• Big Data
  • Experfy Editor
  • APR 17, 2014

Big Data Taps into Social Media Mainstream: Business and Government Impacts

Data, technologies and tools that provide access to data form a core component in today’s mainstream society. One of the upcoming trends that have been lurking around the corner is the adoption of social media as part of mainstream big data business. Or is it the other way around? Has big data become more mainstream by embracing social media as a rich source of business data? Whatever may be the case, the fact remains that more and more, the government and business sectors are depending on the social media buzz—the most tweeted keywords or the most prevalent hashtags—to determine the future course of action in politics, in business, and in society.  

According to a recent study, global users post 400 million tweets on Twitter, upload 350 million photos on Facebook, and view 4 billion YouTube videos on a daily basis.  Not surprisingly, United Kingdom’s Economic and Social Research Council plans on investing £64 million in order to fund research on big data, social media data, and its use in big data analytics. Today’s governments cannot function without the support of political campaigns launched through the social media; and today’s businesses run the risk of losing millions in profit  unless they leverage social data (data floating all across the social media platforms) for improving their operational processes or product portfolios. Refer to this graphic from IDG, which accurately reflects the proliferation of big data in mainstream business: big-data-is-here-to-stay  

Recent events in the social data market

A couple of recent developments in the social data market have brought about major shifts in business sentiments. The first event was the acquisition of Gnip, a trusted reseller of social data by Twitter, the social media giant. The other event was the acquisition of Topsy, another social data reseller, by Apple. These two acquisitions together have shaken the market framework of social data business. What will be interesting to watch will be the future consequences of these acquisitions on the global big data market. Twitter, with this single move, has taken a strong step forward towards rebranding its data products and repositioning itself in a market hungry for social media tweets!

On one end of the spectrum, you have the closed Japanese market, where information or social media are highly controlled and protected by local governance. NTT controls the social data market in that region and will continue to reign supreme as Japan is not about to open their data floodgates to the rest of the business world.

On the other end of the spectrum looms the US data market, where Datasift will solely influence, lead, or control the social data market. The US believes in an open system, based on free sharing of information. The recent changes in the social data market may have widespread impact on the rest of the business world. The recent acquisitions may lead to a fragmented social data market in US and in the rest of the world, as Twitter and Facebook tussle to gain control over their respective territories. The acquisitions can potentially polarize the social data market in US, between two rival factions of Facebook followers and Twitter followers. The same struggle for control will take place between Gnip and Datasift.  

Twitter vs Facebook: A possible war over social data market control

Twitter will control how, when, and to whom it licenses its tweeted products to; and Datasift may inadvertently start ruling the non-Twitter social data market, leaving the Twitter subscribers hanging by themselves. Market polarization of social data can have far-reaching consequences, amounting to freezing of information channels to rival channels. It is possible that future businesses subscribing to Gnip products may get alienated from the Facebook world of data. In fact, Gnip and Datasift may inadvertently end up creating two separate markets for social data.  

Shifts in business sentiments: The probable trends to watch

Twitter and Apple’s acquisitions signal broad acceptance of social data into the ambit of big data market. Gnip serves customers in more than 40 countries; and Topsy was  known for delivering rich, Twitter content to customers. Two acquisitions validate the worth of social data as a revenue earner. The new developments may be:

  1. Governments, who already rely on social media for election campaigns and political surveys, will now rely more on social feeds like Twitter and Facebook for influencing the outcomes of elections.
  2. Businesses will have access to more in-depth, more refined twitter feeds for their customer relationship management, product portfolio management, and human resources development programs. 
  3. Twitter + Gnip together will form a strong collaboration in future twitter market, but Gnip may lose access to other social platforms – runs the risk of social alienation from broad social media platforms. They will have to improve their data sets to compete with Datasift.
  4. Datasift will become the sole controller of social data in the US market, but may have reduced licensing to Twitter data. (Twitter generated $70.3 million in revenue last year from licensing its data.)
  5. Facebook may give increasing competition to Twitter.
  6. NTT will remain unaffected as it enjoys a monopoly over the Japanese, social data market.
  7. Development of new privacy regulations related to social media data.
  8. Development of more advanced analytics technologies to tackle vast streams of semi-structured and unstructured data.

  Further reading: Social Media and Big Data Post note No 460 March 2014, published by Houses of Parliament Parliamentary Office of Science & technology, UK

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