In this blog post we have been lucky enough to interview an expert on Social Media Analytics in order to gain insight on this topic based off his experience. This “Industry Insight” posts will be covering the questions below:
- Why is Social Media important to a business?
- Do you think it’s important to include social media analytics in an organisation? And If yes, what are the major benefits Social Media Analytics?
- How do organisations use social media analytics?
- What kinds of social media analytics metrics have you found to be the most useful?
- What SMA tools do organisations use?
- What are the major challenges of Social Media Analytics?
- What skillsets do you feel are most important in the Analytics department?
1. Why is Social Media important to a business?
I can say that social media definitely makes a big impact on the business. To start off let’s look at the components of social media. Social media surrounds itself around 3 basic attributes –
People, Topics, and the Ideas and Opinions of these topics.
And social media is the phenomenal single largest place where people come into one platform and share their thoughts, exchange information in the form of text, comments and various other formats. It’s definitely an amazing platform. Where else do you think you can find 1.59 billion people on a platform? Facebook and Twitter. No other media in the world has so many interactions in one place.
Now, businesses have to utilise these platforms to promote their brands and company in order to gain profit. Just to touch on how unexpected the impact of social media was – Back in 2006, when Facebook just entered the market, many people said social media was just for youngsters which could not influence buyers. However, Facebook’s network then started to rack up substantially, and has been growing ever since, they called this the “Social Media Gold Rush”. Nowadays social media influences businesses immensely, where the market value of Facebook is worth $245 billion dollars, which is even higher than long established firms such as Walmart. Similarly, this happened on Twitter, when critics said that it’s not going to make any sense to use Twitter for businesses, now more than 3 million users use Twitter everyday.
You can see how social media is viral. If an organisation wants to flourish, it needs to reach as many people as possible and this can be achieved through social media.
2. Do you think it’s important to include social media analytics in an organisation? And If yes, what are the major benefits Social Media Analytics?
Yes, it is definitely important to include social media analytics in an organisation. The major benefit is brand awareness. Not just brand awareness by itself, but accelerated brand awareness, where a message reaches so many people in just seconds. If you have a website and you want to increase traffic, social media is the best place to bring the traffic into your website, and social media analytics is the best way to monitor how much traffic is coming, and their conversations.
3. How do organisations use social media analytics?
You can monitor conversations about your brand, organisations and also look at sentiments of your brand (positive vs.negative tones) to gain a better understanding of people’s perception on your brand. When I first started my career, we use to spend a lot of money hiring surveyors, and no matter what the results were, they would always be skewed. However, in today’s time, the comments and results from social media analytics are genuine, if they feel good about your company, they’ll say the truth. So you can get a very clear comment and unbiased views from everyday users. Once you gain this insight, you can pick which area you want to improve on and start working towards it e.g. if a perception is bad, you can start building your brand, if it’s good, then you can identify exactly what makes it good and continue this.
4. What kinds of social media analytics metrics have you found to be the most useful?
There are a lot of metrics in social media, because data is HUGE. What is important is that at the end of the day, your company identifies what metrics help your company, and your organisation to grow, and this is the most important metric to you.
Most metrics can be categorised into four categories:
- Consumption: How many people viewed/downloaded/read or listened to a specific post.
- Sharing: How many people have shared this post. For example, there was a promotion of the ING orange card, where in the promotion they started this on social media, and because it was viewed and disseminated so quickly, a viral effect started and people started using this. One person shares this, then more, and it goes viral.
- Lead Generation: Number of leads generated through this post, and number of customers.
- Sales Metric: This is the most important class of metrics for many organisations because it’s where the company receives the money. This includes return on marketing investment, net incremental contribution for customer, incremental sales/response, life time value of customers.
Other metrics not mentioned in the categories include bounce rate, exit rate, reach and impressions.
5. What SMA tools do organisations use?
Organisations can be classified into big, medium and small. Depending on the size of your organisation you’ll use different tools to suit your needs.
