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Dick Harmon: Utah analytics company breaks down BYU's Ziggy Ansah and the NFL draft

Published: Friday, July 31 2015 9:30 a.m. MDT

Ezekiel Ansah, the Detroit Lions first round draft pick, addresses the media during an NFL football news conference the team's training facility in Allen Park, Mich., Friday, April 26, 2013. Ansah, born and raised in Ghana, was selected fifth overall in the NFL draft on Thursday.  (Carlos Osorio, Associated Press) Ezekiel Ansah, the Detroit Lions first round draft pick, addresses the media during an NFL football news conference the team's training facility in Allen Park, Mich., Friday, April 26, 2013. Ansah, born and raised in Ghana, was selected fifth overall in the NFL draft on Thursday. (Carlos Osorio, Associated Press)

The power of social media is rising at a phenomenal rate.

In all aspects of media, especially sports, it has become a force of nature — breaking news, engaging fans and delivering people directly to everyone.

Even BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall has a Twitter account to take advantage of NCAA rules and communicate directly with prospects and fans.

Did you know there were more than 30,000 tweets on Twitter about Ziggy Ansah before and after Detroit drafted him? And, connections to those who tweeted about him represented a potential audience of 53 million?

A detailed analysis of social media paints an interesting picture of what kind of chatter took place when the Lions picked Ansah in the first round of the NFL draft — not only what, but where and by whom. It is interesting to note, social media traffic about Ansah around the Detroit area was neutral or negative before the draft, but on draft day turned positive. And the second-most interesting thing about Ansah on the Internet wasn’t his speed, size or his unique story of having never played football until a few years prior to the draft. It was his glasses.

BYU's Ziggy Ansah is introduced as the fifth overall pick by the Detroit Lions in the First Round of the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall.  (Jaren Wilkey/BYU, Jaren Wilkey/BYU) BYU's Ziggy Ansah is introduced as the fifth overall pick by the Detroit Lions in the First Round of the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU, Jaren Wilkey/BYU)

That’s right, the lensless, black-rimmed glasses Ziggy wore on draft day drew so much attention around the world, they became one of the biggest features about him. And the attention led to free admission for Ansah to 3D IMAX movie theaters for one year.

Whether it's Ziggy, the Jazz, BYU, Utah or Utah State, an interesting tool that gauges and measures social media traffic is featured in a startup business out of Sandy called NUVI.

This company is a real-time analytics platform for social media called "visual intelligence." It makes social conversations on the web actionable and insightful.

One of the vice presidents, onboard NUVI for just four months, is former BYU linebacker and defensive captain Cameron Jensen.

All this data is pulled from Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, YouTube, Delicious, Reddit, Flickr, Vimeo and more than 3 million RSS feeds.

Ezekiel Ansah, the Detroit Lions first round draft pick addresses the media at the team's training facility in Allen Park, Mich., Friday, April 26, 2013. Ansah, born and raised in Ghana, was selected fifth overall in the NFL draft on Thursday. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) (Carlos Osorio, ASSOCIATED PRESS) Ezekiel Ansah, the Detroit Lions first round draft pick addresses the media at the team's training facility in Allen Park, Mich., Friday, April 26, 2013. Ansah, born and raised in Ghana, was selected fifth overall in the NFL draft on Thursday. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) (Carlos Osorio, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

In other words, the new media, the one that is fast becoming the most popular communication device of a generation, has become a powerful presence for not only the user but those who want to use it.

For instance, Jensen said his company’s analytics can tell you that top draftees Eric Fisher (Kansas City) and Luke Joeckel (Jacksonville) may have been judged by NFL gurus to be similar at the top of the college heap, but Fisher is by far more popular, more well-known and has more positive vibes in cyberspace. And much of that is because Fisher tweets more on Twitter, has more followers and engages with them in a back-and-forth discussion. That information is valuable to somebody.

Conversely, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o's negatives were high before, during and after the NFL draft. He had similar negatives as West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. Both slipped down the ladder on draft day.

BYU Head Football Coach Bronco Mendenhall congratulates Ziggy Ansah on his pick to join the Detroit Lions. BYU's Ziggy Ansah is introduced as the fifth overall pick by the Detroit Lions in the First Round of the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall.   April 25, 2013 (JarenWilkey/Byu, JarenWilkey/BYU) BYU Head Football Coach Bronco Mendenhall congratulates Ziggy Ansah on his pick to join the Detroit Lions. BYU's Ziggy Ansah is introduced as the fifth overall pick by the Detroit Lions in the First Round of the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. April 25, 2013 (JarenWilkey/Byu, JarenWilkey/BYU)

The interesting thing is, Jensen’s company tools can break it down by topic, by source, by geography, by intensity and by time.

This is interesting if you are a sports franchise or college program, somebody like the Jazz or Utes or Cougars. It’s interesting to see how this fits in if you were the Deseret News or selling tennis shoes, or if you are Tiger Woods and had just won a big tournament.

“People are talking about your brand, whether you are listening or whether you care about it or not. They are talking about you and discussing you” said Jensen.

“You have some options. You can choose to ignore it or you can choose to listen or you can choose to listen and engage those people. What NUVI allows, is you can set up a topic and you can listen on a number of social media platforms and you can listen and leverage it. You can filter out who the influencers are; you can filter out sentiment, whether it is positive or negative; and you can use that for further decisions.”

Ezekiel Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah is drafted by Detroit Lions. (JarenWilkey/Byu, JarenWilkey/BYU)

In other words, it’s a focus group on steroids.

Companies that use this NUVI detective work include Vivint, University of Utah Health Care, BYU Communications, 97th Floor and MultiLing — to mention a few.

Bottom line? Social media, Twitter and so on are shaping the world.

This is stuff Don Draper folks on the TV show "Mad Men" would have killed for.

No wonder Bronco is now on Twitter.

Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at dharmon@desnews.com.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company