With the introduction of social media for business use, businesses can now leverage social media data in order to create a richer understanding of their customers. Social media can reveal what customers say, who they influence, and how they interact with the organisation and other consumers online.

In order to understand how business can leverage this data, this will be broken down into 3 concepts: big data, analytics and user generated content.

According to SAS, big data is “a term that describes the large volume of data – both structured and unstructured – that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis”

Big data can be collected from many sources, as seen in this graphic from a PwC whitepaper:

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A summary of different types of data, as provided by PwC ‘Through the Looking Glass’ Report


Big data can be analysed for insights that lead to better decisions and strategies. In the context of social media analysis, a lot of data gathered from social media is classed as unstructured data, which comes in the form of messages, posts, and comments on social media sites.

Big data in action

From the video above, UPS have created a sophisticated analytics system that calculates the most efficient route for drivers to take to make the maximum amount of drop offs in a day. UPS have leveraged data that they collect from sensors in their vehicles, as well as the logistical information they receive every day and applied analytics to this data to gain competitive advantage over their competitors.

With the implementation of their analytics platform (ORION), UPS has seen a:

  1. Reduction of 85 million miles a year (or 136.8 million km)
  2. Reduction in 8 million gallons of fuel (or 30 million litres)
  3. Reduced pollution

When big data, analytics and user-generated content collide

However, with the introduction of social media, companies now also have access to another wealth of information: user-generated content.

A summary of the amount of unstructured data that exists from 2005-2015

As seen in the figure above, user-generated content is responsible for over 80% of all data in organisations and it is hence important for companies to start leveraging this data for analytics.

Traditional analytics (descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics) works well for analysing trends and patterns for raw data points in structured data sources (such as numbers), but what about for text (i.e. unstructured data)? With user generated content (especially when it involves text), semantic and text analytics have been developed in order to understand motivations of users through user sentiment and behaviour analysis.  

Another example of how unstructured data can be leveraged in analytics can be seen in how several companies saw the opportunity to market and post during the 2013 Super Bowl.

Why should business leverage user-generated content?

User generated content cannot only give you insights into your own business for internal analytics, it also allows other users of the internet to form opinions of your business too. The most common form of user-generated content, in relation to businesses, are customer reviews.

There are two main channels where users can post content:

  1. On the businesses’ main contact channels (e.g. social media sites) or
  2. Third party channels (such as review websites like Reevoo).

Did you know: 70% of consumers place peer recommendations over professionally written reviews

With the advent of Web 2.0, businesses can no longer solely influence customer perceptions of the company on the internet. Interestingly, the trend has been that consumers trust and place peer recommendations over professionally written ones. Third party websites, such as Reevoo, facilitate these interactions, providing a platform where verified users can post reviews online. These third party review websites are perceived as ‘unbiased’ and more authentic, as they are written by other customers who have used the product/service.

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Businesses have also started to adopt third party review platforms into their own websites. For instance, in the image above, The Good Guys has integrated the Reevoo platform into their website, which can be seen on in the ‘Key Features’ text box in the image.

Food for thought

What about the unethical use of user generated content? Join the discussion on our case study of fake online reviews here.


Kumar, P. (2016). What is Unstructured Data. [online] Praveenresearch. Available at: http://praveenresearch.blogspot.com.au/2016/02/what-is-unstructured-data.html [Accessed 7 May 2016].

Noyes, K. (2014). The shortest distance between two points? At UPS, it’s complicated. [online] Fortune. Available at: http://fortune.com/2014/07/25/the-shortest-distance-between-two-points-at-ups-its-complicated/ [Accessed 26 Apr. 2016].

PwC, (2013). Through the Looking Glass: Emerging Trends. [online] Available at: http://www.pwc.in/assets/pdfs/publications/2013/convergence-event-report-pwc.pdf [Accessed 29 Apr. 2016].

Turton, S. (2015). How user generated content is changing content marketing. [online] Econsultancy. Available at: https://econsultancy.com/blog/66739-how-user-generated-content-is-changing-content-marketing/ [Accessed 17 Apr. 2016].

Tell us your thoughts on how social media data can be utilised in analytics below.