Exclusive: Part 2 of the Interview with Tom H. C. Anderson, the leader in Big Data, Market Analytics, and Text Analytics

Part 2 of KDnuggets interview with Tom H. C. Anderson, a pioneer in text mining, founder of NGMR Market Research group, a leader in Big Data and in Social media, an award winning blogger, and a very cool guy.

By Gregory Piatetsky, May 20, 2013.

Here is Part 1 of the interview.

Short Bio:Tom H. C. AndersonTom H. C. Anderson, is the managing partner of Anderson Analytics, the first market research firm to leverage text analytics. A true pioneer in the text mining field, his firm's OdinText software was recently named a key challenger in the text analytics space and has received much praise from Fortune 500 consumer insights and customer loyalty professionals. Tom is an award winning blogger and frequent speaker on data and text mining. He was named one of the industry's "Four under 40" market research leaders by the American Marketing Association (2010). Tom also manages NGMR, the most active Market Research group on LinkedIn and has almost 50,000 followers on Twitter for @tomhcanderson.

GP: Q5. You have a very extensive social media presence, about 47K followers on Twitter, 21K members of NGMR LinkedIn group, and you also actively tweet and post. How did you start, and how do you organize your social media activities. What are your favorite tools for managing and tracking social media?

THCA: I started blogging and tweeting mainly to understand it from the user perspective to evaluate it for purposes of text analytics, but it has now become a hobby. The NGMR group on LinkedIn of course was not started for purposes of understanding how to text mine LinkedIn, but rather because I wanted to discuss how data and text mining could be used in marketing research (though the discussion now goes well beyond these two areas). The term "NGMR" has become much broader than 'Data Science' and now also incorporates a lot of new qualitative techniques unique to marketing research.

Originally, I did try to use various tools to help with some of the above. A good market researcher needs to understand how to market, not just how to research, and there are definitely many tools out there that can help with SEO, etc. But I eventually found these things can take up more time than their worth.

These days, I really don't use any tools other than a simple Word Press blog and basic Twitter access. Time wise too, I do limit my time somewhat carefully. It's sort of like checking email. You do it once in a while during the day. The one tool/metric I sometimes do still look at is Klout.

I will say that obviously I do understand my social media activities are more than a hobby, and that while I genuinely enjoy meeting people online, it is very helpful business wise and so I think of it also in terms of ROI. For instance when I feel like I may be wasting too much time with social media I ask myself "how long and how much money would it take for you to fly around the country to meet all these people", and then I feel better about time spent on social media.

GP: 6. In a recent KDnuggets study of top LinkedIn groups related to Analytics, Big Data, and Data Mining, the group that you founded - NGMR - stood out as the most interactive, with the highest number of comments per discussion. What makes NGMR so successful in generating discussion?

THCA: Market researchers tend to be well educated, genuinely curious, and somewhat introverted, That last part seems contrary to what you would think would constitute a healthy talkative community, but I've found introverts prefer somewhat more formalized and distant communication, and thus take to social media like fish to water. Coincidentally I also I think these are the reasons we have so many trade organizations in our relatively small industry.

Social media discussion and sharing with fellow professionals is something that is important to us. I think this is part of the reason we have so many trade organizations in our relatively small industry.

Other than that though, unlike other groups that were mainly started by sales people or others hoping to somehow generate lists and monetize their groups for advertising or event purposes, I've made sure that promotional content is kept to a minimum, though there is a place for it within the boundaries we've established. Also, I think because the majority of those who set up the other market research groups tend not to be practitioners themselves they find it more difficult to engage in the community in a meaningful way.

I think the success of any group is a mix of the moderators being strict, engaging in the conversation and being genuinely interested in and interacting with other professionals. Of course you can't do any of this unless you have real group members who participate, not just bloggers and sales folks who are constantly talking and not listening. NGMR is lucky to have many members who are in there not just to sell but also to learn and connect.

GP: 7. Tell us about OdinText and its capabilities in text analytics

THCA: As mentioned earlier there's a lot of 'text analytics' software out there created by developers in hopes of monetizing the twitter and blog data so freely available. Unfortunately, or fortunately for us as the case may be, they do not have much, experience understanding what analysts or marketing executives really need.

OdinTextOdinText can be used on a variety of data but the analytical approach (it's an analytical platform not just a coding tool) is the only one developed specifically for the consumer insights use case. Whether we're analyzing Net Promoter score data, Customer Service calls or emails (and, yes twitter if you really want too), OdinText is better than any other software out there, bar none, in helping consumer insights researchers get to the actionable insights their managers expect.

It wasn't developed to detect fraud or terrorists or to help lawyers go through large amounts of files. If you need to do that, there probably is some better software out there, and while some text analytics software suppliers claim they do everything, the less likely they are to do anything well in my experience.

Unlike other vendors, we don't give demos on canned data, but always on a client's actual data under MNDA. I've found this is the single best way to evaluate what a vendor can do and it ensures that we're also talking to the right people when we show them what OdinText can do.

GP: 8. What are the important trends in text analytics for the next 3-5 years?

THCA: I think we'll see continued adoption and customization by use case. There will be a shaking out in some domains such as social media monitoring I mentioned earlier. Some of the important changes will come from users. As adoption increases, creativity in how the tools are applied will lead to further innovation and gains.

GP: 9. What advice would you give to people who want to increase their social media influence?M

(Readers can also check Tom's answer to Klout interview What advice do you have for someone who wants to take their online presence to the next level?)

THCA: Well it's fairly simple to do. Twitter, Facebook and LinekedIn are kind of no brainers. Folks are most intimidated by blogging. I say just do it. Give it a try for yourself. It's not as hard or as serious of a commitment as you would think.

GP: 10. What interesting book you recently read and liked?

THCA: If you're wondering about business books, I think I 'over dosed' on them sometime between business school and just before starting Anderson Analytics in 2005 when I read every top business book I could find. I found that they either said the same truisms in different ways or in some cases completely contradicted each other. I did find certain authors better in terms of their actual experience; Al Ries and Jack Trout on anything related to brand positioning for instance.

Naturally, I read for fun when I can. I consider many of these recent bestselling "Data Analytics" books in that genre and don't take them too seriously. Malcolm Gladwell and others like him, whom I won't mention, are really not that great with data, but they are great at telling an interesting story, and I enjoy that.

For fun and to keep my mother tongue in practice I also try to read Swedish language bestselling novels. But this weekend if I have time I'll be reading Wired magazine or Bill Brysons' Down Under.