SEATTLE — Analyzing data is no longer confined to numbers and must also include social media. That's why, earlier this week, SAS launched its Social Media Analytics software at its SAS Global Forum event here. The move, which has been lauded by industry pundits, underscores the rapidly growing importance of social media in business and, particularly, the need to understand and respond to customer sentiment on the social Web.
"There's a data explosion and expectation explosion," said Thorton May, IT Futurist and Professor at Fisher College of Business. Addressing social media's impact on business, he added, "There's no such thing as plausible deniability. You can't blame society or technology-it's bad business, laziness, and incompetence. If you aren't delivering awe, you are exposed."
Organizations are trying to find those instances of negative exposure, which is why many are turning to social media monitoring tools. (Conversely, these tools can identify positive customer sentiment as well.) The goal, though, is to go beyond the noise in social media to understand overarching trends that will impact the organization.
For its part, SAS Social Media Analytics can conduct text mining and sentiment analysis across the social Web. The software can archive and analyze conversations on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, forums, blogs, and more. And, according to Jim Davis, senior vice president and CMO of SAS, the solution can target sentiment by media source.
The product, an on-demand solution, delivers real-time insights through Web-based dashboards, reports, and workflow-enabled alerts. Medium and large enterprises can leverage SAS's data processing speed and power, enabling marketers to quickly cull and analyze large volumes of structured and unstructured data from internal and external sources.
One of the many features that industry pundits like is that the solution can identify a sentiment moving average. While Radian6 can track consumer sentiment on the social Web over the past 30 days, SAS can measure consumer sentiment over the past two years, or more, according to Justin Levy, director of business development, corporate strategy, and client services at New Marketing Labs.
Understanding that influence on the social Web is not accurately measured by the number of followers, SAS has a more sophisticated approach to quantifying influence. According to Mark Chaves, director of media intelligence solutions at SAS Customer Intelligence, SAS Social Media Analytics determines a person's influence by calculating three factors: the number of followers, the percentage of relevant posts (based on a specified topic), and the percentage of reposts.
Additionally, the application can forecast future volume of social media conversations and predict their impact on the business. This, according to SAS, helps companies allocate resources, create "what-if" scenarios and correlate key marketing metrics like brand preference, Web traffic, online campaign effectiveness, and media mix.
To capture and analyze colloquialisms and slang, marketers and analysts can also adjust the rules that assign sentiment to topics. SAS states that this offers more-accurate sentiment extraction rules that give a more-complete picture of customer likes and dislikes.
In a press-and-analyst briefing with Chaves, Paul Greenberg, president of The 56 Group and author of CRM at the Speed of Light, said, "There's, like, 170 social media monitoring companies, but there's only one of [SAS]. This thing took you to another level. It's not just another product by any means. It's a game changer for [SAS]."
According to Chaves, SAS will start targeting its product to existing SAS customers that are using social media monitoring tools from other vendors, such as Radian6. "We don't have the buzz that Radian6 has," Chaves said, but he insisted that SAS Social Media Analytics offers more.
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