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Social media monitoring characteristics

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Cost Scale: £0 for simple trends. The raw cost of the tool depends on the number of data points that are collected and the number of channels which are monitored.  At the lowest end of the scale, 250,000 data points will cost around £300 per month.  

Time Scale: 0-1 week. Social media monitoring can be done in real-time or with historical data if available. The time taken for intelligence to be gathered depends on the topic, the prevalence of relevant data and need for filtering.  For lengthier activities such as research or community building, the time taken to develop the programs will depend on the expertise available to the policy maker and the nature of the program.

Depth    Breadth    Reach    Engagement Level
Low    Low    High    Low

Depth

The strength of social media lies in the large amount of real-time data it produces, which allows policy makers to identify trends and themes in public opinion.  It allows researchers to identify associated terminology, break down conversations by demographic and identify hotspots.

Social media monitoring is unlikely to yield an understanding of the publics values or thought processes for a number of reasons.  Social media analysis provides a snapshot of certain online communities at a given time, but does not allow policy makers to explore the opinions of these members directly, although it can be used as a method to respond to them. Tools used for online analysis currently struggle to detect features of offline interactions such as sarcasm and humor.

The views expressed on social media may also be skewed by social interactions- People may adopt online personas that are not complete reflections of their actual views, and their behaviour may be influenced by platform features such as content sharing and reposting

Breadth

The volume of data available on social media means policy makers must frame analyses to focus on the information relevant to their situation.  As a result, such analyses can be used for gathering feedback on existing policies or policy proposals, finding influencers and evidence and monitoring real-time events. Social media monitoring is less suitable for sourcing new ideas or policy proposals.

Reach

Social media monitoring provides large amounts of real time data, allowing policy makers to gather a wide range of information quickly and cheaply and monitor large numbers of participants.

Engagement Level

Social media monitoring allows policy makers to receive feedback from the public without interacting with them directly.  

Social media platforms allow for discussion between participants and for information to be shared. As most platforms lack significant moderation and information can come from a variety of online sources, the quality of these discussions is hard to gauge.