Unlocking Data Insight from Text & Social Media

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Unlocking data-driven decision-making is certainly the topic of the day, especially when it comes to innovation in business and IT technology. Just recently in a consortium of government, academic and industry leaders, the discussion turned to “the possibilities” of social media big data use; more specifically, what people do, how they use text and the potential of social media analytics. In this 2013 SAS Government leadership Summit where the world’s leading custom report consulting companies participated, the discussion turned to extracting knowledge from social media platforms.

Although, expert custom reporting services analysts suggested that this data resource was not quite ready to scale, and ITcustom report designers haven’t quite figured out how to extract knowledge from social media data, they did stress that many database reporting tools are rapidly being developed or evolving, and these could eventually help government and industry leaders turn social media data into data-driven action in the future.

Expert consultants to government agencies, such as John Cassara, former U.S. Treasury agent, suggested that social media analytics and custom reporting services could help in areas such as financial crime investigations or terrorist financing.

Even so, the thought of using social data for its analytical value is very new, and experts are still unsure of how to scale such large amounts of data from the public domain. However, both financial and custom report tech designers do say it’s possible, and that we are moving in that direction. Of course effective use also depends on government agencies and industry internal procedures. And of course, there are still unresolved problems dealing with privacy and civil liberties. However, even withtheseroadblocks, Cassara and otherexperts believe social media analytics will become an important tool for both federal enforcement agencies and private industry companies.

Denise Bedford from Kent State University, and former information officer at the World Bank in Washington DC, suggested that the use of social media text analytics will create newer, more efficient tools that better define the information, organize it, and allow for easier access; thus, allowing federal, state and private report consulting companies to deliver measurable and meaningful improvements in data reporting performance.

Already, there are significant advances in data extraction tools, allowing industry leaders to extract knowledge from social media text. These tools also enable validation, which makes social media information a more reliable source. According to Denise, “these tools allow you to test subjective opinions, develop objective models quantify ideas.”

Even so, leaders at the SAS Summit suggested that this information currently needs to be used with caution. As Lt. Col. Eric Hansen, retired US Army military intelligence corps says, “Just because something appears on social media doesn’t make it relevant.” The analytical challenge is to extract the data properly, then verify it, so it is efficient and informative.

Whatever the challenges, all the data experts agree; social media can be a “signal” of impeding events, giving us information on everything from disease outbreaks to future economic trends. Social media offers a world of opportunities and innovation – a way to gauge public sentiment, influencing opinions, and even information government policy change.

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