Big Data and Social Media

BY: Sabin Bhandari, Shikhat Karkee, Georgi Panev, and Dennis Luepkes

Big Data: Social Media helping Healthcare


Martin (2013) suggests in his paper Big Data/Social Media Combo Poised to Advance Healthcare that big data can be obtained from social media and used to improve healthcare. It is estimated that “ 78 percent of Internet users look up health information online, and of those, 20 percent use social media sites” (Martin, 2013). It is a huge amount of people and if their opinions, questions, interests and comments on social media are analyzed, significant and accurate test results might be achieved. Much better than having a few people in a lab, isn’t it? Especially when talking about complaints or side-effects of drugs, for example. In order such a data to be gathered, a sophisticated data mining system called SHIP was developed. It has the ability to reveal patterns and trends in the field of healthcare which might not be discovered by normal investigation.

Naveen Ashish, research and development director of CA-based Abzooba, analyzed with his team 400 000 posts from 50 000 discussion threads on four social media websites (Martin, 2013). By using SHIP they scrutinized 20 million facts and expressions and concluded that there is “ a previously unreported but third most common side effect of the lung cancer chemotherapy drug Tarceva (…): onset of severe cough after starting the treatment” (Martin, 2013). The problem is that severe cough is also a symptom of the disease cancer itself and it is more likely for doctors to make this connection rather than link it with the drug. However, Ashish’s team managed to make this difference thanks to big data as the question abou cough was highly discussed among users of the drug. They team also points out that it is very important to make difference between the comments and opinions they read and use for their estimations. It is hard to understand which ones are trustworthy and which are not (Martin, 2013).    

A good video on this topic can be found here!

Big Data: Social Media helping Businesses improve  

1111pm-zoomerang-topBusinesses nowadays have a different approach to becoming more successful. It is not just going from door to door to advertise your product or relying on TV ads in order to reach out to people, but there is a new tool that can be used: Social media. McKinsey Global Institute states that a business can grow their operations margins by more than 60% if they used social media properly (Manyika, 2011), and according to Qualman, “Social media touches nearly every facet of our personal and business lives. In business it isn’t just for Marketing and Public Relations departments … Whether a business is large or small, its overall success will be partly owed to its success within social media” (Qualman, 2010). Big Data and social media can help a business reach people via advertisements, but it will also help the customer to get in touch with the business through open channels that are otherwise not available. However, that is not the biggest factor to look at, but one has to consider the data collection that a business can do using social media. Social media is a tool that can be used to understand what people want to see as well as what products people need. Every second there are thousands of tweets sent, likes given, and photos shared. A business just needs to use this free data in order to improve their business to suit the standards of the people. However, this data analysis can be used to see what the competition is doing with their business. For instance, a business can see what products they are making or what they are advertising, and then making wise decisions to see if they want to compete or maybe go into a different niche market. Looking at the pie chart, it can be seen that a business uses around 75% of their time on social media to self-promote, make themselves visible, and to connect with the customer, while other things like quickly distributing news is only 9% of the usage time.

Big Data: Privacy in Social Media

geekanddummy_-_com_1300_732_50_s_c1_center_center_0_0_1Big Data is becoming a hot topic in varied areas, as every day we create about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data — so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone (IBM). This has made the whole process of data handling unmanageable while dealing with the typical problem such as capture, storage, dissemination, search, analytics and visualization. On one hand this information can be utilized by the big companies in innovative ways that can enhance the public good. They can predict the outbreak of influenza by analyzing consumers’ search queries, improve traffic flows by mapping commuter travel patterns, and develop new products like energy saving “smart appliances.” on the other hand, the collection and use of personal data for commercial purposes raises fundamental privacy concerns.  Consumers need baseline protections that set clear-cut “rules of the road” to guide business practices and establish reasonable consumer expectations.

online-privacyFor instance, while we surf the web, use web applications such as Facebook or Twitter, or open an account we supply a huge amount of information in the virtual data sphere. Even though we restrict our activity in the social media, we are unknowingly leaving some digital footprint or even maybe be revealing more than we realize by doing activities such as, making purchases using a retail loyalty card; the demographic data on a product warranty card;  image collected by a store’s facial recognition software; or the zip code given in response to a request by a cashier. The resulting profile, comprised of bits of information gathered from disparate sources and in different contexts, is far more complete than any of its parts might suggest.

