Social Media Monitoring with CEP, pt. 2: Context As Important As Sentiment

When I last wrote about social media monitoring, I made a case for using a technology like Complex Event Processing (“CEP”) to detect rapidly growing and geospatially-oriented social media mentions that can provide early warning detection for the public good (Social Media Monitoring for Early Warning of Public Safety Issues, Oct. 27, 2011).

A recent article by Chris Matyszczyk of CNET highlights the often conflicting and confusing nature of monitoring social media.  A 26-year old British citizen, Leigh Van Bryan, gearing up for a holiday of partying in Los Angeles, California (USA), tweeted in British slang his intention to have a good time:  “Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America.” Since I’m not too far removed the culture of youth, I did take this to mean partying, cutting loose, having a good time (and other not-so-current definitions.)

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) thought otherwise (from Matyszczyk’s article):

Many Brits will feel confident in explaining that the use of the word “destroy” here refers to, well, partying. Brits like to do this. They are good at it. They enjoy exporting it.

Leigh Van Bryan's Twitter profile picture. (Credit: Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

Sadly, the Department of Homeland Security agents in Los Angeles were not up to the vernacular. Even more sadly, they appear not to have aficionados of “Family Guy”, as Van Bryan had also tweeted: “‘3 weeks today, we’re totally in LA p****** people off on Hollywood Blvd and diggin’ Marilyn Monroe up!”

Perhaps if the authorities had chosen to google that line, they might have felt more at ease. Perhaps, though, they would have received some strange results from Google+.

It seems sure that they didn’t get this American cultural reference as they reportedly checked Van Bryan’s luggage for shovels.

This story does not end happily, as Van Bryan and his friend Emily Bunting were arrested and then sent back to Blighty.


Bad luck for Van Bryan, and bad press for DHS.  This highlights that context is as important in social media monitoring as sentiment.  Context is not just about variations in speech patterns, age-specific slang, industry jargon, or use of emoticons (“<3” anyone?).  Context is how the dialog around a word or statement can shed light on its meaning.  Context is using interrelated (correlated) events to give you a deeper understanding into the meaning and intent.  This, ultimately, will help you decide how to respond appropriately with the most benefit.

Let’s put this in the context of enterprises and how you can get additional context in your social media monitoring programs.  Imagine someone tweeting bad things about your company’s service.  What do you know about that person?  Is she a current customer?  How much has she spent with your firm in the past 90 days?  Has she logged any customer complaints with your customer service desk recently?  Is she just complaining for the sake of complaining (as some do on the Internet), or does she have a valid customer issue?  Understanding this context by correlating her tweets with internal enterprise data about her customer history can better equip your social media service representatives to diffuse the situation, fix the issue, and, hopefully, turn a critic into a raving (very positive) fan.

Informatica RulePoint complex event processing, in conjunction with the Informatica data integration platform and single view of customer Master Data Management (MDM), can give you that picture, that context, as social media mentions are being published in real-time.

Providing this contextual analysis to your social media monitoring initiatives will not only give you an advantage in your markets, but also make sure your social media efforts “don’t go all Pete Tong”.

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