Large organisations do not use a single business analytics tool, we use a combination of tools with Hadoop (Hadoop is an open-source framework that allows to store and process big data in a distributed environment across clusters of computers). Can you guess how much data is available? Facebook gains 5000 new users in one second, 6 new profiles and 40 million businesses have got their profiles on Facebook. Similarly, Twitter has 1.3 million active users, and in one day 600 million tweets are created, this is the same for other platforms too. The data available is HUGE, the amount of data created daily is HUGE, and before a company wants to use social media analytics, they have to have a sufficient platform set up to be able to handle all this data. Normal databases cannot handle this, we need to utilise Hadoop for big data analytics to be able to analyse social media data. Only after this problem is solved, can we start thinking about the various text mining software etc. that we are going to use.
Furthermore, you need a huge array of people from various skillsets in order to handle this data and convert it. This doesn’t only include people who directly utilise the software, but also various people that understand analytics and make the team function, such as a sufficient Project Manager, and Business Analyst.
For medium and small businesses, there are off the shelf solutions and simple cloud based analytics tools. This set up is on the cloud and they have analytics capabilities installed and readily created dashboards and metrics. These include things such as Google Analytics, Sprout Social, Keyhole (for Twitter), Watson Analytics (IBM), Social Cloud from Oracle, and Social Baker.
6. What are the major challenges of Social Media Analytics?
The three major challenges I’d say is extracting meaning from the unstructured data, handling the large volume of unstructured data, and also having the right amount of people with sufficient skills to perform social media analytics.
One of the major challenges is that social media data is unstructured. There is no primary key like we have in databases, everything is free form text. What’s even more challenging is making sense of all this unstructured data. It’s similar to music – Music is good to listen to, but if you mix noise into the sound waves it doesn’t sound good and music just turns into noise. When you get social media data, it’s like noise, you need to make music out of the noise. Once you can do this, it means you’re doing your job right.
“When you get social media data, it’s like noise, and you need to make music out of the noise”
You need to also get the right information that’s relevant to your company, this is very hard because out of all the data you analyse, it is only a very small portion of it. If you draw two circles like a venn diagram, and one circle represents the large amount of users on any platform (1.5 billion people’s worth on Facebook), and the other circle is the large amount of topics talked about, then the small area in the middle is the piece of information your company needs (i.e the right type of people aka your target customer segment, talking about the relevant topics important to you). That’s the biggest challenge, and it’s not easy. You have to apply a huge array of filters to act on a huge amount of data in order to bring out the small section of important information you need.
Additionally, other challenge is maintaining and handling the large volume of social media data and the huge array of skills needed as aforementioned (in question 4).
7. What other parts of the business do you think can utilise Social Media Analytics?
The whole business needs to use social media analytics, not just sales and marketing. On social media, people can comment about a product – this is relevant for the product development team, people can talk about quality of service or product – this is feedback for the Quality Control team, people can compare products to others based off cost and other reasons. All this information gives valuable input to various departments, and gives input for CEO decisions.
8. Can you provide us with an instance where SMA made an impact on an organisation?
One example that has impacted the organisation in Financial Services is the ING Orange card example I previously mentioned (in question 4), where the ING Orange card cashback deal was promoted and monitored through social media and proved to be a success. Another example is in the talent acquisition industry. These organisations use social media analytics to go on LinkedIn and target people with the talent that they need. LinkedIn can provide data to locate people with the right skillsets, in the right locations and help find talent for their organisation.
9. What skillsets do you feel are most important in the Analytics department?
The primary skills that are definitely needed are text mining skills, data extraction and transformation skills, reporting skills, business analyst skills, project management. Basically everything in IT needed to work together to create a solution, everything needs to be interconnected and a range of IT skills is needed.
Secondary skills needed are security and the maintenance of databases and analytics platforms. For smaller organisations who do not have the funding to have this secondary support, they tend to go for a cloud solution such as Google Analytics, so the secondary skillsets are already available as a part of the product.
We would like to say thank you to Dinesh for providing us with his time and providing us with valuable insight on industry social media analytics. It can be seen that much of the content that we cover in our course is reflected in industry.
Please let us know if you’ve found this interview interesting in the comments below, and what else would you have asked Dinesh?