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Social Media Analytics Demystified: Are You Looking At The Big Picture?

Social Media Analytics DemystifiedAs with most, if not all, web marketing programs, people and businesses want to know whether something is succeeding and returning the right values and numbers to justify any attempt at marketing to their customers. In the world of social media, this is no different. For companies interested in executing social media campaigns, finding the right social media analytics tool is sometimes hard. Unfortunately, existing web analytics tools like Google Analytics or WebTrends do not support or have the capability to monitor the chatter happening in the interactive web. Besides, social media analytic metrics are different from what you would typically expect from a web analytics product – instead of hits and time spent on site, it’s more concerned about the number of blog posts, tweets, share of voice, etc.

Wait…what are we talking about? What is social media analytics?

Social Marketing Analytics is the discipline that helps companies measure, assess and explain the performance of social media initiatives in the context of specific business objectives.
as defined by Jeremiah Owyang & John Lovett

So what makes finding a social media analytics tool so difficult? There are a flurry of them out there on the market so what advice should you be given in order to find the right tool? Well one bad advice that you could get is to pick the one that is the cheapest in price – why? Because you’ll never really be happy with the metrics since it doesn’t meet your need, aside from the low price. Don’t just look at your budget for using a social media analytics tool. Instead, take these steps offered by the Altimeter Group and Web Analytics Demystified in their latest report: “Social Media Analytics:  A New Framework for Measuring Results in Social Media

To help make this an accurate assessment on the industry as a whole, the authors of this report, Jeremiah Owyang (Partner, Altimeter Group) and John Lovett (Senior Partner, Web Analytics Demystified), solicited input from dozens of companies and individuals in the ecosystem, including folks like Connie Benson, David Berkowitz, Shiv Singh, Blake Cahill, and from companies like Biz360, Omniture, Radian6, ScoutLabs, SWIX and many more. During the course of their research, Owyang and Lovett discovered four main things:

  • Many companies are “stumbling blindly” into social media marketing, largely without measurements in place.
  • A pragmatic approach using metrics derived from sound business objectives minimizes confusion about the value of various social efforts.
  • Existing social marketing measures and metrics fail to deliver actionable insights and offer little more than digital trivia.
  • Technologies exist to facilitate data collection in diverse social media, but there are no silver bullets.

IS IT THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND?

It seems to me that the first point is a powerful statement. The fact that companies are embarking on a social media campaign hoping that their Twitter program or YouTube videos will catch on like fire, is definitely troublesome. For those who are interested in releasing some news to the press and bloggers, simply sending the news out without understanding how you’re going to quantify the results to your supervisors or to your client is absolutely ludicrous. Like in carpentry, the adage is “measure twice, cut once”. In social media, the point here is to measure twice…before your campaign and then after your campaign to make sure that your efforts not only made a difference, but how much of a difference. Did you change anyone’s sentiment about your brand and/or product? What are people’s reaction to what you’re doing with your new campaign? Is there more “buzz” surrounding your promotion? What is the ever-pervasive Return on Investment that you need to make and report back to the stakeholders? These are some questions that social media analytics can provide you with & that’s why it’s daunting to hear Owyang & Lovett report that companies are “stumbling blindly”. Just when will they get it right?

MARKETERS ALWAYS WANT THE PERFECT SOLUTION – IT DOESN’T EXIST.

Owyang & Lovett report there’s currently no single vendor that can “effectively measure all aspects of social media.” I think while this is true, another point to tack onto this is that there’s no single vendor out there that will provide YOU, the customer, with the measurements that you’ll want exactly in order to make sure you can provide the right results to your company. What we would be talking about is having these established names like Radian6, Omniture, Biz360, etc going out there and creating customized modules. While companies and brands might like that, what they probably would not like is the cost associated with this & these social media analytic companies may disapprove of this process because it requires more work on their end, plus the cost-benefit ratio may not be to their liking. So unless you have a lot more budget and can afford a customized build, similar to what SAS is offering with their enterprise module, you’re going to have to do some sort of work-around.

