Top tips for interpreting consumer data from social media
IBM recently unveiled research showing that chief marketing officers (CMOs) feel deluged by the ever-increasing wealth of consumer data coming from social media sites. So much so that 82% of CMOs are basing their marketing strategies on traditional – and costly – market research, rather than using the freely available information that can be drawn from social media’s readymade data goldmine.
In fact, IBM’s report asserts that only 26% of CMOs are informing their marketing strategies by tracking blogs, only 42% are tracking third-party reviews and a mere 28% are tracking consumer reviews. Ironically, this reluctance for CMOs to immerse themselves in such data comes at a time when investment in social media is, unsurprisingly, reaching staggering heights, with eMarketer recently reporting that global social network ad revenues are expected to hit $5.5 billion this year and then top $10 billion by 2013. Surely one of the ancillary benefits of such heavy investment is free but invaluable consumer data?
Perhaps all that’s needed is a steady hand to guide CMOs through the social media data minefield. So here are a few handy tips:
1. Learn to listen: Social media is such a vast animal these days that someone – or, rather, something – needs to be put in charge of overall monitoring. Left to a humble human, this task is near impossible. Which is why there are some clever technologies out there to do the hard work for you. Think Radian6, Sysomos or Visible Technologies.
2. Let the tech take control: Rather than swimming – or drowning – in a sea of data, there are tools that can help tie it all together. Tailor your customer database by using technology solutions like Engage Sciences or Buddy Media. They help by scraping all the data you need from social network APIs, enabling you to compile information into one accessible and comparable format.
3. A Facebook fan is more than just a number: The lazy way to interpret social media data is to count Facebook ‘Likes’ and Twitter followers. But these figures are relatively meaningless… unless you’re out to impress someone who doesn’t understand the true value of social. The beauty of social media data is that it helps you build a fuller picture of that Facebook fan or Twitter follower. So don’t just use them as notches on the bedpost, find out what they like and why they like it. Perhaps even consider inviting true advocators to be brand ambassadors?
4. All goggles on Google: Google’s recently launched Google+ pages for brands marks a surprisingly late entry into the market. But one thing you can always be sure of with Google is that they know their stuff; and their delayed move into the market is likely to shake things up for the better. Their unrivalled analytics package – Google Analytics – could soon be enhanced to incorporate Google+. And this will become a game-changer in the world of social media data collection and interpretation.
5. Interpretation is nothing without expertise : Although having access to tools make data-mining easier, data is worth nothing without interpretation. As the market grows, so does the opportunity for sophisticated interpretation. Analytics has become such a specialist art form that it’s hard to handle it effectively on a generalised basis. You need a dedicated maestro, someone who understands the nuanced complexities of social media. So make sure your agency is one step ahead: check they have a system that draws all the available but disparate data mining technologies together. And then make sure they know how to cherry pick that data in order to drill down to the important bits… the bits that speak about a consumer’s individuality.
6. Don’t silo, share: It’s easy to assume that all roads from consumer data lead to marketing and PR teams. But that’s a bit misguided. Although this type of data is an invaluable marketing resource, customer insight and customer service teams can also turn it into gold, simply by acting upon it. Give an advocate’s positive commentary extended shelf life by inviting them to become part of process, for example. And, just as important, make sure the detractors are suitably mollified. Social media data collection and monitoring needs to become an integral part of the customer services and insights teams’ remit.
7. The end justifies the means: Many companies still find themselves having to justify social media campaign costs to their finance departments. But once the FD realises that what budget goes into social media could be saved on marketing, customer service, recruitment and so on you have a double-whammy selling tactic.
Jonny Rosemont is head of social media at DBD Media.