Six things social data taught us this year

As social data becomes more abundant, accessible, archived and sliceable, academic institutions, trade groups and companies in the space are releasing wave after wave of analysis. Combined with survey after survey on consumer use of social, this flood of new research is mirroring the flood of social data itself, and interesting and important findings can easily get lost in our inboxes and Twitter streams. Here are six fascinating findings you may have missed.

1. Tweet text contains reliable gender clues

Of course it’s usually not difficult to guess a Twitter user’s gender from the name behind their handle, but what happens when only the text of their tweets can be used? The Mitre Corporation used a computer to look for patterns in the text of each user in the study’s tweets, and identified gender successfully in 75.8% of guesses. Predictably, more data equaled higher accuracy—when the computer could analyze tweets, handle, bio, and full name, accuracy shot up to 92%.

2. Facebook users confide in more people, are more trusting

A study by The Pew Research Center found interesting social differences between Facebook users and the rest of the US online population.  Frequent Facebookers have “9% more close, core ties in their overall social network,” and “43% more likely than other internet users and more than three times as likely as non-internet users to feel that most people can be trusted.”

3. Price mentions in UGC increase as Dow and CCI fall

As part of his analysis for The Conversation Index, Social Analyst Alex Barrera established inverse correlations between two key economic indices and use of the word “price” in the text of reviews during the Great Recession. Specifically, Alex’s team found a correlation of -.66 between the Consumer Confidence Index and percent of reviews with price mentions, and a stronger correlation of -.68 between the Dow closing index and price mentions. This means that the way we talk about products and services reflects our economic concern.

4. Twitter packs more purchase-driving punch than Facebook

Surveying over 2,500 online buyers, Kantar Media Compete discovered something that should make brands take another look at a channel many of them have been neglecting—Twitter. Thirty-five percent of those surveyed identified Twitter as a significant purchase driver, compared to 23.5% identifying Facebook as such.

5. YouTube links live longer

Over on the Bitly blog, the concept of half-life was applied to links as “the amount of time at which this link will receive half of the clicks it will ever receive after it’s reached its peak.” After running an analysis of 1,000 top bitly links, the bitly science team found that links originally posted on YouTube have a half-life of 7.4 hours, more than double the half-life of Facebook and Twitter links (3.2 hours and 2.8 hours, respectively).

6. Word choice and spelling betray location of Twitter users

Robert Frost is quoted as saying, “You can be a little ungrammatical if you come from the right part of the country.” Carnegie Mellon Machine Learning researchers looked at 4.5 million words in 380,000 tweets and were able to determine where users lived based on their word choice and regional spellings. Here in the South, people don’t just say “y’all,” they tweet it, and in California, people aren’t “really tired,” but “hella tired.” From the CMU press release:

It might be a mistake to assume that the greater interconnectivity afforded by computer networks and sites such as Twitter will necessarily result in more homogeneity in language. The social circles maintained by social networks such as Twitter often are geographically focused, he noted. Also, many people use the Internet to seek out like-minded people with similar interests, rather than expose themselves to a broader range of ideas and experiences.

There’s no shortage of fascinating social data findings coming out every day. This post could have covered hundreds of them, but I chose to zero in on a few that were particularly surprising and unique. What else deserves to be on this list? Let me know in the comments below!

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