Tag Archives: social technology

What’s so special about the IBM + Twitter announcement?

I confess that when the IBM + Twitter partnership was announced a few weeks ago I wasn’t quite sure what was new. We’ve been talking to clients for a while now about the value of social media data and using Twitter as a data source. But after a call with the IBM lead for said partnership it’s all a lot clearer.

A brief discussion on social media analytics

Many organisations, including IBM, will talk about social media maturity in the context of analysing social media data.  (There’s also maturity in terms of sending and replying but that’s a different subject.)  The starting point is to listen: looking for mentions in social media about brand, competitors, products, and so on. That’s the sort of thing that perhaps something like Hootsuite or even Tweetdeck can be useful for.

Next there’s thinking: analysing the data you captured in listening.  And for some this will be purely understanding sentiment about brand, product and service.  And there are lots of tools out there that can help you with this, although – perhaps unsurprisingly – I believe the IBM set is probably the most advanced, especially when you consider the sophistication of our analytics, and the ability to find insight that is statistically relevant. (If you have time take a look at IBM Social Media Analytics.)

This leads nicely to the last phase of acting/doing: using your thinking to define actions such as changing product or services, or perhaps marketing strategy as a result.   For me it’s the application of advanced analytics technologies – such as Hadoop (IBM BigInsights), predictive analytics, and so on – that uncovers some very interesting insight, and identify necessary actions.   I’ve used a lot of buzzwords there, let me make it real.  So, for example, we worked with one client to help them understand how to grow their food attach rates and coffee sales.  We helped one client understand that to keep their investors happy they had to focus on their R&D mix, not their stock price as they had expected.  Another client was able to increase their cross- and up-sell opportunities by understanding upcoming life events such as marriage, birth and retirement.

So, why IBM + Twitter?

Our technologies have been able to take social media data feeds from Twitter and many other networks, blogs and forums for a while.  In a way there’s nothing entirely new there.

This partnership is different because of what’s available to test our theories out.  That is, not everyone is sure that social media data really can be a useful source of information to them.  Hopefully some of the examples I’ve given suggest to you that it does have a variety of uses that lead to financial benefit – and customer satisfaction and loyalty and so on – but I suspect this blog is rarely enough to convince!  So, IBM will usually start with running a proof of concept (POC) project together with a client, to prove the value of the analysis, likely with the analytics technologies set up as a cloud service.   In this agreement with Twitter IBM has access to the full firehose of Twitter data, there is no limitation on what IBM will get, and it will include new tweets, as well as old ones.  This ensures that IBM can more accurately demonstrate value of the analytics to our clients.  There’s no guessing or caveats about what we found because of a restricted data set, or old data.  When we run such a POC we, of course, leave the insight with the client.  (But not the Twitter data.)

This is the only such agreement that has been made with Twitter and means IBM will also be training up an army* of consultants to be experts on the Twitter platform.

Lastly, Twitter data will be offered in IBM Watson Analytics, the new cognitive service that brings intuitive visualisation and predictive analytics to every business user, and Twitter data will be available to integrate with IBM DataWorks.

If you want to know more the IBM press release is a good place to start.

*10,000 apparently.

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Why has social technology worked?

Today I had the honour of talking at Dundee’s Women in Science festival.  I had picked the subject “What is the Millenial Virtuous Cycle?… and other social impacts”, with the “Millenial Virtuous Cycle” being a rather interesting cycle of innovation being predicted by IBM Research in this year’s Global Technology Outlook (link to 2013’s report) as will become standard – or more standard – in the next five years.

But I introduced the topic by talking about why social technology has been successful, and that there’s a place for social technology for everyone, or rather, for all types of people.

I started by considering Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Diagram showing Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

The first four needs – physiological, security, friendship and love, esteem – are in  way the  more important for if we the fundamental physical needs are not fulfilled we have physical problems, and if the three on top are not fulfilled we tend to become tense and anxious, have psychological challenges if you will.

Friendship and love is interpersonal and concerns our sense of belonging.  We humans need to feel acceptance amongst our social groups, regardless if these groups are large or small.  If we don’t feel love or belonging we can be lonely, anxious and even clinically depressed.  Maslow stated that this need for belonging could even overcome the physical and security needs depending on our culture, the peer pressure placed upon us.

For those who find face to face conversation difficult, or just don’t have people like us around us, social technology offers us the ability to form different social groups than those physically around us.  And for those who find face to face conversations a breeze, well, chances are we like engaging with others in many ways and so social technology offers us yet another way to connect.

Esteem is our desire to be accepted and valued by others, we need to feel resepcted and this includes the need to have self esteem and self respect.   We have a profession or vocation (which perhaps could be more than just a job) and have hobbies in order to get that recognition, to feel like we are contributing, making a difference event.
People with low self esteem often need more respect from others and may even want to seek fame or glory.  What easier way than twitter?!

Again, though, one doesn’t have to have low self esteem to consider using social media, but I can’t remember ever seeing a tweet that said something like “oh, no, not another follower”.

So, perhaps social technology allows us to meet those fundamental needs.

But also, my attention was drawn to a new Harvard report “Disclosing information about the self is intrinsically rewarding“*; so called because that’s exactly what they concluded.

It starts by telling us that studies of human conversations demonstrated that approximately 30-40 percent of our everyday speech contains information about our private experiences or personal relationships.  But surveys of internet use suggest that over 80 percent of social media posts are simply announcements about our own immediate experiences.

It goes on to say that a number of commentators have argued that these unusually high rates of sharing could come from a motivation specific to humans to share our beliefs and knowledge about the world.

As you’d expect from such research the team required empirical support to prove their hypothesis and so they used five studies with a combination of neuroimaging and cognitive methods.

And they did conclude that we humans are motivated to share what we are thinking (or “propagate the products of their minds” as it is more eloquently put in the article), and that opportunities to share our thoughts should be experienced as a powerful form of subjective reward.

We like sharing and social technology helps us doing that.

Which leads me to think, so maybe knowledge is power, but is it more powerful if it’s shared?

* Disclosing information about the self is intrinsically rewarding; Diana I. Tamir and Jason P. Mitchell;  Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138

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