Facebook and Wolfram Alpha; a data visualisation of your life

wolfram alpha logoFacebook and Wolfram Alpha do not naturally go together in the same sentence. Now, I am sure you all know who Stephan Wolfram is! If not, he is the gentleman who gave us Wolfram Alpha; the computational knowledge engine (which is a whole lot more than just a search engine. A computational knowledge engine gives you access to the world’s facts and data and calculates answers across a range of topics.) So what does Stephan Wolfram have to do with Facebook you ask?

A lot of Facebook users have made use of the Wolfram Alpha Personal Analytics for Facebook tool provided free to all Wolfram Alpha users. Essentially what this tool does is search through your Facebook profile and visualise your general information. This data visualisation includes demographics all the way through to the things you post most about and when. As an aside from the main intent of this post, it really is a fun way to see how Facebook sees you!

In any event, Wolfram has taken these bits of Facebook data and analysed them even further together with some data visualisation; to find, as he calls it; a “life trajectory” based on Facebook data. Essentially, he was looking for signals as to how your life changes over time. For instance the following image shows a person’s friends ages as their age changes.

Wolfram Alpha friend ages

This data visualisation is pretty standard stuff and you would expect the distribution to always be very close to that kind of curve. Things get slightly more interesting when you start cutting this data with a view of what people post about in their specific age groups.

Wolfram Alpha post by age

Let’s not say anything about how “personal mood” decreases as age increases! 🙂

After reviewing his data visualisation analysis in some detail, Wolfram himself was quoted as saying,

“It’s almost shocking how much this tells us about the evolution of people’s typical interests. People talk less about video games as they get older, and more about politics and the weather…People get less interested in talking about ‘special occasions’ (mostly birthdays) through their teens, but gradually gain interest later. And people get progressively more interested in talking about career and money in their 20s. And so on. And so on.”

On their own these stats might not be particularly interesting; however when you look at these stats with your marketing hat on. This is true Big Data for Marketers. This data is telling us how the attitude, preferences and interests of specific demographics change over time – how you need to pitch your product at different levels to speak to different members of your audience!

Any marketer who is not approaching marketing with a very analytical hat on at the moment is missing a huge trick and is arguably cutting their own career in marketing short! With that in mind, data visualisation should not be the first port of call in your data analytics journey; there are many steps before and after it to make your marketing digitally enabled.


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