Mining social media

I had some compelling conversations with Joseph Carrabis of Nextstage Evolution this past week at SNCR’s NewComm Forum where I was also formulating what I’ll be doing this year as a sr research fellow. Joseph’s company has a patented method for predicting or anticipating user behaviors online. As described, the patent sounded quite broad, but with or without patent his approach was interesting.

It’s based on a number of user profiles based on information. I’m a relational and communication-oriented person, so I took some friendly issue with his approach. Insofar as the social web is a communication space, and social media facilitate talk — in varying degrees of speed, depth, persistence, contextuality, and topicality, I can’t see how a model can ignore characteristics of communication and interpersonal psychology.

When our interactions are mediated, ambiguities of intent, trust, sincerity, motive and so on seep into online communication. Psychology and personality differentiate user behavior as they do in any social encounter, and people engage and respond according to their tendencies, sensitivities, and blind spots.

A combination of user psychology (developed perhaps in the form of personality types modified to suit communication styles online) and information-centric interests and preferences might make for a powerful tool. And as the glut of information online is intensified by the sudden popularity of talk tools like Twitter as well as feed-based applications, anyone interested in reaching users/consumers by interest, affinity, or taste, will need intelligent engagement tools.

This will be a huge market. And the companies that not only succeed on the analytical side of monitoring, tracking, and measuring user behavior but also on the engagement side of giving marketers, publishers, and advertisers targeted, social graph-informed, and actionable campaign management tools will pull in some serious cash.

The social web is a gold mine. And as was the case during the gold rush, it’s the guys selling mining tools that will make a killing.

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