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While many people around the world were caught off-guard by Britons voting to leave the European Union, an analysis of social media would’ve showed them that it was very much on the cards. That’s according to media monitoring tool Brandseye, which says human-powered sentiment analysis on a large sample of online referendum commentary showed that most Brits were in favour of leaving the EU.
“In the days running up to the vote,” says BrandsEye CEO JP Kloppers, “we analysed a sample of 10,000 mentions representing half a million opinions across a range of social media platforms, and found that 56.9% of the opinions expressed were in favour of Brexit, contrary to the results of most of the polls conducted at the time.”
Kloppers says social media analysis has been criticised in the past as being unrepresentative of the general population. “But as we have seen in the USA with the rapid rise of both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, we should never underestimate both the voice and the influence of social media.”
According to Kloppers, the traditional approach to social media analysis has been algorithmically driven, even though it is well known that machines fail to understand sarcasm and nuance, particularly in the social media context.
By crowdsourcing its sentiment analysis, he claims, BrandsEye has been able to get around this.
“Every online comment was independently analysed by several trained contributors to create a 95% confidence level with a 2.5% margin of error, an unheard of amount of precision in media analysis,” says Kloppers.
According to Kloppers, the analysis shows that social media has come of age as an overall representation of the population as a whole. “It is no longer a refuge for the angrily opinionated. It seems to talk for the ‘silent majority’ as well. In addition, there is no larger source of public opinion. With accurate analysis, social media performs better than polls in understanding the true sentiment in a population, which is not surprising given the much larger samples involved.
“In the run up to the US presidential election, social media analysis will become more important than ever. We clearly cannot trust only the polls and the pundits – if we can accurately understand the general opinion across the population, we’ll be less likely to be surprised again,” he concludes.