While the consumer might be comfortable disclosing limited pieces of information in one context, they may not approve of the aggregation of all information for sale to unknown third parties for unanticipated uses. Exposing this information—intentionally or through a data breach—may cause embarrassment for the consumer and lead to inferences about their lifestyle or character that cause even greater harm. Thus, Big data is undoubtedly a goldmine of information that is prolific in many ways, however it’s misuse (here in terms of privacy) can be disparaging to the consumer’s image.

Big Data: Social Media and the Race to be President

social_media_lightbulb-300x272With the help of big data, industries and businesses practiced Marketing. But time has changed. Marketing is not only restricted to industries and businesses. A clear example of it is the US presidential race. Big data has become a very important aspect of it. Looking back at Barack Obama’s re-election back in 2012, better decisions and strategic moves using the datas helped improve his campaign efforts and motivate the voters. Over 16% of the people follow the political candidates on social media sites. Due to this, the involvement of the candidates can be seen in an interesting amount. This involvement can be seen in terms of promotional videos, phrases, hashtags,refined digital messages, conversations. They can also alter what they post depending on the situation they are in catching attention of more people and hence leading to more followers.

Due to the fact that there are variety of social media platforms, there is ample chance that the potential voters use each one. So, politicians must adapt and try to stay in the loop by being part of the most popular ones. Let’s take an example of the current Presidential Candidate of the United States, Hillary Clinton. She has a total of five social media accounts. Her Facebook page has over one million likes, and she has over three million followers on Twitter. Clinton has also created a Pinterest, Instagram and even a Snapchat account. Through these sites she can have access to millions of people. About 34% of 18-24 year olds have mentioned that social media posts have influenced their vote. Thus this is indeed a good amount of potential voters who can be influenced through social media. Some of the her social media content is more personal and doesn’t necessarily include a call to action making her more relatable. This will ultimately make her more likable and increase her chances of a presidential victory. Thus, through big data politicians can decide where and when their efforts will achieve the best possible results. From identifying influential supporters, to finding potential voters, to forecasting possible outcomes, big data and social media are changing the way politics are conducted in the US.


“Big Data And The Race To Be President”. Datanami. N.p., 2016. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
Diaz, Jessica. “The Revolution of Presidential Campaigns: Big Data and Social Media.” Linkedin, 19 Mar. 2016,

Henne, Benjamin. Big Data Privacy Issues In Public Social Media. 1st ed. Hannover, Germany: Leibniz Universit ̈ at Hannover, 2016. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.

“IBM Flashsystem”. N.p., 2016. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.

“IEEE Xplore Document – Big Data Privacy Issues In Public Social Media”. N.p., 2016. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.

Manyika, J., Chui, M., Brown, B., Bughin, J., Dobbs, R., Roxburgh, C., & Byers, A. H. (2011, May). Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity. Retrieved October 17, 2016, from

Martin Mike. (2013). Big Data/Social Media Combo Poised to Advance Healthcare. Retrieved October 15, 2016 from

Qualman, E. (2010). Socialnomics: How social media transforms the way we live and do business. John Wiley & Sons.

“Why Privacy Needs To Matter In The Age Of Big Data – Fleishmanhillard”. FleishmanHillard. N.p., 2013. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.


4 thoughts on “Big Data and Social Media

  1. I found this part of your blog post especially interesting and important that you are mentioning it:

    “The resulting profile, comprised of bits of information gathered from disparate sources and in different contexts, is far more complete than any of its parts might suggest.”

    Concerning this, I found an article in the Guardian, stating how you can find out the amount of data that is collected so far, making up for your profile online. If interested, the data can even be requested and companies in Europe are obliged to provide them to you.

    To get an idea of the amount, you can find all your Google Data (including GoogleMail, YouTube etc.) under this address. Take a look.

    More details when reading the mentioned article 🙂



    1. Very interesting articles. Definitely another part to look at that, as we tried to keep it more on the surface of the topic to give a broad overview instead of just focusing in on one issue.

      But you are right that is definitely a big part of it.


  2. This is a very interesting topic, as big data is/ and will be used more in Social Media. I think on the one hand this is great, as it can enhance a business and products through the analysis of customer data and behaviour. On the other hand, as you mentioned in your writing, I think this could become a huge privacy issue.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes that is the thing that we were trying to point out. On the one hand we have in issue of privacy, but on the other hand we can increase the customers experience hugely.


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