What happens when social data meet statistical analysis

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:

 

A lexical map of Twitter discussions about the Montreal Canadiens hockey team.

“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.

Conversation Sculpting

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:

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 4.17.43 PM.png

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.

You can quickly generate a lexical map based on activity in your Twitter timeline by using our free NexaMe tool or HootSuite app. If you want a more detailed demo, just get in touch.

Nexalogy CEO Claude Théoret’s transition from studying black holes to analyzing social data

Nexalogy's Claude Théoret speaks at StartupGrind. Photo by Heri Rakotomalala, MTL NewTech

Nexalogy CEO Claude Théoret said his transition from a physicist to entrepreneur means he’s gone from dealing with “colossal amounts of astronomical data to processing an astronomical amount of social data.”

Théoret, a PhD. and founding member of McGill University’s astronomy department, was the speaker at last night’s Startup Grind event. He talked about his experience as an entrepreneur, the Montreal startup ecosystem, and what made him move from analyzing black holes to analyzing social media.

Part of the inspiration for his career shift was the realization that the analysis he would do for scientific papers could be done for blog posts.

“I realized that a blog is the same thing as a scientific paper,” he said. “All the scientific people said you’re full of it, but mathematically it’s the same thing. You have an author. You have an abstract. You have a date. You have a physical address because for a blog you have a link. And you have the paper it’s published in, which is the name of the blog.”

That’s what made him apply the algorithms he used to analyze scientific papers — and astronomical data — to blogs. The result was an initial tool to identify topics, networks and insights based on what bloggers were writing, and how they were connected to each other. He coded the first version himself.

“Two years later Twitter came around and we added it in,” Théoret said. “When each new social media platform emerged, we added it in.”

Today, he said, social media analytics is projected by Gartner to grow by over 3,000 percent in the next five years. Théoret saw the potential and importance of social content and data early on.

“I wanted to apply it to something where there was more data than just with academic papers,” he said. “People said Twitter was a waste of time and the same about Facebook. But I saw it was all going to explode.”

Montreal as a place for startups

Théoret also made the case that Montreal is a great place for startups.

“I’m very gung ho on the Montreal ecosystem,” he said.

Back in 2006, when Nexalogy was getting started, there were only two VCs in the city. Now there are many more, plus accelerator programs such as FounderFuel. The startups taking hold in the city are better than ever, he said. He also cited increased VC investment in Quebec companies.

Théoret said it’s impossible to compare Montreal or any other city to what’s been established in silicon valley.

“Silicon valley is like the pyramids,” he said. “We’re going to be talking about it forever. It’s something in world history that’s never going to be replicated.”

Echoing his recent talk at FailCampMTL, Théoret said that failure is a part of success.

“From being a physicist and entrepreneur I’ve learned that the real key to success is to go from failure to failure with enthusiasm,” he said.

What drives Théoret?

“I want to prove that we can do a Montreal startup that does big data,” he said.

 

How to gain free social media insights using NexaMe and the Nexalogy HootSuite app

Nexalogy offers two free ways for you to analyze the concepts, tweets, hashtags, links and people driving the conversation:

1. Our HootSuite app is consistently one of the most popular free apps in the HootSuite App Store. The NexaMe stream in the app offers a visual way to gain insights about the topics and people in your Twitter timeline. The Nexalogy Search stream enables you to dig deeper into a hashtag or search term.

2. If you’re not a HootSuite user, we offer free access to the NexaMe app at NexaMe.com. Login in with your Twitter account and you instantly see data about your timeline.

We’re thrilled that so many marketers, researchers, consultants, journalists and others using it every day.

Below are five tips to help you get the most out of NexaMe and our Nexalogy Hootsuite app. If you’re already using them, we’d love to get your feedback, so feel free to get in touch.

1. Understand The Obvious, The Potentials, and The Long Shots

A look at results from NexaMe.com, the Obvious, The Potentials and the Long Shots highlighted in red.

The NexaMe app by default shows you an interest map that visualizes the concepts being discussed. (The same is true for the Nexalogy Search streams in the HootSuite app.)

Each concept is displayed in a size relative to it’s importance in the conversation, and the map also shows you the relationship between each concept. These points of connection show how different concepts are related, based on the conversations taking place.

The best way to dig deeper into the concepts is to examine the three categories the app automatically places them in:

  • The Obvious are the big concepts getting the most discussion. When applied to your timeline in NexaMe, they show what your network is talking about most. In Nexalogy Search, The Obvious represent what’s known about the hastag/word in question.

  • The Potentials are concepts that are not yet as big as The Obvious. They have enough momentum that they could begin to set the agenda. In short, they have potential to blow up.

  • The Long Shots are just surfacing, and have only garnered brief mentions in the period analyzed. They may grow, or go nowhere. These could be the early signals worth paying more attention to.

You can click on the category buttons to show or hide the relevant concepts. This gives you an easier way to investigate the concepts. Here’s where the buttons are located in the HootSuite app (hover over the red dots for more information):

Now you’re ready to go to the next level and examine the tweets behind each concept.

2. Know your nodes

Each concept can provide you with interesting additional data. If you see a specific concept of interest, click on it.

This highlights that concept and any connected to it. You can now click the View Tweets button to see all the tweets related to that cluster. (Click the red dots below for more information.)

This is a great way to dig into the Potentials and The Long Shots to see what you might be missing. (You can zoom in and out of the interest map by rolling your mouse wheel, and you can move the map around by clicking and dragging.)

Note that you can select multiple nodes at the same time, but if you do this the app will only show tweets that include all of the relevant terms. So unless you’re looking to combine clusters of concepts, be sure to unselect a concept before you move to the next one.

3. Follow the links

Some of the most useful information is contained in the Analysis tab of the HootSuite app. Among other data, it shows the concepts and hashtags that are most of interest in your timeline or search.

You can also click anywhere on the timeline graph at the top to see the tweets for that specific moment in time. (This information is all displayed right on the main page of your NexaMe results if you use NexaMe.com.)

One of the most useful data points is the list of the most frequently tweeted links. This enables you to connect content from else where with what people are talking about. At the very least, it’s a great way to learn more about concepts being discussed, and to discover links that you may also want to share.

Here’s an example from the HootSuite app (NexaMe.com displays all of the links and other information on one page):

4. Connect people with the concepts

With the concepts identified, you can now relate them to the people who matter most. View the Suggested Connections to identify and follow new and emerging influencers on a given topic, or in your extended network. You can also see the most active, engaged and retweeted people users as well.

This puts the influencers right in front of you, offering you a list of people to follow and connect with.

To access these features in the HootSuite App, just click on the Connections button in the NexaMe of Nexalogy Search streams. Then use the drop down menu to select which user group you want to view. Here’s how:

5. Refresh often to stay on top of trends

Each time you open the Nexalogy tab in Hootsuite, or go to NexaMe.com, we pull in fresh data. Nexalogy delivers the most recent 1,500 tweets, or results from the past 7 days, whichever comes first.

This means that you should access the app or website at regular intervals in order to see new results and concepts. This increases the chances that you catch a Long Shot or Potential early on. It also ensures you can track the people and links that matter most.

If you want a more detailed search over a longer period, and with unlimited results, we can help you with that. Get in touch and we’ll make it happen.