Without Analytics, Big Data is Just Noise

Guest post by Eric Schwartzman, founder and CEO of Comply Socially, which helps employers manage the risk and capitalize on the opportunities of social media in the workplace. Follow him on Twitter @EricSchwartzman

The online Boston Marathon bombing witch-hunt last week dragged social media down to a new low.

Social media has become “the cocktail party from hell,” writes Maureen Down in her column “…with the flood of information jeopardizing meaning.”

When everyone’s talking about a crisis in real time and you have unlimited access to what they’re saying, the wisdom of the crowd can be very hard to find. With so much information swirling around, looking for meaning manually is impossible because there are never enough people to consider everything out there at once.

“What happened to Sunil Tripathi’s family scares the hell out of me, and I feel that any sort of crowd crimesolving platform needs to take that into account–the risk of lives being disturbed by overenthusiastic sleuths is just as important, in my opinion, as the potential for solving unsolved crimes,” says Neal Ungerleider, who wrote about how Reddit became a hub for a crowdsourced Boston Marathon bombing investigation.

Like most of the other social networks overflowing with new posts every millisecond, Reddit lacks even the most basic analytics. According to another story by the AFP, Reddit uses Google Analytics to monitor their own traffic.

We need to take a moment to acknowledge the critical importance of being able to find trends and credible sources in big data. When Google Reader goes away on July 1, 2013, not a single alternative offers in-feed search or analytics, and nobody seems too concerned about. In my book, that’s totally crazy. Without the ability to drill down and analyze your feeds, all that news is just a bunch of noise.

At what point does it become irresponsible to provide the world with access to a communications tools that can literally reap havoc in the lives of individuals and companies without providing any visibility at all into the patterns and shapes of the content being shared?

Is a social network without integrated analytics like a vehicle without a safety belt?

Freddy Mini, CEO at Netvibes — a Google Reader alternative that’s more focused on providing insights than powering engagement — says, “Context is the comparison of metrics.”

Meaning comes from the intersection of multiple sources. In the old days, journalists triangulated truth against a handful of sources. Today, we need to triangulate truth against millions of sources.

An avalanche of information is not necessarily a good thing. More often than not, it’s a path to obfuscation rather than enlightenment, where speculation inflicts irrevocable harm and sensationalism travels farther and faster than tolerance.

If you’re a business, the takeaway is that sharing without analytics is essentially useless, that engagement is not as valuable as insight, and that seeing things in context is more important than being popular.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is principal at Altimeter Group, a research firm focused on disruptive technology. A digital analyst, anthropologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging technology on business, marketing, and culture. Solis is also globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media. His new book, What's the Future of Business (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold and flourish in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. Prior to End of Business, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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