Gregory Artzt, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, General Sentiment, comes from a mathematical and systems background -- a good thing, because his company is in the business of gathering, processing, analyzing and framing results from big social media datasets. General Sentiment taps the growth of user-generated content and evaluates it with market research principles. In my interview with him, Gregory discusses the future trend in social media, the importance of “Likes” as part of the measurement arsenal, Business Intelligence platforms, Set-Top-Box Data and ROI. He also looks ahead to some important predictions on social media and the industry at large.
Below is an excerpt from the interview, available in full here.
CW: “Likes” on Facebook has become an important metric for social media measurement. How relevant is the number of “Likes” -- does it really reflect anything?
GA: It’s amazing how much attention companies are paying to the number of fans they have on Facebook these days and followers they have on Twitter…. That is one of the main ways they are measuring whether their social campaigns are working or not. And so the tools in social media management that are growing are really the ones that help them create more fans and create more followers.
It is important, but it is not standalone. It is not the only thing to look at. There are people who are very valuable – fans and followers – who are going to create more of a viral, positive effect for your products. And then there are people who are very passive who just happen to like it because their friends did and they are just going down a stream of things.
You expose a million people to it and a certain percentage will respond. So a big part of what social media has been to date has been about promotion. And when you are using it for intelligence, you do need to filter out certain things….
Fans and “Likes” are one part of the equation, as are Followers. But we [General Sentiment] look at other things. We look at what they are saying. When there is a certain amount of discussion, that indicates more of a commitment to the product, the brand, the television show -- whatever it is, they care about it more if they are taking the time out to talk about it. They want their friends to see it. They want their voice to be heard on this issue. So that is a much more significant way to voice your opinion than simply liking and following. Analytics goes well beyond this basic metric, but it is indeed one piece of the equation.
CW: Where do you see the future of social media heading five years from now? Will it expand? Will it shrink? Will it morph?
GA: It is hard to see social media slowing down right now. We think that it will continue to accelerate. Facebook already has close to a billion users, so you can’t imagine the number of users will continue to grow at current pace.
However, and more importantly, people are spending more and more time, and contributing more to the site, and that’s what causes growth. It is a good time to be asking that question now that there is talk of Facebook going public in early 2012. There has been an undeniable trend of centralization online from the early Internet days of disparate websites and forums. Now, people are spending so much of their time on Facebook and Twitter. Those are the primary places.
There are other locations that are really good for specific types of things – If you want to voice your opinion, if you want to share common interests with people. There are other social destinations and Google+ is carving out their place right now.
We think that there will be other tools that will create new types of interest. Some are more private than others. There are social networks out there like Experience Project. You don’t know who the users are, but they share their opinions more than ever because of the anonymous environment.
Social will continue to evolve, but I think it will continue to grow. And the amount of data that is made available will also continue to grow. I don’t see this slowing down any time soon.