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Downtown Reflections. Photograph by Brian Cohen.
Downtown Reflections. Photograph by Brian Cohen. | Show Photo

Innovation

CMU researchers peek inside the minds of consumers using social media snapshots

What better way to understand the heart and mind of the consumer than through an analysis of the images that people post on social media?
 
Dr. Gunhee Kim, currently with Disney Research Pittsburgh, and Eric Xing, CMU associate professor, analyzed more than five million images and—not so surprisingly—found social media to contain a motherlode of strategic ideas for marketers.
 
The potential is staggering, they say.
 
Marketers strive to get into the heads of consumers to find out what a brand makes them think and feel. For example, what thought does the name Tiger Woods conjure? How does a McDonald’s hamburger make us feel? The researchers pulled the images from sites such as Pinterest and Flickr.
 
“If someone takes a picture and texts it as Nike, the picture is a pictorial impression about Nike,” explains Kim. “By culling millions of these images, we can read people’s minds for Nike.“

The research marks a first time researchers have systematically mined marketing data from social media and analyzed the messages, he says. Several practical applications may be explored on the basis of the research. 
 
For example, competitor mining through social media may one day help marketers to identify which companies are its primary competitors. Contextual advertising may assist companies in generating keywords or categories that best describe the image, which would lend itself to text queries for Google AdWords and BingAds.
 
The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and by Google.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Dr. Kim Gunhee, CMU
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