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After a lot of deliberations within, I want to write about something which has been making a lot of noise in my head for some time now.

Social media has got into all spheres of life. Whether it’s the election of a nation or selection of an employee, social media has a say. In today’s digital world, “you are what you share”

To many people across professions, social media is Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter. To many, it is just Facebook.

If Facebook believes in “You are what you share” and works on two strategies, it can give its peers a run for their money in some important areas.

Before I get to the areas, let me speak a bit about the premise.

The buzz words in IT today is Social, Cloud, Analytics and Mobility. I was wondering what will happen when this fades out. I wanted to know if a science exists wherein all shares are analyzed and if it can be used to derive some meaningful insights; at best also predict the future.

These thoughts lead me to search a word called sharealytics. The resulting definition is as below:

Sharealytics provides analytic insights into social media sharing. Sharealytics tracks the spread of marketing widgets across Facebook and Twitter, revealing the amount of traffic, signups, and sales driven by sharing. 

Sharealytics is a very interesting study and can actually quantify sales through social media as well as the popularity that the brand/event has gained. The insights allow tweaking campaigns real-time and making it as contextual as possible.

This post will not go further into sharealytics. I will pick the first line of its definition and apply it to two scenarios.

Scenario 1: The Indian Elections: (May 2014)

India saw elections in May 2014. This is among the largest exercises with participation by 1.25 billion people. The scale of the activity itself is unparalleled.

There was innumerable coverage on TV, reams of newsprint around the exercise. The campaign spends were unimaginable and what results was probably the biggest marketing campaigns we have seen in life. It had to be because it aspired to change perceptions of a billion people.

Twitter was a clear star in the election season. The face of the winning party and the Prime Minister designate took to Twitter religiously. His 4.35 million fans would get a daily dose of where he campaigned, what he spoke about and so on.

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He leveraged Twitter to the best to connect to his fans and has led his party to unprecedented results. Twitter has played such a huge role across that Twitter is creating knowledge out of the lessons learnt here and planning to implement the same in the elections in Mexico and the US later this year.

So, what has Facebook missed?

Facebook has by far the largest user base among the country’s population as against its peers. As I said, to many Indians, social media is synonymous with Facebook.

Out of the 550 million people who have finally gone to the poll booth to cast their votes, a vast majority would be on Facebook. If you add the Watsapp tally to it, you get a very large sample size of the Indian population.

If Facebook would have tracked their Sharing patterns over the last few months across Facebook and Watsapp, it would have clearly got an idea of the party the people are in favor of.

The larger the sample size, the closer you are to accurate results. Hence, Facebook could have used the share data and patters and analyzed it to come out with:

  1.  The best and probably the most accurate “exit poll” data.
  2. While all the market research agencies made money and twitter stole the social media limelight, Facebook could have been the master player which could have beaten all market research agencies to the most accurate exit poll based on share analytics.
  3. The spends on market research agencies by news channels would have been huge considering the scale of the exercise. Facebook could have conducted this exercise at a far cheaper cost.

As I did not hear or see brand Facebook anywhere during the exit polls, I am forced to believe that Facebook did not participate in an area where it had a clear advantage in terms of predicting the future and also being the social media star.

Lessons:

India will go to vote again in 2019. The ruling party will try its best to enhance its appeal and the opposition will come back strong and focused.

Should Facebook try and be the most efficient and cost-effective market research agency? Should it leverage the strength of its user base and create a revenue churner out of democratic exercises? Should Facebook, with a clear advantage over Twitter in terms of number of users, have been the hub of all trending topics (a position which Twitter made its own during the elections)?

This is for the top brains at Facebook to decide but the opportunity is only going to get bigger and will be big enough to emerge as a Line of Business.

As scenario 2 is completely different, though very significant. I would write a second part to this post on the scenario and opportunity for Facebook. Till then, I would be happy to hear views and perspectives on the above.

To be continued….

 

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