Earlier this week I spoke with representatives from Networked Insights, a Madison, Wisc., company that tracks social network data and works it into analytics and "customer intelligence" for clients. It's a niche that might raise a few eyebrows for its watching-your-every-move nature, but let's face it--there are search analytics and blog analytics, so we shouldn't be a bit surprised that social network analytics are starting to take off.
Networked Insights is set to announce Wednesday that it has relaunched its Customer Intelligence Platform, an interface that clients can use to gauge what members of social-media sites like MySpace or Twitter are saying about its brands and their competitors. It goes as far as to measure the "influence" of a given community member--think about the effect that a Robert Scoble or a Jason Calacanis has on Twitter, for example. In addition, the company can build social-media applications for clients' Web sites to track what members are saying.
Networked Insights obtains third-party social network data through mining public social networks (profiles, feeds, and the like) as well as working with three external companies (representatives declined to name them) that sell social data.
But a company like Networked Insights can't snag data from Facebook, for example, because the entire site is kept protected behind passwords, and even registered users only have access to information from members within their "networks." Daniel Neely, CEO of Networked Insights, said that obtaining Facebook member data would require either partnering with the company or waiting for it to open up its database.
Most of us couldn't see Facebook doing that any time soon. But Neely said that he'd argue it's worth their while, because if an advertiser has really precise information about the demographics of a community site, the "social network advertising doesn't work" meme could be rendered moot.
It's a point worth debating.