Over the past few years, understanding social media has become essential for cities and businesses. Across demographic groups, the growth in social media use is dizzying, and organizations are collecting that social data to measure everything from brand awareness to product flaws.

The majority of social media data analysis tools rely on the words within a tweet or social post to determine who is talking about your brand, and how they feel about your products or services. That’s not always helpful for smaller organizations or municipalities looking for very specific insights from consumers or constituents.

If people don’t tweet about a topic you’re interesting in analyzing, there is really nothing you can do. For major companies like Coca-Cola, there’s plenty of relevant data across the world to be mined. But for more narrow geographies like a city, it’s much tougher to try to pull worthwhile data.

When data is there, the goal should be to focus on meta data when available. That helps provide more context. For example, if someone in a city complains about traffic, is there really a problem or did an accident happen during rush hour?

To understand that, you need time and place information around the data to better understand the context. Smaller businesses and cities often need to work with a consultant or third-party IT services provider to develop a customized platform that can extract and present the precise answers they need.

The bottom line is that social media is a source of data, but it needs to be considered along with other more traditional or mainstream sources of information. So while social media should have a place in your analytics, it should not be considered the sole source of the truth. Investing in a system that seamlessly integrates and presents multiple data sets, including social data, will likely be worthwhile in the long term.


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