Social media data. Huge amount of volume. Huge amount of complexity and simplicity in structure.
Time for a radical metaphor.
It’s like the night sky.
With the naked eye, you can see thousands individual dots of light.
And, humans being human, if you look long and hard enough, you’ll see patterns and start associating events with those patterns.
See below. I offer some evidence to back up that claim.
Of course, those relationships are one possible interpretation. (And fine. I accept where they’re coming from).
If I used something significantly more powerful, like the Hubble, and trained it at a fairly dark part of the sky – (and they did) – you’d see this:
Right there – next to the moon in that shot – is all of that complexity.
Depending on where you train that instrument – where you care to look – you’re going to get a different view.
The harder you look, frequently, the more intricacy you’ll see.
Of course, there’s the moon right next to it. Why don’t we just pay attention to the biggest and brightest thing?
Well, that’s interesting. But if you look far back enough, and wide enough, (and they did), you’d see this:
And that’s the metaphor before us.
We have instruments that enable us to look at very small bits of data, and not much else.
We have instruments that enable us to look at big, huge, massive glowing orbs. And not much else.
We have instruments that enable us to take in the whole thing. And not much else.
Social media measurement, as it’s treated by most companies these days, is entirely about listening. That is, it’s all about observation. Of course, they use a different sensory organ. But I suppose the good people at SETI listen too. (insert smirk). So, the astronomical metaphor stands. It’s an observational science. It’s not really an experimental science.
For some social media marketers – it’s an experimental science. They’re heading out to the moon and checking it out. Maybe dripping some acid into that rock to see what it’s made of. They’re some of the first ones out there.
However, even the experimenters are asked about the night sky. It’s important and has an impact. It still inspires.
So what matters? The moon? The pretty galaxies beyond it? The background radiation?
Well, they all matter. Which matters more depends on you and what you’re trying to achieve.
You only have so much focus. You have a very narrowly defined locus of attention. If you spend too much time staring at the moon, you’re not going to see faint stars. It’ll take awhile for your eyes to readjust. Different instruments in social media measurement do very different things. At least – that should be acknowledged.
That’s my point of view.
Make sense of the volume and structure that makes sense for what you’re trying to achieve.