Sep 252012

Social networking, mobility, and analytics are among the key topics for the enterprise today, as companies attempt to leverage social networks for insights, provide on-the-road access to data, and integrate an increasing realm of data into the diversified range of analytics possibilities provided by Big Data. Each of these areas is of growing importance to corporate marketing strategies and internal efficiency. But the confluence of social, mobile, and analytics is creating some important trends in its own right. As we explore in a recent Executive Update (see “SoLoMo Analytics“), many of these revolve around the growing combination of social, local, and mobile — often called “SoLoMo” — that has become a key emerging ecosystem of consumer behavior and behavior analysis.

Today’s end users increasingly access social networks on mobile devices, using them to report on activity, share photos and location, and connect with friends on the go. These users also often use this outlet to respond to promotions, mention products, and place feedback. Increasingly, information from social networks is crucial for marketing and forms a key part of Big Data analytics.

Mobile devices generally reach social networks through apps or purpose-built mobile webpages. Consequently, standard social media analytics that look only at webpages can miss critical information available from mobile devices, and certain types of information can be wrongly reported. In addition, mobile apps, in particular, reach deeper into social networking through various methods, including access to “native” mobile social media networks such as foursquare and Gowalla, access to Web-based social communities such as Facebook and LinkedIn, plus access to a vast range of blogs and wikis. There’s also an increasing range of corporate marketing-centered apps designed to engage customers and build communities through discussion, gaming, and promotions.

Thus, corporate app development provides a new way for targeted engagement with customers by offering on-device visibility, purpose-built communities, access to online social networks through APIs, as well as social networking apps. When used by customers, these new avenues provide considerably more data than simple network access — or even device access — provides. In addition to social data, they provide data on how effectively the app performs, permitting fine-tuning of the SoLoMo analytics strategy.

The convergence of social, mobile, and analytics creates many new opportunities for accessing and understanding customer data. Today’s mobile devices add a wealth of new information to basic data provided in websites. The growing SoLoMo ecosystem provides a context to data that can include such information as where an item was seen, its image and condition, customer or user reactions, and commentary. Without the ability to track the mobile component of social data, a great amount of potential value is lost.

All of this coincides with the simultaneous growth in social media usage and mobile access. Within the past few months, a boundary has been crossed, where mobile phone users spend more time engaged with social networks than in playing games. In fact, Flurry reports that mobile time on social networks increased by 60% between Q1 2011 and Q1 2012. This is significant because gaming and entertainment have always been a key focus for mobile apps.

A fundamental shift in communications is occurring, favoring informal sharing of a wide variety of messages and media types within groups of friends. We often view such usage of communications as a Facebook phenomenon, but it really extends across numerous and diverse sites and forms of engagement, with mobility emerging as a critical component. We now envision social networking as a key channel for getting product information to market. Marketers are exploiting this communication by creating socially driven apps based on social network site APIs as well as for mobile devices — and by analyzing streams of available Web and mobile social data from online sites.

Social sharing is also critical to other areas of the enterprise, including collaboration and innovation as well as energizing other business processes. Furthermore, we can fine-tune these processes with the addition of analytics that can determine trends — where “the buzz” develops and how changes in processes and outcomes affect customers, clients, and stakeholders. Potential is huge, and many possible avenues remain to be explored.

Social mobile analytics involves Big Data to examine the fire hose of online commentary. It incorporates the cloud since devices cannot perform analysis on their own, and it also includes app development and deployment, mobile ecosystems, and the next generation of the Web. In brief, it represents the confluence of all the major trends in IT today.

For those venturing into this territory, there are great possibilities, but it will be important to ensure that each application provides a real, cost-effective benefit. Mobile social analytics is a tool that can provide competitive advantage, but usage models are only beginning to emerge.


Brian Dooley

Brian J. Dooley is a Senior Consultant with Cutter Consortium's Data Analytics & Digital Technologies practice. He is an author, analyst, and journalist with more than 30 years' experience in analyzing and writing about IT trends.


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