Social data collection evolving: Social Media Week

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Marketers will make data more usable for their businesses while also allaying consumers' privacy concerns, industry experts said February 8 at Social Media Week in New York. However, the ways marketers collect and analyze data is changing rapidly, said panelists at the “Getting to the Meat of the Tweet: Applying Big Data Analytics to Social Media Data” session.

Tony Jebara, cofounder of data indexing service Sense Networks, said his company created a “lifestyle matrix” to help businesses better target their offers. However, marketers still have to build in incentives to make it worthwhile for consumers to want their services, he added. Jebara said that his company analyzes data, such as foot traffic in a city, in real time to learn about consumers' behavior and preferences.

“People are starting to volunteer their data and opt in because they're seeing the value…and I think that's the best way to get the data,” said Jebara. “Companies are saying…‘How do we treat it like an asset, but also protect the privacy and give the value back to our customers?'”

Hilary Mason, chief data scientist at URL shortener, said data marketplaces, such as Windows Azure Marketplace DataMarket or the recently launched Infochimps, have growing clout as legitimate social media data acquisition sources. She said something of a “black market” exists currently with social data collection.

Panel members also discussed how precisely social networks could imitate mental processes, as well as how accurately data from social media could predict future behavior.

“I think a lot of the most interesting questions for business and entrepreneurs is to look at the intersection between economics, data analytics, and neuroscience and psychology,” said Jamie Daves, founder and executive director at ThinkSocial.

Social Media Week is a network of conferences on social technologies' impact on business and society. Nine cities around the world are hosting conferences through February 11.

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