A recent news announcement has promised the dawn of a new era in the way we perceive and use social media. It promises to not only change the way we as communications professionals use social media, but also the way non-profits are using it to achieve their missions too.

Okay – I’ll stop delaying and tell you the news already!

CSIRO develop ‘We feel’

Last week Australia led the world in social media innovation. CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) and the Black Dog Institute announced they’ve developed We Feel – a tool which can analyse, in real-time, the words from millions of tweets to display real-time views of emotions from around the world.

They can also provide these real-time measurements based on some demographic factors as well as geographic locations.

Science social media image

According to the Black Dog Institute and CSIRO, We Feel will help researchers understand how people’s emotions fluctuate over time due to changes in social, economic and environmental factors such as weather, time of day, news of a natural disaster or political instability.

They also said they hoped the tool could help understand how a collective mood changes and could help monitor community mental health and predict where services need to be assigned.

4 implications for marketing and communications professionals

1) Real-time response tracking

Imagine being able to track in real-time the response to your communications. For example, we can go back and see that at the time the Federal Budget was announced, there was a spike in emotions such as fear and surprise.

Image credit: http://www.probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2014/05/online-tool-tracks-people%E2%80%99s-emotional-changes#

2) What are they feeling right now?

Imagine being able to understand exactly how your target audience is feeling right when you are about to communicate with them. As a basic example, I often see mixed messages from companies on Monday mornings – the contrast of “Yeah we’re alive – let’s make the most of the week – be inspired!!” and “Oh no I woke up today – not another week – where’s the coffee?” Well now we can check how real people are actually feeling and align our message so it resonates with them.

Mixed Message Monday

3) Tracking what’s trending on Twitter 

Imagine tracking what’s ‘trending’ on Twitter with how people are feeling. For instance, we could gain an instant understanding of how people feel about different issues by monitoring real-time emotions against trending keywords (e.g. by using a tool like http://trendsmap.com/ to monitor trends).

4) Measuring how people really feel

Imagine gaining a real measure on how people feel about an issue, rather than relying on a survey or more traditional ways of research. For example, imagine setting up a Twitter chat for your community, and then being able to analyse instantly the words people are using to discuss the topic as well as understanding the overall emotion behind people’s tweets. Save time on your analysis too, with a ready-made graph from We Feel!

At the moment, We Feel’s lowest breakdown of geographical locations is by state, so we can’t yet view – for example – our suburbs, council regions or electorates.

Examples of how it could work

On a more personal note, I can’t sit still when I think about this topic! If you work in the non-profit sector, you’ve probably already had thoughts buzzing into your mind about how this tool could help your work. Here are a few examples:

  1. Imagine understanding which communities in your area are experiencing which emotions, and being able to target your services based on these. At the moment we rely on information that’s one or two years old, which doesn’t necessarily track people’s emotional health.
  2. Imagine having real-time data of your own to say ‘this region most often experiences high numbers of suicidal thoughts’.
  3. Imagine if you could track and see that Tuesday nights, for example, is when people in your community are the most bored.
  4. Imagine understanding that people in your area are most searching for meaning at 3am on a Sunday morning – bingo – come to our church! You see what I’m saying? It’s exciting, to say the least.

Science helping communicators

While there are still limitations to the We Feel tool, I believe it’s a step towards realising the true potential of social media.

As our scientists continue leading the way with research and development in the social media sphere, may we communicators also be willing to support them and expand our perception around how we can truly harness the potential of social platforms.

Read more about We Feel on the CSIRO website.

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