Social Analytics, Facebook, and $19 BILLION

Over the last years, I’ve had the pleasure of having lunch with LinkedIn’s founder Reid Hoffman, hearing Twitter’s CEO speak, dinner with SnapChat investors, and many other meetings or casual conversations with people closely involved with or passionate about popular social networking services.

Last week at Strata there was a lot of talk about “people are data,” integrating social data, and how analytics could provide a far deeper understanding of your business and clients.

This week at IBM’s “Big Data, Integration, and Governance Forum” there was a focus on the 720’ view of the customer from combining disparate existing and new data sources, and the privacy and governance issues that need to be addressed.

Yesterday, Facebook paid $19 billion (with a “B”) for some social media app, I’d never heard of before. The 5-year old “WhatsApp” earned $350 million on average for their 55 employees, and I use the word earned very loosely here.

What I haven’t really heard (or understood much of) is why all these social networks keep popping up overnight, getting millions or still more staggering billions, or rejecting billions, when they in fact can’t seem to use social analytics to better serve their own customers.

Here’s my point (finally!): Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., don’t give me controls over my content. Oh, yes, they have varying degrees of privacy protections, and I use the word privacy very, very loosely here. They do not however let me choose how I want to keep my attention private. I want to discriminate on what I see and read, not just what other people see and read about me.

Facebook through their “optimized” algorithms and advertisers dictate what I see. This is an annoying, but understandable part of their business model. What I can’t forgive is Facebook letting my friends post the rest of the crap they do.

My Facebook news feed today* consists of:

28% cats, animal memes, animal charities
22% paid or self-posted advertising
19% pictures of your food
13% "which xxx are you?" surveys
10% pictures of your kids
5% airport "check-in"s
3% actual interesting things people are doing or thinking about

“Unfriend” is pretty harsh for my real friends and family, as bad as they are, and blanket hiding eveything posted by my aunt misses the occasional interesting bit of gossip. There is no user control for “fewer cats” or other way to make sure the personal content itself is more targetted for my interests, and that’s a big miss.

I can now start to understand why other more directed, personal, and “private” social networks are still getting funded and bought.

*(data above made up)

Topics: Data Platforms, Analytics, & AI