The State of Opinions on the Social Web

Screenshot from state.com
Screenshot from state.com

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been playing around with the State app. Pitched as the global opinion network, it gives users the ability to state their opinions on a range of topics, organizations, people and current events – from PSY and Snoop Dogg’s latest collaboration to gun control.

As people input their opinions, the data from keywords generates a graph that maps out user sentiment, along with a keyword cloud showing the most common terms associated with the subject.

Opinions of friends are displayed on the user’s home page, so it’s easy to add your two cents to a relevant topic. State has also taken a leaf out of Twitter’s (recently revised) book and allows users to mute (or tune in to) selected friend’s opinions and specific subjects.

The company has grand visions to democratize online discussion, and cofounder Alexander Asseily has positioned the platform as giving everyone an equal voice – in contrast to platforms like Twitter where a small number of opinion leaders dominate conversations.

“You don’t need to be famous or savvy with hashtags. The only requirement is expressing an opinion and we connect you with others who share the opinion”

– Alexander Asseily, State co-founder

From a PR perspective, the platform has the potential to act as an important reputation indicator and source of feedback for brands, politicians and enterprises who are willing to listen. For example, a search of Starbucks shows 362 opinions (at time of writing), which are collectively balanced. However, looking at the user-submitted keywords, it’s clear that a significant percentage of users have a low opinion of the company’s product and consider it overpriced.

State also has the potential to become a go-to source of social media insight for journalists. The platform displays the collective opinions of users in a simple and clean format, and allows users to drill down into comments under specific keywords. If State becomes the shiny new thing online (a big if), expect media to ditch the obligatory quote from Twitter and Facebook in favor of comments, keywords and stats from State.

All of this sounds great – in theory. However, the platform is still in its infancy, with a small user-base. The other downside is that the opt-in nature of the platform will not always make for accurate brand sentiment metrics.

State has gone to the trouble of adding more than 10,000 expressions to make it quick and easy to for users to state their opinions in a way that reduces complexity, making it easier to graph data. While convenient, the various ways in which cultures use words within the English language is likely to create further inaccuracies. For example, Australians’ use of the word ‘sick’ is wildly different from the way it is used by many other English-speaking countries.

These suggested options for response will also have a significant impact on the results, and it’s highly likely that most users will select from the first couple of options available (the most popular ones) rather than searching for a word that accurately reflects how they feel, further tainting results.

Faults aside, the team at State should be applauded for their efforts to create a global opinion network that people might actually use. If it was to garner widespread adoption, it could have a significant impact on proceedings in the court of public opinion. With the 2016 election on the horizon, State could be a dark horse. Watch this space…