The value of social listening for marketers is indisputable. The sheer amount of data available can lead marketers to the formation of a new business idea or campaign, augmentation of existing spend on more successful advertising outlets, and confident product launches based on information gleaned from past performances.
As a data junkie myself, I find it fascinating to look at all facets of social media information that is available today. It’s exploding with growth, and bringing new trends and potentially new challenges every week. For example:
- Over one billion active users are now on Facebook, and 200 million users are on Twitter. With the substantial amount of information shared on social media, marketers need to consider how to sift through data to find valuable insights.
- Twitter is now a key driver for “Social TV.” More and more viewers are tweeting during program viewing to share observations and feelings for shows in real time, presenting new measurement questions and opportunities.
- Fake social media offerings, coming in the form of a fake event or user group, are on the rise. According to an August 2013 Symantec Intelligence Report, fake social media offerings now account for 82% of all social media attacks so far this year, up from 56% in 2012.
So how do marketers discern between genuine data and imposter information so they can make informed decisions? The answer is simple: Marketers need a methodology for labeling and tracking the data separately–and that’s where social data analysts come in.
The social data analyst brings in a combination of social and research methodology, and can slice and segment the data to eliminate the irrelevant information. Generally, they’re outstanding at getting at the exact universe and context of the information, while recognizing the factors that have not been taken into account in looking at the data. A talented analyst can point out where imposter information is clouding the numbers. Sure, marketers may have a huge response on a specific tweet, but are they real humans and do they have longevity? Marketers can make uninformed decisions if they don’t know who or what is giving the reaction. They need an analyst or platform to make informed decisions based on good information.
A good illustration of the value of an analyst comes to mind when a marketer is trying to uncover new consumer audiences. If the goal is to find emerging groups of people who may be interested in a specific product or brand, the marketer needs to uncover the social networking sites these people are using, and how those same consumers would talk about themselves and their interests on social sites. With the help of the social data analyst and their preexisting methodologies for drilling down to this information within a platform, marketers can get the answers they need. A marketer most likely cannot find this level of drill-down detail. A traditional data analyst alone without understanding the brand, industry, and various social media nuances wouldn’t have the context to know what to look for and what to ignore.
One of our most knowledgeable technology clients is seasoned in understanding how the launch of a new product will progress. Its expectations are guided by the cycles of previous launches, and it’s able to pivot its business plan in real time based on current insights coming from social channels. The work that its social data analysts are performing informs these decisions, resulting in a more successful outcome in a shorter time period, where success is measured in hours and days, not months. For this technology company, the combination of the speed of social data and savvy social data interpretation means it can predict sales outcomes with confidence.
In the end, it all comes down to knowing how to translate data from social media into valuable information. Employing talented social data analysts alongside a marketing team or finding external social data analysts who understand an industry and brand helps to translate specific social conversations into actionable business plans.
As someone who loves data and technology, it’s a challenge, but a necessity, for marketers to keep track of trends, volumes, and emerging data sources. With the right tools, marketers are able to make informed decisions. The most satisfying part of this process is the baton pass of final clean data to a seasoned analyst–where context, meaning, and business value are all realized.
Melody Jones is principal engineer of research and development at Visible Technologies