The emergence of social networking sites has allowed users to follow breaking news and opinion as well as interacting with acquaintances and tracking potential loved ones! In the first instance it may be difficult to verify or trust content produced from this type of media, however, they can make apparent very quickly the level of public interest give insight into “off the cuff” opinion. This type of information for some may provide validity to the existence of such sites, helping to answer for some the question “yes, but what is Twitter for exactly”? A question that I often ponder myself!

As part of a Social Media Course we were asked to look at six different social search techniques to try an investigate issues that we were interested in.  These are

Searching Google (other search engines are available) with the syntax “site:myspace.com “The Muppets””. This searches and returns relevant instances on the particular site of interest, in this case myspace.com, on occurrences of chosen search terms, in this case “The Muppets”.

Downloading and using “Webometric Analyst” formerly known as “Lexi URL Searcher” to perform automated searches.

Using the website “Blogpulse.com” to perform a trending analysis.

See what the commenters on youtube have to say on a particular matter

Perform a youtube search in “Webometric Analyst”.

Link Analysis using advanced search.

I chose to search the following topics

Capoeira
The Stone Roses
The London Olympics 2012
The Muppets

London 2012 Olympics! These all should provide descrete results across a variety of my interests (sport, movies and film) and should have a different outcome in terms of populatity over time and also the trending aspect.
It is expected that the capoeira should have the lowest overall popularity and smallest peaks and troughs in trend. This should be spread fairly evenly across the globe.

The Stone Roses should have seen a large spike recently as a result of the fact that they have reformed, announced some gig dates and will be putting on shows in the summer of 2012. It is expected that there will be a an unsustainable increase in interest typified buy a spike in interest but as more news becomes apparent the popularity should slowly increase.

The Olympics should have a sustained high popularity centralised about the UK but the sphere of influence should be far reaching around the globe due to the very nature of the olympics!

The Muppets popularity should be moderately high and should increase rapidly as a result of the new Feature Film that should be released at thanksgiving in the USA. For this reason the most recent trends and focus should emerge from the US, especially in terms of the spikes of interest.

For the social networking sites I chose to search
www.myspace.com
www.flickr.com
www.youtube.com
www.news.bbc.co.uk
www.blogger.com
www.wordpress.com

Using the site:search syntax system quickly proves to be tedious. The results are a list of the instances where the search term has appeared on the site of interest. This is an interesting outcome if you are solely interested in the opinions of the users from a particular site, however, the initial output has no apparent order. This can be refined by specifying the search time frame within google if desired. In some cases this refinement can be done better within the site of interest.
These links then lead to the stories or posts that include the search term. This gives qualitative insight but does not help with the numbers of the occurrences or the frequency. It also only produces the results from one site so cannot easily be used to garner information across more than one site.

The Webometric Analyst software requires a little setting up in but once initiated produces a huge amount of data in the form of text files that can be further refined into spreadsheets as well as proprietary html reports. These reports give basic information including the number of hits that search each query has produced on each site, the number of  URLs and the actual URLs (with short abstracts) related to that query.
This outcome is great for both qualitative and quantitative research.

Blogpulse is good way to establish what people are talking about on their blogs, so in a way transcends the limited parameters of social networking sites as you are not limited by number of characters. Due to the time input required to write and publish blog posts the qualitative outcome from this is potentially greater in that enthusiasts of a topic have taken the effort to report.
As well as a date ordered list of results including extracts, one of the outputs from Blogpulse is a trending graph. This allows you to quickly gauge over time the spikes in popularity of queries. Clicking on these spikes reveals the reason why there occur. In the case of “The Stone Roses” query the largest spike comes on 18th October 2011, which coincides with the time that this formerly defunct Mancunian band announced that they were reforming, would be releasing new material and would be selling tickets to summer live shows.

After the use of Webometric and Blogpulse the remaining two methods of searching failed to inspire enthusiasm. It was felt that using these methods could be used once the other routes had been exhausted. On order to get useable date a considerable amount of preparation is required followed by some searching through the results to garner some usable information.

It is suggested that automated analysis using Webometric and Blogpulse is carried is used first. Further refinement can then be performed as required using other methods but this should be limited to a small select sample.
K*