Social Data Through An Academic Lens

Jenny Force Jenny Force, VP of Marketing

It’s always interesting to see how different groups of practitioners use social data. In my world as a marketer, we constantly discuss how brands can use social data to satisfy a business need, provide insights and/or gain buy-in and prove ROI.

This last week in London, The Social Media and Society conference convened academic researchers from all over the globe to discuss social data, research methods and findings across a very diverse set of categories from sports management to smart cities to social movements and beyond.

Now that the London event has wrapped, here are my conclusions after 3 days with educators and researchers who use social data on a daily basis in their classroom and to support their research work.

Researchers Crave Data and Need More Sources

It was noted at the conference in multiple sessions I attended that Twitter is a rich source of data and provides a good level of insight into public opinion. However, Twitter’s not a perfect data source for academic research. First, Twitter bots and spam accounts pollute the data and make true intent hard to mine within a social data set. Also, limited demographic data such as gender, location and more make it hard to draw conclusions.

Because of Twitter’s accessible API, it’s probably the most studied social data set. The true insights with Twitter data are achieved when the data is studied alongside another data source such as surveys, purchase data, focus groups, etc. So, the key takeaway for the social media industry is to build APIs and methods for academic researchers to draw insights from in a collaborative way.  Together, we’ll win!

Researchers Are Ready to Roll Up Their Sleeves

On the first day of the conference, workshops were provided to help academic researchers get hands-on with social data research and insights tools/services to help them conduct their work.

In some cases, where a tool has been absent in their working lives, researchers are building their own. This is the case with professor Jacob Groshek and Boston University, which developed the Twitter Collection and Analysis tool— an open source application developed in-house to expose Twitter data to researchers. In a session at the conference, attendees used TCAT and Tableau to create dashboards.

As a minor shameless plug, I’m stoked that we’re making our Sysomos MAP tool available to professors and researchers to provide social data and insights. For more info and to apply, please visit Sysomos In The Classroom.

Researchers Want To Partner

The world of academia provides such a broad array of research opportunities, meaningful data partnerships and a diverse audience set for social data and research. These researchers are constantly looking for partnerships with industry to make studies a reality. If you’re a research or marketing manager inside a non-profit, enterprise or small business or government entity with data to offer, I challenge you to reach out to college and university professors to build partnerships together.

As stated above, these researchers are looking for data sets to enhance ones they already have and to build new data partnerships together. If they’re full of one thing, researchers are full of ideas and the sky is the limit.

Here are a few examples:

Did you know Twitter users on mobile devices are meaner and more hateful than those who tweet from a desktop computer:

On Facebook, we’re self-censoring more as personal messages are posted less often.

Social data offers insights into how micro-communities form on Twitter and Facebook during crises:

Looking Forward to Next Year!

It’s only been one business day since the conference wrapped in London on Friday and I learned so much and made so many great contacts that I’m super excited for Social Media and Society in Toronto next year! You should join us, and get in touch if you want to chat using social data for academic research.

(Image Credit: Flickr User twak)

2 Comments on “Social Data Through An Academic Lens”

  1. Pingback: Highlights from #SMSociety 2016 - Social Media & Society

  2. It’s great to see Sysomos take the lead to form partnerships with educators and their students. I hope this will be the start of a new trend.

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