There's growing demand to analyze Facebook, Twitter and other social media, but most tools fall short. Here are six capabilities to look for in next-generation products.

Seth Grimes, Contributor

March 16, 2011

2 Min Read

Alignment, to me, means two things: 1) Ability to measure quantities that affect business outcomes and compute indicators that predict outcomes. 2) Usability of results in business that need them. Social engagement that allows a support rep to find and reply to Twitter comments and requests is good -- results can be quantified -- but note that my "two things" didn't use the word "social." I'm looking for analysis tools that measure and predict social's ability to drive business transactions -- money-making outcomes -- as well as how business news will play out on social platforms.

Interface: I claimed earlier that every leading BI tool offers not only dashboards and reporting but also dimensional models and pivot tables for interactive, exploratory, visual data analysis. Pivot tables let you place variables (such as location, age, sex, platform, product) in the row and column (and sometimes the page) axes of tables to create a cross-tabulation.

BI tools will typically let you nest variables in an axis to create a pivot table with several dimensions. You often have a choice of measures -- sums, counts, percentages, calculated values -- and the ability to navigate up and down dimensional hierarchies (such as year-quarter-month-week-day) with automatic value aggregation. I rarely see these capabilities in SMA tools.

Slick-looking tools too-often provide little more than filters, the ability to select values of variables for inclusion or exclusion in a table or chart. Tool developers should look at the BI world to see example of the visual controls, (time-based) animations, ability to create reusable macro expressions, and the sharing and collaborative capabilities they should consider for inclusion in their own tools.

Walk the Talk: I look for clue-ful SMA suppliers. If a company doesn't know how to use social media effectively, or if it won't make an effort, do you really want to trust it with your business? The question isn't moot; anyone who spends time on social platforms can tell strong from weak social engagement and has seen instances of both.

These are elements I look for in a social analysis system. I've written about them here because I too-infrequently find them. Too often, I encounter poorly conceived solutions, based on weak technology, from vendors, established and start-up alike, that should know better.

I apologize for not naming names, but my purpose here is to help readers in their own evaluations and to try to guide the vendors' development efforts. I hope the situation changes, and that I start to find what I look for in social analysis tools.

InformationWeek contributing editor Seth Grimes is an analytics strategist with Washington DC based Alta Plana Corporation. He chairs the Sentiment Analysis Symposium, April 12 in New York, and the May 18-19 Text Analytics Summit.

About the Author(s)

Seth Grimes


Seth Grimes is an analytics strategy consultant with Alta Plana and organizes the Sentiment Analysis Symposium. Follow him on Twitter at @sethgrimes

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights