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Is Social Media More or Less Anonymous Today? Conclusion

In Part 1 of this blog series we looked at the anonymous posts in our Visible data repository to see which media type is the most mysterious and discovered blogs have the most secretive posters. In Part 2, we looked to answer the question of whether or not the growth in popularity of Facebook and other social networks like Google+, where people more openly identify themselves has influenced how people self-identify in other social arenas.

In this final post, I wanted to dig a little deeper into the qualitative side of what people were talking about, openly or anonymously, to see if there were any noticeable differences. To do this, I used the Topic Discovery feature in Visible Intelligence. In an effort to mitigate news spikes and fleeting hot topics, I included the entire month of July. Finally, I decided that it would be most meaningful to narrow the view to broad topics like travel, automotive, cellular, movies, etc.,  in order to quickly surface some interesting comparative content. Here’s what I found in the travel research:

Topic Discovery allows us to analyze large amounts of data quickly viewing comparisons with different searches or sentiment, geography, media type and periods. In this view, I wanted to look at all travel-related posts by anonymous authors and compare it to those of the known authors. The outer blue bar charts display the terms that are used more often by that author type when talking about travel, the center lists terms used more commonly by both.

Travel-related posts:  Anonymous versus Known Authors

It’s not surprising to see that “summer” and “vacation” are some of the most common terms used by both sets of authors (center) but by clicking on the word “day” to drill in so I could read the posts mentioning “day” revealed a lot of discussion about day trips and day camps for kids which I wasn’t expecting. Looking at differentiating terms, it is clear that identifiable authors have a propensity to speak in the first person voice while anonymous posters are differentiated by more travel-related issues, particularly weather and regional information. By drilling into the data behind the charts I confirmed my suspicions that anonymous posters tend to give more recommendations and advice rather than share personal experiences.

Next I thought it would be interesting to look at any themes in the sentiment of what anonymous posters are writing about. Positive posts tend to focus on the standard fun travel adjectives and terms, but negative posts are centered on political and economic concerns. One term I found particularly curious was “scientists”. Upon drilling further and investigating, I was surprised to learn that there were over 50 posts talking about travel impacting the environment, pollution, traveling green and the work scientists are doing in popular vacation destinations.

Anonymous Travel posts:  What are they Positive and Negative about?

This is just the tip of the iceberg of what Topic Discovery in Visible Intelligence can do. In reviewing a number of topics in addition to travel, what stood out the most was the degree of personalization and sharing that identified authors provide. What surprised me the most was the lack of scathing anonymous reviews and venting I expected to see from folks hiding behind that curtain of anonymity. That encourages me for the future of social dialogue and the level of ownership people are taking with the content they write. Do you feel the same way or read something different into the data?

Jackie,

~Social Intelligence Crusader

Tags : social media

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