IBM Targets the Future of Social Media Analytics

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IBM announced a new product dedicated to helping customers perform sentiment analysis of social media data on Thursday, as well as a new program with the Yale School of Management’s Center for Customer Insight to train students in advanced data analysis skills. With businesses increasingly getting hip to social media as a way of connecting with customers, and with an industry-wide need for analytics skills, both the product and project are well-timed.

The new product, called Cognos Consumer Insight, is built upon IBM’s Cognos business intelligence technology along with Hadoop to process the piles of unstructured social media data. According to Deepak Advani, IBM’s VP of predictive analytics, there’s a lot of value in performing text analytics on data derived from Twitter, Facebook and other social forums to determine how companies or their products are faring among consumers. Cognos lets customers view sentiment levels over time to determine how efforts are working, he added, and skilled analysts can augment their Cognos Consumer Insight usage with IBM’s SPSS product to bring predictive analytics into the mix.

The partnership with Yale is designed to address the current dearth of analytic skills among business leaders, Advani said. Although the program will involve training on analytics technologies, Advani explained that business people still need some grounding in analytic theory and thinking rather than just knowing how to use a particular piece of software. “I think the primary goal is for students to learn analytically,” he said, which will help know which technology to put to work on what data, and how.

Within many organizations, he added, the main problem is that they’re not using analytics at the point of decision or across all their business processes. Advani says partnerships like those with Yale will help instill the thought process of using mathematical algorithms instead of gut feelings.

To advance these goals, Advani said IBM will provide both software and technical experts to help teach students. It also will connect students with IBM customers who want to improve their analytics efforts so both groups can work through the best methods for doing so. Working only with IBM software might be somewhat limiting on the technology side, but the practice in solving real-world problems with data analytics should be invaluable regardless the tools available.

We’ve been talking about the need for advanced analytics capabilities for a while now — highlighted by the high demand for data scientists — but the need spans all levels of business users. As Advani noted, even the U.S. Bureau of Labor has said analytics jobs will increase 24 percent over the next eight years.

Image courtesy of Flickr user James Sarmiento.

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