Friday, March 29, 2013

Using Social Media to Predict Future Trends and HotButton Topics

When looking to maximize an article, post or tweet, I employ a few simple, quick services. (1) I check for what's trending on twitter. I pay attention only to the Worldwide category, although I confess to invoking US trends from time to time. (2) I go to and (3) I do a Google blogsearch on the topic I am writing about and last but not least (4) I start typing something about my topic into the Google search bar to see what following text auto-populates the bar.

My methods are easy to implement and great when there are other things that need my attention. But there are folks who take this to a much higher level. Leading the pack is British economist Noreena Hertz. She believes that comprehensively analyzing chatter from Facebook and Twitter enables more accurate "forecasting."

The model is simple. Using a sophisticated algorithm, one can "summly" hundreds of thousands of tweets, likes, mentions etc. in an instant, tabulating not only the number and subject of messages but also, for the first time, the sentiment, allowing for what is descibed as "an accurate guess" to be arrived at regarding the selected topic and possible situation outcome.

CNN notes that Hertz has made a career out of challenging the predictive powers of traditional forecasting models. To illustrate her point, Hertz noted that analysts in the Middle East failed to predict the Arab Spring and very few experts saw the financial meltdown coming -- something she did three years before in her book "IOU: The Debt Threat".

To her credit, Hertz correctly predicted who would win talent show "X Factor" by analyzing social media. So, the question is, how do YOU duplicate Hertz's efforts on your own time and your own scale? You already have tools that you are (hopefully) using. Blog aggregators, Google blogsearch, etc.

You or I may not have the ability to access the same tools and systems Hertz uses (I'm sure some are costly, others "secret" and others proprietary. Fear not! I share with you my personal mix, which is comprised of two *FREE* tools, the first being Social Mention ::: it is a social media search and analysis platform that aggregates user generated content into a single stream of information. It allows you to track and measure what people are saying about you, your company, a new product, or any topic across the web’s social media landscape in real-time. Social Mention monitors over one hundred social media sites.

When I have more time to spend (like a lazy Sunday afternoon), I press NodeXL into service. NodeXL is a free and open Excel 2007/2010 Add-in and C#/.Net library for network analysis and visualization. It integrates into Excel 2007 and 2010 and adds directed graph as a chart type to the spreadsheet and calculates a core set of network metrics and scores. Supports extracting email, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, WWW and flickr social networks.

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