Organizing your Web connections: Social media sorted with smart software

Oct 25, 2012
Social media stories mentioning a particular organisation are automatically sorted into topics by CSIRO's social media tools.

CSIRO's social media analysis software is helping organisations make sense of massive volumes of social media traffic, according to a services research specialist speaking at the Big Data Conference in Sydney next week.

Mr Alan Dormer, Services Science Leader says that, with millions of posts and countless conversations happening every minute, organisations trying to make sense of can easily find themselves overwhelmed.

"There are 11.5 million Facebook accounts in Australia and over two million Twitter accounts. So analysing social media posts to find relevant information is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

"It's a classic big data problem. But with our research in data mining, textual analysis and data visualisation, we're well placed to tackle it," Mr Dormer said.

So far, organisations are using the software for three main reasons – reputation management, exploring topics and issues important to the community, and early detection of emergencies or outbreaks. And it's showing promising signs of increasing efficiency and productivity.

CSIRO’s social media tools can spot bursts of activity around key words of interest to emergency services, such as “fire”.

Prof Allan Fels, Chair of the National Commission, says he's found social media analysis gives his organisation insights into community thinking on mental health and wellbeing.

"We believe mental health and is an issue for all Australians. The CSIRO social media engagement tools help us identify key issues on a daily basis and provide social media reports which are easy to understand and quick to produce", he said.

The Commission plans to use the software to gauge community response to their report cards on Australia's and services. The first is due out later this year.

CSIRO used its own social media analysis tools to find false claims about research that appeared in social media. This allowed CSIRO to address the misinformation quickly.

And a CSIRO software tool to analyse Twitter posts recently gave Queensland fire services an extra 25 minutes' warning that a grass fire was threatening an outback hospital.

Tweets about the fire emerged well ahead of any official alerts and within minutes, details such as the fire's location and direction were appearing on Twitter, allowing emergency managers to evacuate the hospital safely.

Mr Dormer said the social media analysis tools are being developed with government for government - the Australian Government Department of Human Services being a key partner. Business is also starting to show interest.

"We've formed an 'early adopters group' of innovators in government to help us develop the social media tools beyond the prototype stage, trial them in real situations, and give us feedback to make them more useful", he said.

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