The popular cartoon and caption from Peter Steiner about internet privacy in the early 1990s has new meaning when it comes to social media.
And according to Stephen Baker (pictured), author of such popular books as Final Jeopardy – Man vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everything and The Numerati (and blog of the same name), the actions of individuals speak much louder than the written word online.
“Analyzing people’s behavior instead of what they claim their behavior is tells a completely different story about that individual,” said Baker. “Most of the time people will say something that is designed to make you feel better and make them feel better about themselves.”
Online people have an array of personas that might fluctuate depending on time of the day, their physical location and mood.
Baker is speaking at the upcoming IBM Finance Forum (May 9) and IBM Performance (May 10) events in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and cautions that organizations need to take into account that a lot of what is said online is for public consumption, to impress friends and brand themselves.
“It might be important to know that someone is proud of liking some type of music and that may have an impact, but that person might only listen to it when with friends,” said Baker.
Leveraging social media analytics, while important to understand customer behavior and sentiment, is only one piece of the puzzle. Integrating social media data with demographic, purchase history and other unstructured data (e.g., call center notes, emails) will provide a holistic view of the customer and a better recommendation of how an organization might interact with them.
Baker suggests this now allows organizations to focus on what is happening today or five minutes ago.
“The combination of big data and real-time analytics allows organizations to make the most of the current moment with a customer who is at the cash register or on the phone, and optimize that interaction. One of the most important things organizations have is their relationship with the customer and the customer data,” said Baker.
All this data is turning organizations into scientific laboratories. Analytically mature organizations are now testing their hypotheses endlessly and allowing the data models to keep churning out the best possible scenario – such as ROI to a marketing campaign.
This could be why “data scientist” is the popular analytics job description de jour.
And, while data analysis is a means to an end, it’s an end that continuously changes so the analysis is a never-ending process (which is good for the analytics industry).
“The amount of data is going to keep rising exponentially, and soon we're going to be surrounded by sensors and the rise of artificial intelligence and more machines like IBM Watson that will bring written and spoken knowledge into business opportunities,” said Baker.
A good example of this, according to Baker, is in the healthcare industry. Aging societies are going to push for more electronic sensors so those people can stay in their homes and their activity can be monitored. Then, any changes in patterns can be detected and doctors can intervene sooner than later, turning the nature of medicine from reactive care to preventative care. Ultimately, societies will save money and not bankrupt themselves as the population grays.
Good thing IBM Watson is already making inroads with WellPoint and Memorial Sloan-Kettering.
“Watson is an incredible tool to be used by us and not replace us,” said Baker. “We used to have to know and hold a lot of facts in our heads and dig through it to come up with answers. And now machines, like Watson, are taking over more and more of the work. I’m very interested in how we're going to reorganize our own minds in order to work well with these machines.”
That is why, Baker argues, that using analytics can reveal truths that aren’t seen and get us to think more deeply about what is really happening.
Such as identifying who the dog is online.
For more information:
· Register for an upcoming IBM Finance Forum and IBM Performance in a city near you
· Read a previous blog entry from an interview with Stephen Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics, who is also speaking at these events along with Paul DePodesta, Lawrence McDonald and Harry Markopolos