Have you ever wanted to know what the Internet is saying about the Candidates of 2013?
It is called Social Media Listening. This is software, and tool that analyze tweets, and blogs, and on occasion, Facebook as well to get an indication of what the “consensus is” on the Internet. Basically what it does, is software analyzes what people say and weigh them towards positive, negative. The basic premise of the software is called, “Natural Language Processing”, a field in Artificial Intelligence.
The premise is: how do we get machines to understand what humans are saying?
It is trying to figure out human-computer interaction. The same concept behind Siri. Social Media listening scans your tweets and blogs, and (sometimes Facebook too) to determine what everyone is saying. So you get positive, and negative mentions, and determine the sentiment.
The thing about this though is the state of Natural Language Processing. It is in its infancy. It’s the difference between Windows 1 and Windows 8. Right now, Social Media listening is in that Windows 1 place.
Natural Language analysis is at its infancy. “Filipino” is a difficult language to do natural language. Let alone the gazillion other dialects out there, not to mention, Filipino English has its own sphere just as British, American English are different. We actually do need more research into Filipino natural language processing.
There are many reasons for this. Mainly, Artificial Intelligence is hard. So getting computers to understand what humans are saying is particularly difficult. Just ask Siri, and you know what I mean. One of Siri’s components is natural language processing.
We’ve only just begun.
Take ABS-CBN’s Halalan app (powered by the good folks at IBM) is a taste of what this technology is. What I really like about this is it really does give you the basic premise of the technology. They feed you the social mentions, and they round it up with Google Trends. This is particularly useful for people, I think. I love how this is a potential eye-opener on how much we listen into the conversation, and if there are any kids reading this, you might want to also consider *specializing* in social media listening.
What does this ABS-CBN Battlefield statistic tell us?
First off, let’s identify three key figures. The first is Teodoro A. Casiño who finds himself in “The Magic 12”— that is IF you ask the Internet who they want and what his real life vote is. The second is Bam Aquino, and the third is Nancy Binay.
Let us start with Casiño. I think the Casiño candidacy is a great barometer of how well this technology can predict the outcome of a race, and shows the inherent importance of being dispassionate about looking at data.
The Casiño candidacy has been social media prolific from the very beginning. They’ve really done a great job of capturing the air in terms of volume, and interaction. During the E-Democracy forum, Maria Ressa pointed out that there seem to have had two different data sets. The Casiño network on one side, and the two parties on the other. It represents, in my humble opinion the disconnect of the Casiño with mainstream, and the mainstream disconnect with Casiño’s following.
Yes, you get a lot of volume. Yes, you get a lot of active mentions, but is this converting voters or are you pandering to the already converted?
So again, it is interesting to see how this plays out in general election. How well did Casiño convert his massive social media following into real votes?
In the post-mortem of the election, it would also be interesting to look at the campaigns of Bam Aquino, and Nancy Binay.
Bam Aquino campaign is essentially the best campaign to merge Online, and Offline campaigning. They were everywhere. The messaging on and offline were integrated. They did not missed a beat. This is a perfect and modern example of what campaigns should have done in 2013, and going into 2016, perfect, battlefield practice for what’s to come next in terms of political campaigns in the Philippines.
The second case study ought to be Nancy Binay. Why? She’s the Anti-Bam campaign. Traditional. Totally skipped out and ignored Social. She essentially ignored all the air campaign, and focused on the ground. If you click on the link to ABS-CBN’s halalan battlefield and look down at Nancy Binay’s keywords. Particularly, 3 and 5. you’ll see what I mean.
Don’t get me wrong, Nancy Binay’s campaign is exactly what she should be doing to get elected. In her campaign’s shoes, I would be advising the same thing. Don’t get involved online. Don’t go on debates. Why should you when your constituency isn’t on there? And to go there, could shed more votes than you can imagine. Yet all these social media listeners are saying the Internet will vote for her as well.
Why are these three campaigns important? They teach us what could be next in 2016. Depending on the outcome— the election we will have a clearer understanding of the role of social in the election and an increased appreciation of what’s next.
Here’s another caveat for you: look at the keywords, RHLaw, FOI, Cybercrime, did they trend in the candidates keywords? It is indicative of what this election is probably not about: the issues. That’s not really new in Philippine politics, but even those online didn’t seem to talk about it that much.
Going back to social media listening, for now, my point is this. Take it all with a grain of salt. This is just the beginning. We are just beginning.
Images: screenshots from ABS-CBN’s website.