Is social media analysis the new astronomy?

It’s very easy for us all to become bewildered by the enormity of the social media data around us. But what lessons can we learn from the history of astronomy?
By
Julian Dailly

November 12, 2018

As cave (wo)men we gazed at the universe of stars and thought “It must mean something”. Occasionally a comet would fly past, which was clearly meaningful because it didn’t happen every day. And when it did, star gazers thought, “Perhaps a new king is coming” Or “Are we due a flood?”

Over time astronomers noticed patterns in the movements of the stars and started as they say, to join the dots, seeing links to the tides, the seasons and how the earth related to the sun.

It took a longtime coming but looking at these billions of stars arguably produced two of humanity’s biggest insights: The earth spins round the sun and the universe started life with a big bang.

Astronomical insights were some of the most interesting discoveries ever seen: At once disruptive(earth vs. sun), requiring fancy new equipment (telescopes) and enthralling(space exploration).

Social media analytics is very similar to old fashioned star gazing. Billions of data points gently twinkling day and night, apparently both meaningful and random, with lots of fancy equipment required to understand it.

The internet was the big bang of social media data: Social networks, websites, phones, servers, beacons, logins, cameras, location services, cookies, biometrics, online research. Each has created a galaxy of data which expands exponentially each year.

Understanding these galaxies and how they fit into an overall universe has become the new astronomy. And like the sky at night, most people staring at it have no idea what it means. Most of us scratch our heads, wondering “It must mean something”. But what, at this point, we don’t really know.

It’s very easy for us all to become bewildered by the enormity of the social media data around us. But what lessons can we learn from the history of astronomy?

  1. Don’t get lost in the detail: the study of individual stars and galaxies most powerfully produced learnings about how the universe in general operates.
    a) What are your customers’ social media habits and do they know about what you do? This is your moon, the nearest planet to explore!
    b) What does social media tell us about how consumers are changing how they shop or take a position on brands?
  2. Be prepared to upend received wisdom:
    a) Social media data presents a view of consumer behaviours which challenge beliefs and rules of thumb established over many decades. It fundamentally changes how brands acquire and retain customers.Be prepared to “boldly go where no (wo)man has been before”
  3. Explore with special vehicles: in 1895 Konstantin Tsiolkovsky discovered a rocket might be able to fly in space, thus opening the door to Mars landings.
    a) Exploring social media data might need different approaches to gathering online data, innovative statistics, new metrics and new skills.
    b) However, what you learn must be down to earth and grounded in the world as we know it. Social media analytics cannot become itself another set of obscure findings and jargon.


If you’re struggling to see the universe for the stars, perhaps Morar HPI can help you cut through the complexity of social media analysis and monitoring. We can help you take a strategic and actionable look at your brand, in areas such as:

It’s not rocket science but it’s getting near it. However, given we work with many big and small clients on lots of social media projects we should be able to provide you something simple and insightful you can use every day to grow your brand.

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