In fact, the report is quick to point out that “the reality is that businesses turn to multiple solutions for capturing, analyzing and interpreting their social media activities. Most use an amalgamation of commercial solutions geared for capturing social buzz, free tools offering limited information and a whole lot of manual intervention for aggregating and analyzing social media data. Don’t expect this to change in the near-term.

SOCIAL MEDIA NEEDS TO CREATE STANDARDIZED MEASUREMENTS.

In the heart of the Social Media Analytics report, Owyang & Lovett talk about helping companies establish standardized measures within social media to help make sure it’s consistent to show how effective a campaign really is. According to them, by following these measures, companies will have greater gains through their social media initiatives & develop stronger and more effective programs for their customers. The problem social media analytics is facing is commonality and consistency. It’s not readily apparent unless you look at multiple vendor services, but like web analytics tools, things are calculated differently because everyone has their own methodology. Sure, the general premise and idea is the same with everyone, but the way you actually calculate an impression or how influential someone is on Twitter and display it on your social media analytics dashboard can vary from service to service. To show you how different calculations can be across an industry, read this blog post I authored while at Stage Two on Twitter tools that determined a person’s “influence”.

  • Step 1 – Revisit Tradition for Solid Innovation…merely collecting data without a reason for “why” is a disaster waiting to happen, says Owyang & Lovett. Organizations that can align their social media campaigns and strategies (including key social media metrics) with their business objectives will wind up being much better off. If you don’t embrace new media, then you’re going to risk becoming extinct. But before you jump into social media, make sure that you don’t dishonor and ignore the traditional business rules. These rules must not be tossed out, but integrated with your web plans.
  • Step 2 – Make Learning Your Primary Goal…there’s a whole lot of talk about selling and listening in social media. With social media analytics, learn to…well…learn. Owyang & Lovett believe that social media analytics will provide a “scalable vantage point” to understand consumer behaviors, test new strategies/initiatives, and improve the effectiveness of your social marketing activities. Don’t think that just because you have results of a campaign that it’s over. Take the numbers and information garnered and learn from it. What insights can you garner from it to improve your efforts?
  • Step 3 – Define Requirements First, Then Select Vendors…probably a very good step. Don’t pick a vendor because you like the name, know someone that works there, or that they have a very appealing price point: low. Instead, look at why you need social media analytics and what measurements and features are important to YOU. Once you figure that out, research the vendors and find out what their product is all about. Don’t be afraid to look at a demo and ask their salesperson questions that matter to YOU – not what matters to the industry. Ask for a free trial period so you can make sure you’re happy with the service before committing any dollars. Perhaps most important, find out whether the service vendor has the technology to work with your goals and requirements. Said best: Don’t fall victim to vendors that require you to conform to their capabilities, but rather, work with those that offer flexibility and customization opportunities.
  • Step 4 – Develop Your Social Media Measurement Playbook…this is similar to your tactics. After figuring out the strategy, you’re going to need to determine how you’re going to go about to execute. Owyang & Lovett suggest that you first align your organization with the goals, objectives expectations and actions of the social media marketing efforts. Once done, map that out with the measurement technologies at your disposal. These actions will help make sure everyone is on the same page.
  • Step 5 – Make the Altimeter Group’s Framework Your Own…in the Social Media Analysis report, Owyang & Lovett take the time to develop a framework towards social media analytics that I’ll look at a bit further in my next post, but while it’s Altimeter’s work, it is suggested and recommended that you adopt certain parts piecemeal to your own organization and create your own custom framework. Not all the pieces will work for all companies in all aspects. Companies are going to need to develop specific aspects of their framework that aligns with their own objectives.

So now you have a general idea about what’s the premise in social media analytics. There are some serious things you need to consider when choosing to engage in social media analytics. Not all services are the same calculations and thorough planning is involved before you simply throw out a social media campaign. Are these efforts in concert with your business objectives?

In my next post, I’ll look through the Social Media Analytics report and review their framework, key performance indicators and how it matters for your company.

You can read more about the Social Media Analytics report on Jeremiah Owyang’s blog here or view the entire report on Slideshare here.

Published in Featured Industry Analysis Social Media Web Analytics