Defining Social Analytics

Social analytics is more than just tracking tweets and measuring mentions. It’s connecting on-platform metrics to offline business value and ROI, says Amanda Felson, direct response specialist for Twitter. In addition, she notes that each of the many social platforms weighs metrics differently.

“There’s no universal framework,” Felson says. “You may come back with different answers from tool to tool.” Even with those variations, there are elements of social analytics that are fairly consistent. Here’s a taxonomy of what social analytics means, what types of objectives marketers should set, and what they should look for when selecting analytics tools.

What is social analytics?

Jenny Sussin, principal research analyst for Gartner, defines social analytics as the consolidation and analysis of different social feeds for the purpose of answering a question or gaining insight. Slavi Samardzija, chief analytics officer for Wunderman and KBM Group, expands this definition, saying that social analytics has three primary branches: social listening, social engagement, and social graph data.

Social listening, he says, is primarily based on unstructured text, such as customers’ posts about brands, products, or categories. On one hand, marketers try to understand and quantify these conversations by measuring share of voice, polarity, mentions, and topics to inform creative and customer engagement and interaction strategies. Social engagement, on the other hand, consists of gathering digital actions from social communities or networks, including likes, shares, video views, and followers. These measurements, Samardzija says, help marketers identify the types of content customers engage with most to drive future content. Last, he defines social graph data as the ability to identify who is engaging with a brand and its competitors at an individual level and then link that data back to its customer database to identify and engage with brand champions.

What are its objectives?

Setting goals is essential to social analytics, and Gartner’s Sussin says that there are three primary objectives marketers should consider. First is market research, such as demographic research, industry-related research, and competitive analysis. The second objective, she says, is campaign analysis, which measures how social or traditional campaigns resonate with consumers by tracking changes in activity or engagement. It can also include measuring perception of brand messaging and sentiment analysis. The third objective on Sussin’s list is influencer analysis, which identifies influencers in an interest area or demographic a brand is trying to reach, as well as how to reach them.

Richard Sim, performance product marketing manager for Facebook‘s ad monetization team, says that the focus on fan quality rather than fan quantity is a significant evolution in social analytics. “While fans are important, the real questions to ask are: Who are the fans that you care about? Which fans do you really want?” Sim says. “You also care about how your fan base impacts your target audience.”

What should marketers ask when looking for tools?

With the many social analytics tools available, finding the right ones can be daunting. Sussin suggests two crucial elements marketers should consider: First, what’s the information source; where does it come from? Every marketer will have different needs. Some marketers will want a full “fire hose” of data, while others will want data from specific social sites. So, it’s important that a vendor or data provider meet those needs. Second, how is the data analyzed? This may include keyword-based analysis, natural-language processing, or machine learning. Sussin also advises working with a vendor that offers acceleration and deceleration of trend analysis, which looks for social signals that indicate that it’s time for a change in marketing strategy or messaging.

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