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Social media predicts stuff

Grasping at possible future options

Which option will be our future?

I have just read a great article* by Amy Birchall about social media being used to predict the future.

A researcher at Illinois University, Kalev Leetaru, was able to ‘predict’ events such as the Libyan revolution, Osama bin Laden’s location and the Arab spring revolts by monitoring conversations and trends on Twitter. (This made me think of the TV show Person of Interest which is based on a machine predicting the future!)

Extrapolating from that and other observations, the article discusses how social media can be used in many fields to predict things – giving warning to health authorities about epidemics for instance could be very important. Obviously, marketers and advertisers are interested by this as they can predict trends and position themselves accordingly.

It has also pointed out how valuable it can be to target the right (read influential) people can be. The example given was to immunise 96% of people for community immunity – or immunise the most connected 30% for similar results. In business terms, work at promoting yourself to 96% of your market, or to the 30% that influences the rest of the market.

With hash tags and various data monitoring and mining platforms available, it is possible to use social media to research your market and tailor marketing to suit. Have you used social media to decide on a strategy or campaign? Do you think it helped you make good decisions?


* I would love to link to the article for you but I can not find it online – Management Today does have a website and lists a number of articles but not this one unfortunately. I could upload a photocopy of the article but that would breach copyright so I won’t!

6 Responses to Social media predicts stuff

  • anotherspaceman says:

    Argh, really frustrating that you didn’t put in any of his predictions.

    All I’ve learnt is that one guy, out of however many studying social media trends (I guess he’s not alone) has had a few more hits than the rest of them.

    Obviously I’m not looking for lottery numbers here, but what’s the next revolution gonna be?

    It’s very interesting area, and one that could improve things greatly, especially with your medical example. But dammit I wanna know what the next big thing’s gonna be! Now!

    • tashword says:

      Sorry to leave you frustrated, anotherspaceman! The article was about using social media to make predictions, not make predictions about social media. So by watching social and traditional media, he was able to predict there would be riots in Eygpt for example.

      There were no future predictions listed in the article for me to include, just a discussion on that ability and how it could be useful.

  • UmiNoor says:

    I’ve also read somewhere, can’t remember where that what people search on Google can also predict a trend. For example, when there was a spike in the search for H1N1 epidemic, there’s a noticeable increase in the disease. Some people use this to predict the next big thing. Google has a tool that marketers can use to predict what the next big thing would be. Perhaps anotherspaceman can use this and it’s Google Insights for Search. There’s one column where Google indicates a rising interest. That could be the next big thing.

    • tashword says:

      Thanks for the suggestion, UmiNoor. That sounds very similar to what this article was referring to – probably together you would get even more accurate results, too.

  • onlinebusinessgal says:

    I can certainly see how social media websites and information can be used to predict a various situations and factors. I have not yet figured out how to use social media networks to really predict future spending or trends from my target market. This would certainly be good if I could though.

    • tashword says:

      I haven’t put time into predicting things from social media, either onlinebusinessgal.

      The example in the article did show me the potential though – imagine you sell flowers so in January you look at social media conversations to see what flowers people are popular and can prepare for Valentines Day. or look at conversations from the 15th of February last year to see what worked (and didn’t work) last Valentine’s Day to predict offerings for this year and also get tips you can share in social media.

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