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Published March 8th 2012

Small Scale Data is Still Relevant: Virgin Broadband’s Problems in Brighton

Many of our clients here at Brandwatch are giant brands, spanning all corners of the globe and they track millions of social media mentions a month.

Monitoring tools are clearly equipped to handle big data and provide analysis, but is there any insight to be gained from small data sets or localised data?

Telecommunications companies come under fire a lot, with providers such as AT&T in the States and BT in the UK both regularly scrutinised for their shortcomings.

We’ve taken a look at how useful isolating data regionally can be useful by performing a query for Virgin Broadband, an internet service provider that this writer has been having trouble with recently.

The first stage is to create the query. Now, Virgin is a very generic word that may have some alternative meanings.

((Virgin NEAR/5 (broadband OR media)) NEAR/20 (Brighton OR BN*))

This will check for mentions of Virgin that are within five words of broadband and of media. We then want those mentions to be within twenty words of Brighton, or the post code for that city, which is BN followed by a number.

An alternative and more likely scenario at a commercial level would be to perform a search for Virgin broadband in general, then search within that data set for Brighton-specific mentions. However, for this piece it was easier to do it this way.

We found a number of inappropriate results with this query, so we also used the NOT operator to remove some smutty terms in order to clean up the data.

This query only returns 168 mentions, dating back to the beginning of 2012. However, this does not mean it’s insignificant.

To complain about a service is a problem for a company, and can be indicative of wider dissent, considering that there will also be plenty of people that haven’t vocalised their issues with Virgin due to not using social media or having an uncomplaining type of personality.

Each person complaining is almost certainly a paying customer, so each complaint that goes unaddressed is a potential lost income for Virgin.

Listening to mentions of Virgin in Brighton shows that half of all mentions are negative, with just 5% classified as positive.

The positive instances are largely about the Virgin Music Awards or the Virgin-sponsored Eurogamer Expo, though four people this year have been happy enough with their broadband service to champion it online, mainly in the wake of an announcement by Virgin to upgrade customers’ speeds for free.

Graphing the data shows that a number of people were annoyed on January 17th, when the service appears to have been interrupted across the Brighton area. The sentiment was also overwhelmingly negative during this period.

Another peak followed just two days later, as Virgin’s intention to upgrade the Brighton area was reported by news sites and acknowledged by Brightonians across social media sites.

Evidently, the announcement had failed to make an impact upon the volume of complaints, as they have remained steady at around 2-5 a day, though they do appear to possibly be decreasing in the past week.

The data set, though small, does show an indication of dissent in the Brighton area. This is more apparent if you compile a similar query.

Here is the data for the same time period, but over the TN post code area (of a similar population), which covers Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and other towns in Kent.

For over two months, there have only been 4 mentions of Virgin’s broadband service in this area, and though none have been positive this is a much better sign than the data from Brighton due to the smaller volume of negative mentions.

So there may be less insight to be gained from small data sets in terms of patterns, consumer trends and reactions but taking a glance can still be valuable.

It’s clear to see that Virgin have a pocket of unhappiness in Brighton, and

A handful of complaints a day isolated to a single area could be a very serious problem for companies like Virgin.

The @VirginMedia Twitter account, to their credit, is very active in addressing disgruntled customers, and demonstrate how businesses can use social media for customer service.

Tools like Brandwatch offer workflow features that allow users to sign different mentions to different users and departments. In this case, Virgin could have a query broken down into regions or into types of technical fault, to allow localised teams to address their problems.

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