Analytics experts peer deeper into social to gather timely customer information

A number of technology providers have launched services, or expanded their existing ones, to help marketers sort through it the massive amounts of consumer data generated on a daily basis on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets. 

Marketers agree that resources from Alterian, Bazaarvoice, Radian6 and others are increasingly valuable for learning about their customers and what they are saying, but they assert more work needs to be done to effectively measure social media sentiment and data.

“It’s difficult to get a hard ROI number immediately, but there are so many other benefits that we’ve been seeing slowly over time, especially on the customer experience side,” said Maribel Sierra, senior manager of listening and engagement at Dell Computers. 

The company has been working with Radian6 and its “Engagement Consul” to track customer comments online, and then respond to complaints, reach out to influential bloggers and commenters, and assign social media tasks to various departments. Sierra has found Radian6’s ratings and reviews service particularly valuable for Dell’s product development team, which uses customer comments to refine its products and services.

Social media commerce firm Bazaarvoice has launched a “Social Commerce Insights” platform to help their clients measure how online reviews impact sales and enable more targeted marketing. Golf supply store Golfsmith worked with the company to make customer product reviews a bigger part of its efforts. According to Golfsmith, orders from shoppers who “sort by rating” are 36% higher in value than average, and there has been a 42% increase in revenue per e-mail for those that include “top rated” product ratings and customer reviews. 

These tools are helping companies move toward an increasingly nimble, bottom-up approach to direct marketing, shaping how they target their messages by essentially “crowdsourcing” the comments and reviews across social media, say industry experts.

Mike Leeds, who runs the sales training company ProSales Coaching, had previously focused on his local Phoenix, AZ market. However, since one of his blog posts brought in a major New York client, he expanded the promotion of his remote phone coaching services to far-flung clients. He has begun using Constant Contact’s “Social Media Stats” program, launched in late September, to track where his e-mailed tips are posted in the social media universe and better target his marketing. 

“I’m noticing a different audience on Twitter than on my blog,” observes Leeds, “and figuring out how best to use each tool.”

Plenty of roadblocks remain. Marshall Sponder, an independent social media analytics expert, pointed out that few standard metrics have been embraced industry wide, and that many companies have trouble integrating social media measurements that allow them to monitor its impact in sales and customer service channels.

Another ongoing challenge is making social media data actionable. To this end, Alterian, which offers services that tag and sort relevant social media information, purchased consulting firm Intrepid in September. 

“A few years ago, the value was in getting people to collect this information, and getting it tagged, but now it’s getting the business intelligence to say, ‘What decisions can be made from this?’” says Bill Balderaz, president and founder of Webbed Marketing, a client of Alterian’s. “The next evolution is working with a business analyst and saying, ‘This is what we should do.’” 

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