The Federal Reserve Bank of New York is recognising social media’s potential to shape public opinion, and requesting monitoring and analysis of Facebook and Twitter conversations.
The Fed’s “Request for Proposal for a Sentiment Analysis and Social Media Monitoring Solution” aims to identify online conversations by the public, bloggers, and other influencers for the department’s Communications Group. The program seeks to monitor billions of conversations on social media, generate text analytics, and also determine the sentiment of a speaker or writer with respect to some topic or document.
The Communications Group is tasked with proactively keeping the agency aware of the reactions and opinions of the public, as expressed in Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, and aggregate data from media outlets like the Wall Street Journal and CNN.
Some are comparing the proposal to counterespionage or surveillance, but the NY Fed says it reflects its commitment to “improving its communications and engagement with the public in order to enhance and improve the public’s understanding of its activities and the role it plays in supporting the U.S. Economy,” according to a Fed spokesman’s statement.
The real-time data will be categorized as “positive, negative or neutral,” so the agency can reportedly monitor public perception as it moves forward.
The announcement also underscores how social media is becoming the digital age’s “water cooler,” the place to gauge the population’s opinions and reactions, and the NY Fed isn’t the first to tap into it.
Wall Street now analyses Twitter and other social media to inform investment decisions, in response to news pointing to a correlation between the collective mood expressed in millions of tweets and the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
And political parties are taking note, too. For example, President Barack Obama’s Twitter town hall drew nearly 170,000 questions and comments this summer.
The event followed news the President’s election campaign hired Harper Reed as its new chief technology officer to integrate technologies into the team’s digital strategy.
The NY Fed’s proposal, as controversial as it may be, demonstrates the growing realisation of the importance of social media as a barometer of popular sentiment, ideas and as a way to gauge the mood of a population.