IDG News Service - While the number of users on Twitter, Facebook and other social-networking sites grows, business intelligence practitioners remain skeptical about the knowledge value such services could generate, if one survey by a data warehousing firm is any indication.
Kognitio surveyed 125 people on its sales contact list about the potential value of social-networking tools, in terms of providing raw data that could be analyzed. Respondents were ambivalent about this possible new source of intelligence, however.
"We wanted to find out if the enterprise architects, and the people in the BI trenches, are bringing in and analyzing social media data," said John Thompson, CEO of Kognitio's North American operations. "And for the most part, they aren't."
Only 14% of the respondents said they have any desire to incorporate social-networking data into their current data analysis efforts. A total of 63% of the respondents were "undecided" about the potential value of aggregated social-networking data, and 23% called social media "overrated."
Kognitio released the results of the survey at the National Retail Federation's annual conference this week in New York.
Thompson said while organizations have started using social-networking sites as marketing tools, less thought has been dedicated to analyzing feedback such sites could generate.
Thompson said most BI practitioners are too busy refining their existing systems to look into new sources of raw data. Once upper management starts to see the strategic value in analyzing the chattering of the many, however, more social media-based BI may be used.
Such social media-based conversations, recommendations and other user-generated data could be worth investigating through such tools as text mining, sentiment analysis and geo-location.
"It would be interesting for retailers to look at certain trends and to get an idea of what people are thinking, doing and talking about," he said.
A large social-networking site can provide a snapshot of what people are talking about in near real-time, Thompson said. A retailer could track if a certain brand name is being talked about and watch the buzz as it moves around to different regions. It can also summarize whether positive or negative comments are made about the brand through a keyword-based technique called sentiment analysis.
Setting up a social-networking monitoring feed within a BI system shouldn't be that difficult, Thompson said. Social-networking data is unstructured, so it is not organized in a formally defined database. By now, most BI tool vendors and service providers have incorporated some means of working with unstructured data. BI providers have also streamlined operations so that analysis can be generated in near real-time and displayed on dashboards and widgets. However, Thompson cautioned that Twitter limits the number of times in a day a search call can be made to the service.
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