this information?

Really any consumer-involved business, from multinationals to local outlets, can benefit by monitoring social data feeds for functions such as reputation management, customer service, product quality, market research, and competitive intelligence. Personally, I’ve posted to my social networks about phone billing, electronic equipment, hotels and restaurants, and retailer experience. Smart businesses are listening, analyzing, and responding.

Q2> Can social data eliminate the need for focus groups and the like, or are there too many limitations, such as the ability to break down the demographics/affiliation/etc. of social users?

Social data provides a fast, wide, and unscripted picture of public opinion and nicely complements established research methods such as surveys and focus groups.

You can learn a lot about social posters of interest by reaching through to profiles or even to analyzing social content for usage patterns.

Q3> Realizing that Gnip is a sponsor of your upcoming conference, can you speak about what the company offers that others might not be able to?

[Andy was referring to the Sentiment Analysis Symposium, held October 30, 2012 in San Francisco. The next symposium will take place in the spring of 2013 in New York.]

Gnip and certain competitors offer economical, reliable, fast, and usable access to a spectrum of social and enterprise data sources. The market rivalries spur better products and a faster innovation pace.

Q4> If Facebook and LinkedIn ultimately offer a firehose of data similar to Twitter, and companies continue to mine that data, isn’t there a strong chance that we’ll see a user backlash?

You can be sure that Facebook is working on monetizing the data captured on its platform, which would be quite substantial for consumer product companies. Facebook is free however, and few users read the terms of service or care to effectively use the privacy settings and that’s the key: Notions of public versus private and mine versus yours, the service provider’s, are changing quickly and radically. If there’s a backlash, as there was when online tracking was first revealed, it will die down if people sufficiently value the service being delivered.

The LinkedIn data value is more in the connections than in the messages, and its business data that’s openly available, so LinkedIn is in a very different category. One distinction is the LinkedIn data is neither mobile nor transactional.

Instead, look at platform providers Google, Apple, and even Amazon. They track your searches, purchases, and location, which they link to your messages, postings, and network: Rich social data that you may not even be aware you’re generating. Data collection, use, and eventual monetization is the cost of using these services. And watch out for what mobile carriers such as Verizon and AT&T do with the big data they collect.

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