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Making Visible the Invisible: Meaning, Not Content, Matters in Social Data

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Making Visible the Invisible: Meaning, Not Content, Matters in Social Data

There is no question that in today’s connected world — where few activities go untracked and undigitized — social data is everywhere, being generated by the terabyte.

Fast on the heels of social data are innumerable ideas for harnessing it. But all too often the focus seems to be on the vastness of data, the wow-factor of its proliferation, the fear-factor of its invasiveness. Lost from the discussion is that social data is not like other data — it cannot be calibrated, is often ambiguous, and the traditional tools of data analysis may not apply.

Given the buzz about Facebook’s data trove, you might think the only use for social data is to tap into consumers’ likes and dislikes. However, the potential to use social data extends far beyond consumer marketing. The free-flowing streams of data generated as people conduct their business and personal lives online hold insights into new ways to address old business issues and to discover new ones.

The question, then, is what is social data telling us about our organizations and the people around us? How do we accommodate these emerging insights to make business decisions, particularly when they challenge established practices, processes and organizational hierarchies?

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