Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Analytics: Social Media

For years, businesses have been analyzing data to determine how best to market and sell to clients and customers. Surveys, focus groups, industry trends, etc. are all tools that they use; however, within the last few years, a new and more powerful tool has been brought to light. Social Media Analytics is the collection and analyzing of data that customers are putting out on the internet through blogs, social sites, and more. The problem comes in that many people do not realize the value to businesses and customers these tools have, as well as how to use them.

Marketing in the social media sphere is not as complicated as you might think. When deciding on a new store location, business leaders will look at demographics, where the customers are most likely to be at, and have the best access to what they want. The same goes with Social Media. Businesses need to understand what each of the platforms is best for and where you market is and isn't.  They also must understand what is being done on these platforms. It all boils down to a simple point: “social media provides a human connection that is often missing from most websites.” Social media gives a place for a community to be built, allowing customers to connect, share, and participate with others who share a common interest. The goal is to engage the customer and participate in the social dialogue.  Pushing content to customers through web links does not work. Focusing on solving customer problems is the key. (Tom Morse, SAS)

How does this relate to analytics you may ask? Analytics is the tool used to determine whether or not the social media efforts are being effective. Goals should be made as social media platforms are used. How many likes did a Facebook page or post get? How many followers were gained on twitter or how many people re-tweeted your twitter post? These are only a few examples of metrics that can be used to rate the effectiveness of a business’s social media efforts. Collecting this data and mining customer response so that analysis can be done is where the real power of analytics lies. A business can evaluate the interest in a product or get feedback for free regarding how they are doing. Monitoring social media can provide great benefits as text is analyzed to rate the positive or negative tone of feedback on a topic, or how often a product or company is referenced in comments or posts.

As with any analysis initiative, business goals must be clearly defined and translated well into how performance will be measured. Without this, the data that is collected could be completely worthless, for example: tracking the number of twitter followers and un-followers. Does this really tell you anything about how your message is being received?  There may be a little correlation until you realize that there are a number of malware bots that follow and un-follow people all the time. Are your customers even using Twitter or would Facebook be a better fit for a social connection with customers? Are your initiatives bringing more attention to your website and product or just keeping customers on the social platform? Having the ability to identify where, when and how social media effectively influences customers helps to determine the appropriate strategy to take advantage of the potential that is there. (Avinash Kaushik)

What are some best practices for analytics you've seen in developing a strategic plan for social media?