Review: Social Media Insight 2009

An interesting report from a firm called Social Media Library came my way a few weeks back but I’ve only got around to blogging it today. First up my overall thoughts and then a break-down of some of the specific results.

The report, Social Media Insight 2009, offers a detailed analysis of the UK blogosphere, Twittersphere and …er …. Forums broken down by ‘influencers’, sectors – and perhaps most interestingly, geographical location.

I put the term ‘influencer’ in inverted commas because I have long-standing concerns about the idea of online influence and especially from the perspective with which the PR, advertising and marketing likes to conceive the concept (IMHO we primarily perceive ‘influence’ as power, i.e. the ability to persuade people to do or buy things. But the concept of power in networks is still being worked out and is vastly different to traditional conceptions – anyway I digress).

My theoretical worries aside, Social Media Library CEO, Graham Lee, tells me that the report uses a proprietary methodology they call BlogScore (Twitterscore, etc) which uses two main metrics: “a blog's incoming links, but also, importantly, the number of incoming links that those links have” as well as “the performance of a blog on relevant keywords in search returns”.

Crucially for me the system gains credibility by involving both automated data mining and then analysis of each site by a real, live, human. This is important for two reasons: firstly Social Media Library should be fairly confident in guaranteeing each site is UK-based.This process is a significant improvement on purely automated tools which filter UK blogs based on .co.uk domains or UK-based IP address. Secondly it means that their geographical data break-down can again be fairly accurate.

So far, so good. My big question was: what does the data *really* tell us? Putting my cynical hat on I read the main findings of the report and the charts and while it is interesting to note that 38% of influential UK blogs are about consumer issues; or that 32% of UK B2B blogs are about the marketing and PR industries; or Coventry Twitterers have the highest average number of followers (594), what does his really tell us?

Graham’s answer was as follows:

The purpose of the report is to help people get more of a feel of the social media landscape as it currently stands. Social media is immensely complex, and particularly if you are not immersed in it day-to-day, quite confusing. Add to this the fact that our shared English language with the US – making it exceedingly hard to garner actual engagement levels in the UK – and it becomes a difficult beast for people to get their heads around. … One other breakthrough has been the potential to look at the spread of social media regionally, across the UK. Understanding this, I hope, helps people > better determine the scope for social media to help support regional campaigns and initiatives.

While I definitely agree with Graham’s final statement my key take-out from the report is that it gives a real top-level ‘feel’ for the state of social media in the UK. A potentially useful tool for non-digital specialists – so I suppose I'm not necessarily the primary audience for this.

But this isn’t a criticism. Using social media effectively means getting down and dirty with data; finding relevant communities and immersing yourself in them. If the approach to scraping, measuring and analysing social media presented in the report can be tailored and drilled down into further and sliced in different ways then it definitely offers great scope for UK-focussed digital campaigns.

If you want to know more take a peek at their blog.

Tags: Social Media Library, Social Media Insight 2009

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