Text analytics on social media at SPSS Conference

Over the last two days, I attended the SPSS Directions Conference in Rome (IT). As a speaker, I was invited to bring a case study on using text analytics on social media data and eager to learn what others were doing on this domain. Moreover, since SPSS was recently acquired by IBM, I was curious to see what the future would bring. So I headed to Rome…

SPSS is typically associated with number crunching. One theme that however kept on coming back was the importance of qualitative and contextual data. I was truly amazed by the number of speakers on text analytics. With about 80-90% of company data that are unstructured, it is no surprise that this analysis technology is taking up. Especially in the area of customer satisfaction research, more and more people are using open questions in surveys to explain the “why” behind the numbers. The usage of text in predictive analytics is augmenting and so far, text seems to add quite a lot in the predictive power of models.
Many presentations also stressed the importance of the context in data collection. People are less rational than we often assume. In order to predict behavior, we have therefore to make more use of data collected at the heat of the moment. Particularly interesting was the speech of Ravi Dhar, Director of Yale center for customer insights. With some vivid examples, he stressed the importance of integrating context variables in your survey. For example, in a study with P&G (the measurement of the most effective communication for washing powder). The results revealed that on TV, it is better to the cleanness of your laundry whereas on the shopping floor ‘colors’ were a more decisive element.
Mark JeffriesA final session that drew my attention was organized by Mark Jeffries on soft skills. Many statisticians prefer to stick to the safe environment of their computer. However, we also need to sell projects and present the results of studies in an impactful way. Here are some tips & tricks to make this process more smooth:

  • Whenever you get a business card, do not immediately put it away. It is the story of the person in front of you. Instead make a remark about it. Everybody likes to hear about oneself.
  • If you want to get a ‘yes’, start already nodding with your head when you are asking the favor. There is a big chance that the other person will mirror your behavior and you will get what you want.
  • In networking events, have a look at the feet of the person you are talking to. If his feet point too much in the other direction than where you are standing, he probably finds the conversation boring.
  • The power of three: make sure that you always mention 3 reasons if you want to make a point. People have a tendency to believe you more.

It was the first time that I attended the SPSS conference and I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by its content. It seems that quantitative analysis is embracing qualitative data. At InSites Consulting, we believe in the fusion of methods and I can only consider it as a positive signal that companies like SPSS and IBM place this so high on the agenda.
However the industry needs to take even more steps. I wonder why there were no presentations where text analytics was applied on data from qualitative research. It seems that concepts like research communities, online discussion groups, blog research have not yet penetrated in this audience. Secondly, I appeared to be the only speaker who really showed how to embrace text analytics for nethnography. People were enthusiastic about the topic and I received the IBM- SPSS Insight Award 2010 for my submission. I hope this might inspire other researchers for next year’s conference! More information on the award will follow soon.

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