As the old saying goes, sometimes people miss the forest for the trees.
It means they’re too focused on a small aspect and miss the bigger picture. When it comes to analyzing social media, however, the only way to gain true insights is to examine the forest and the trees.
You need to recognize the big patterns (the forest) as well as investigate specific pieces of content that make up the whole (the trees).
One of our best tools for enabling customers to see the forest and the trees is the lexical map.
The Lexical Map
A lexical map is what happens when social data meet statistical analysis. The map uses a large data set — tweets, Facebook posts, blog posts etc. — and illustrates the concepts that emerge, and how they’re connected to each other.
Concepts are automatically sized based on the volume of data behind them. The more times a word is repeated in the data, the bigger it is on the map. Here’s an example of a lexical map at what we might call the forest level:
“When we collect the data the system reads every word,” says Nexalogy Chief Analyst Zach Devereaux. “As it’s processing something such as blog posts or tweets, it’s assigning values to the words used, determining how frequently they appear within the data set. It also analyzes how often a term is used in conjunction with other terms and then visualizes the network based on their connections.”
The clusters of concepts are a result of this process. With the map generated, it’s up to our analysts to begin interpreting and scoring the data. They zoom in on concepts and read the content associated with them.
Nexalogy CEO Claude Théoret says that social data is “a raw material that can be collected, stored, carved and sculpted into new objects with a purpose.”
That’s what our team does with a lexical map: we sculpt the results into something that reveals key insights. This process involves using our software to view the content (such as tweets or blog posts) associated with specific concepts.
“It’s about making sure you have a data set that represents the problem at hand,” says Mark Goren, Nexalogy Director of Client Services. “We’re looking for authentic conversations and voices that enable us to derive insights from the aggregate of all the data. With the map, we see the relationships not just between the words themselves but the content behind it. That’s very powerful.”
Ultimately, he says, “we sculpt the data to hone in on the content that helps us solve the client’s problem.”
Here are two of examples of doing that.
Customer Insights: Terra20
Terra20 is a retailer of environmentally friendly products with stores in Ontario. Prior to opening its first location in Ottawa, Terra20 asked Nexalogy to analyze blog posts from female bloggers in the target market. The goal was to understand more about what local mothers care about, how they talk about environmental and health issues, and to determine a smart strategy to reach them on their own terms.
Nexalogy designed a blog search to pull in posts that contained mentions of motherhood and parenting in an eco-friendly context. The team then examined the data on a lexical map to extract the top concepts from these blog posts. What emerged was a picture of concerns and passions that fell into four categories: family, the environment, home, and health and product purchases. You can see them labeled on the below map:
The team was able to drill down and see what the people were talking about in each area, and to even generate lists of the specific brands and products they were talking about.
This, along with additional information about the womens’ views regarding green products, was key intelligence for Terra20’s social and product launch strategies. It helped them ensure a successful launch.
Needle in the Haystack: Petro-Canada
Another project where a lexical map delivered real insight was when Petro-Canada engaged Nexalogy to provide a detailed examination of its reputation on social media. There was simply too much information on blogs and elsewhere for them to process it and extract key insights efficiently.
Nexalogy conducted a search of Canadian bloggers and the conversations taking place around Petro-Canada, its projects and issues.
By closely examining the map and the conversations represented, Nexalogy was able to identify an emerging issue prior to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The relevant concepts are highlighted in this map:
Nexalogy identified an ongoing and accelerating discussion taking place around native land rights and the Games. The map showed how the relevant concepts were connected, and Nexalogy analysts dug deeper to read the specific blog posts.
“The discussion around land rights wasn’t the biggest conversation on the map — but that’s the point,” says Goren. “It was an early warning of something important, and it came long before this issue hit the press and the public consciousness. The map enabled us to locate that faint but essential signal.”
The result was that Petro-Canada’s risk management team was able to refocus their efforts around this emerging issue, and avoid a possible public relations issue.