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What will social analytics say about your company?

I was finally able to set aside some time the other night to reassess my privacy settings in Facebook, following changes made to the social network's privacy policy in December.One significant change is that the "Friends" list can no longer be hidden.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor on

I was finally able to set aside some time the other night to reassess my privacy settings in Facebook, following changes made to the social network's privacy policy in December.

One significant change is that the "Friends" list can no longer be hidden. Facebook believes this belongs to categories of information, along with others such as name, profile photo and gender, that's "considered publicly available to everyone".

However, it's a view that several users don't agree with, including some of my personal friends. And while I may not necessarily have any problems letting others browse my Friends list, I cannot expect all of my friends to share the same view, especially since they may have concerns that my slightly more public cyber life as a tech journalist may encroach on their own privacy.

As I perused the updated privacy options on Facebook, and tried to decide what information to shield and from whom it should be shielded, I realized that instilling such safeguards would defeat the purpose of being on a social network.

Because I'm on social networks primarily for work, I'm already deliberate about what I post on sites like Facebook and Twitter. So, there really isn't a need for me to filter the information.

Friends who think likewise probably won't post any information that I'll need to help safeguard, for instance, by blocking my Wall posts and Comments. And friends who are already willing to post their intimate thoughts on a public platform like Facebook, also won't want me to filter it on my end.

So, I decided eventually not to make any changes to my privacy settings, well, for now at least, until Facebook does something more drastic to its policy.

But, not everyone has adopted that approach, choosing instead to filter some friends out of their Wall posts, Comments, Status updates, and almost everything they can be sifted out of.

That got me thinking about their prospects, or lack of, as information that can be used by organizations to enhance their operations.

Keppel T&T CEO Pang Hee Hon said this week that the Internet avails a "gold mine" of data that can be tapped to improve business processes, noting that social networks are sources for companies to gain insights and facilitate knowledge-sharing.

In fact, SAS believes that social networks can augment analytics and enable businesses such as banks and telcos, to better predict behavioral patterns and identify potential security breaches, for example, before they strike.

If users choose to limit the information they want to share with some people on social networks, will that also limit the ability of social analytics tools to work effectively?

I've also sometimes used my social networks to experiment and assess the impact of such platforms on people, at times planting multi-faceted status updates to see what kind of reaction it would evoke. Yes, very naughty of me, I know...no doubt some of my Facebook friends will be chiding me soon over this.

But, I've never posted anything that was untrue. Rather, I played with the use of words to see how they might be interpreted when viewed by different minds. And, more often than not, the same word will be interpreted--and misinterpreted--differently by different people.

Imagine then how these words, which essentially make up the data that's being mined, will be interpreted by business analytics.

If enterprises do indeed implement such tools to include data on social media networks, what will that kind of intel say about their business and their customers? How accurate and thus, valuable, will that data then be for organizations?

User treatment of social networks today still differs greatly. Some, like me, prefer to moderate what they post on such platforms, while others have no qualms unearthing their innermost thoughts on Facebook.

So in one instance, there may be little data for businesses to make any useful analysis, while the other could paint an organization filled with angsty employees who are on the brink of psychotic breakdown.

Hmmm...

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