Book Image

Learning Social Media Analytics with R

By : Dipanjan Sarkar, Karthik Ganapathy, Raghav Bali, Tushar Sharma
Book Image

Learning Social Media Analytics with R

By: Dipanjan Sarkar, Karthik Ganapathy, Raghav Bali, Tushar Sharma

Overview of this book

The Internet has truly become humongous, especially with the rise of various forms of social media in the last decade, which give users a platform to express themselves and also communicate and collaborate with each other. This book will help the reader to understand the current social media landscape and to learn how analytics can be leveraged to derive insights from it. This data can be analyzed to gain valuable insights into the behavior and engagement of users, organizations, businesses, and brands. It will help readers frame business problems and solve them using social data. The book will also cover several practical real-world use cases on social media using R and its advanced packages to utilize data science methodologies such as sentiment analysis, topic modeling, text summarization, recommendation systems, social network analysis, classification, and clustering. This will enable readers to learn different hands-on approaches to obtain data from diverse social media sources such as Twitter and Facebook. It will also show readers how to establish detailed workflows to process, visualize, and analyze data to transform social data into actionable insights.
Table of Contents (16 chapters)
Learning Social Media Analytics with R
About the Author
About the Reviewer
Customer Feedback

Understanding social media

The Internet and the information age have been responsible for revolutionizing the way we humans interact with each other in the 21st Century. Almost everyone uses some form of electronic communication, be it a laptop, tablet, smartphone or a personal computer. Social media is built upon the concept of platforms where people use computer-mediated communication (CMC) methods to communicate with others. This can range from instant messaging, emails, and chat rooms to social forums and social networking. To understand social media, you need to understand the origins of legacy or traditional media which gradually evolved into social media. Entities like the popular television, newspapers, radio, movies, books and magazines are various ways of sharing and consuming information, ideas and opinions. It's important to remember that social media has not replaced the older legacy based media; they co-exist peacefully together as we use and consume them both in our day-to-day lives.

Legacy media typically follow a one-way communication system. For instance, I can always read a magazine or watch a show on the television or get updated about the news from newspapers, but I cannot voice my opinions or share my ideas using the same media instantly. The communication mechanism in the various forms of social media is a two-way street, where audiences can share information and ideas and others can consume them and voice their own ideas, opinions and feedback on the same, and even share their own content based on what they see. Legacy based media, like radio or television, now use social media to provide a two-way communication mechanism to support their communications, but it's much more seamless in social media where anyone and everyone can share content, communicate with others, freely voice their ideas and opinions on a huge scale.

We can now formally define social media as interactive applications or platforms based on the principles of Web 2.0 and computer-mediated communication, which enable users to be publishers as well as consumers, to create and share ideas, opinions, information, emotions and expressions in various forms. While different and diverse forms of social media exist, they have several key features in common which are mentioned briefly as follows:

  • Web 2.0 Internet based applications or platforms

  • Content is created as well as consumed by users

  • Profiles give users have their own distinct and unique identity

  • Social networks help connect different users, similarly to communities

Indeed social media give users their own unique identity and the freedom to express themselves in their own user profiles. These profiles are maintained as accounts by social media companies. Features like what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) editors, emoticons, photos and videos help users in creating and sharing rich content. Social networking capabilities enables users to add other users to their own friend or contact lists and create groups and forums where they can share and talk about like-minded interests. The following figure shows us some of the popular social media used today across the globe:

I am sure you recognize several of these popular social media from their logos, which you must have seen on your own smartphone or on the web. Social media is used in various ways and media can be grouped into distinct buckets by the nature of its usage and its features. We mention several popular social media in the following points, some of which we will be analyzing in the future chapters:

  • Micro-blogging platforms, like Twitter and Tumblr

  • Blogging platforms, like WordPress, Blogger and Medium

  • Instant messaging application, like WhatsApp and Hangouts

  • Networking platforms, like Facebook and LinkedIn

  • Software collaboration platforms, like GitHub and StackOverflow

  • Audio collaboration platforms, like SoundCloud

  • Photo sharing platforms, like Instagram and Flickr

  • Video sharing platforms, like YouTube and Vimeo

This list is not an exhaustive list of social media because there are so many applications and platforms out there. We apologize in advance if we missed out mentioning your favorite social media! The list should clarify the different forms of communication and content sharing mechanisms that are available for users, and that they can leverage any of these social media to share content and connect with other users. We will now discuss some of the key advantages and significance which social media has to offer.

Advantages and significance

Social media has gained immense popularity and importance so that today almost everyone can't stay away from it. Not only is social media a medium for people to express their views, but also a very powerful tool which can be used by businesses to target new and existing customers and increase revenue. We will discuss some of the main advantages of social media as follows:

  • Cost savings: One of the main challenges for businesses is to reach out to their customers or clients through advertising on traditional and legacy based media, which can be expensive. However, social media allows businesses to have branded pages and to post sponsored content and advertisements for a fraction of the cost, thus helping them save costs in the process of increasing visibility.

  • Networking: With social media, you can build your social as well as professional network with people across the globe. This has opened up a myriad of possibilities where people from different continents and countries work together on cutting-edge innovations, share news, talk about their personal experiences, offer advice and share interesting opportunities, which can help develop personalities, careers, and skills.

  • Ease of use: It is quite easy to get started with social media. All you need is to create an account by registering your details in the application or website and within minutes you are ready to go! Besides this, it is quite easy to navigate through any social media website or application without any sophisticated technical skills. You just need an Internet connection and an electronic device, like a smartphone or a computer. Perhaps this could be the reason that a lot of parents and grandparents are now taking to social media to share their moments and connect with their long lost friends.

  • Global audience: With social media, you can also make your content reach out to a global audience across the world. The reason is quite simple: because social media applications are available openly on the web, users all across the world use it. Businesses that engage with customers in different parts of the world have a key advantage to push their promotions and new products and services.

  • Prompt feedback: Businesses and organizations can get prompt feedback on their new product launches and services being used directly from the users. There is much less calling up people asking them about their satisfaction levels. Tweets, posts, videos, comments and many more features exist to give instant feedback to organizations by posting generally, or conversing with them directly on their official social media channels.

  • Grievance redressal: One of the great advantages of social media is that users can now express any sort of grievances or inconveniences, like electricity, water supply or security issues. Most governments and organizations, including law enforcement have public social media channels which can be used for instant notification of grievances.

  • Entertainment: This is perhaps the most popular advantage used to the maximum by most users. Social media provides an unlimited source of entertainment where you can spend your time playing interactive games, watching videos, and participating in competitions with users across the world. Indeed the possibilities of entertainment from social media are endless.

  • Visibility: Anyone can leverage their social media profile to gain visibility in the world. Professional networking platforms like LinkedIn are an excellent way for people to get noticed by recruiters and also for companies to recruit great talent. Even small startups or individuals can develop inventions, build products, or announce discoveries and leverage social media to go viral and gain the necessary visibility which can propel them to the next level.

The significance and importance of social media is quite evident from the preceding points. In today's interconnected world, social media has almost become indispensable and although it might have a lot of disadvantages, including distractions, if we use it for the right reasons, it can indeed be a very important tool or medium to help us achieve great things.

Disadvantages and pitfalls

Even though we have been blowing the trumpet about social media and its significance, I'm sure you are already thinking about pitfalls and disadvantages, which are directly or indirectly caused from social media. We want to cover all aspects of social media including the good and the bad, so let's look at some negative aspects:

  • Privacy concerns: Perhaps one of the biggest concerns with regards to using social media is the lack of privacy. All our personal data, even though often guaranteed to be secure by the social media organizations that host it, have a risk of being illegally accessed. Further, many social media platforms have been accused, time and again, of selling or using users' personal data without their consent.

  • Security issues: Often users enter personal information on their social media profiles which can be used by hackers and other harmful entities to gain insights into their personal lives and use it for their own personal gain. You will have heard, several times in the past, that social media websites have been hacked and personal information from user accounts has been leaked. There are other issues also like users' bank accounts being compromised, and even theft and other harmful actions happening as a result of sensitive information obtained from social media.

  • Addiction: This is relevant to a large percentage of people using social media. Social media addiction is indeed real and a serious concern, especially among the millennials. There are so many forms of social media and you can really get engrossed in playing games, trying to keep up with what everyone is doing, or just sharing moments from your life every other minute. A lot of us tend to check social media websites every now and then, which can be a distraction, especially if you are trying to meet deadlines. There are even a few stories of people accessing social media whilst driving, with fatal results.

  • Negativity: Social media allows you to express yourself freely and this is often misused by people, terrorist, and other extremist groups to spread hateful propaganda and negativity. People often post sarcastic and negative reactions based on their opinions and feelings, which can lead to trolling and racism. Even though there are ways to report such behavior, it is often not enough because it is impossible to monitor a vast social network all the time.

  • Risks: There are several potential risks of leveraging social media for your personal use or business promotions and campaigns. One wrong post can potentially prove to be very costly. Besides this, there is the constant risk of hackers, fraud, security attacks and unwanted spam. Continuous usage of social media and addiction to it also poses a potential health risk. Organizations should have proper social media use policies to ensure that their employees do not end up being unproductive by wasting too much time on social media, and do not leak trade secrets or confidential information on social media.

We have discussed several pitfalls attached to using social media and some of them are very serious concerns. Proper social media usage guidelines and policies should be borne in mind by everyone because social media is like a magnifying glass: anything you post can be used against you or can potentially prove harmful later. Be it extremely sensitive personal information, or confidential information, like design plans for your next product launch, always think carefully before sharing anything with the rest of the world.

However, if you know what you are doing, social media can definitely be used as a proper tool for your personal as well as professional gain.