4 key principles of an effective social media insights approach

Social Media Analyst - DK

February 09, 2015

Follow the principles for social media enlightment.

In my previous blog post, Social Media Insights - Pitfalls and Benefits, I mentioned that pitfalls could be circumvented by setting a proper process and structure around the social media insights initiative. This initiative should be guided by the four following principles:

  • Social media insights should be data driven
  • Social media data should be supplemented with other sources
  • Having a proper governance framework for social media insights
  • Having the right tools for social media insights

Data driven approach

When conducting social media insights, you are performing a research exercise. Whether you are trying to derive audience insights or monitor campaign performance, it is crucial to ask the right questions and to be mindful of the limitations of the data. You must always answer the following questions:

  • Is your target group active on social media?
  • Which part of the target group is active?
  • Could your data be biased?

Through answering these questions, you ensure gathering a minimum amount of information needed to conduct a deeper analysis whilst obtaining important information on your stakeholders and validating your search string. The initial time used to isolate relevant information allows you to continue monitoring the changes across time with low additional costs as part of your data becomes real time after the initial setup.

Now, you have a set of data that you can further analyse in depth and feed into your organization.

Supplement your data

Social media data is plentiful, easily accessible and can give you genuine information about what stakeholders are saying right now. However, the data you gather will often be unstructured and biased. For instance, to find out why the audience is doing something, social media data gives you the direct, unaltered source of information. However, there is a risk that this information is taken out of context. Hence, it is crucial to supplement social media data with other sources of information to derive the actual insights, which Marshal Sponder also indicates in his article for Winter Park Social Analytics Bootcamp Workshop. The following steps can help you in processing social media data:

  • Understand the type of data you are dealing with and what it can reveal
  • Transform and structure the data for further analysis and mark all the steps in doing so
  • Find other sources of information, such as survey, web analytics, SEO or traditional market research, that can contextualize your data and make it less biased
  • Find answers to the “who”, “what”, “where”, “when”, “how much” and “why” in the social media data supplemented with other data sources

These steps will ensure that you have a good understanding of the data you are handling and enable you to effectively and clearly disseminate the results to other members of the team or different departments of your organization.

Proper governance framework

As social media is a new channel, challenges arise when trying to reap its benefits. Implementation of social media insights is actually an implementation of new technology and mindset within your organization. As with any other technology platform, it can be state of the art- but if not used properly, the initiative will fail. The proper governance framework will address this problem and facilitate the path to success. Such a framework will:

  • Incorporate social media insight into existing business processes and the organizational structure
  • Align the goals of the social media insights initiative with business objectives
  • Ensure that you have the right skillset onboard and that people involved understand the point and value of data and can communicate results clearly
  • Ensure alignment with internal stakeholders before the initiative starts and assure they have a chance provide input and shape the process
  • Hold transparency as paramount in communication of the data and insight. The strengths and limitations of the data have to be apparent to anyone accessing the results
  • Create an execution plan following the principles of try, fail fast, reiterate and get it right
  • Transfer results into action in dialogue with owners of other digital assets within the company

Choose the right tools

The choice of tools might not be as important as having a proper governance framework. Nevertheless, it is crucial for the success or failure of your initiative. Rather than going into detail about what the different tools can offer, I will try to outline a couple of important things to consider.

  • Examine what you need the tool to do; i.e do you need to see trends through time or gather data on the go?
  • Data coverage of the tool needs to be in-line with your scope. Make sure the chosen tool covers all of your channels, languages and geography, as well as special needs such as location accuracy and tracking of mobile users
  • Allocate a budget for the tools after you have done initial research. It is unlikely that one tool can address all of your needs, so you might need to prioritize
    • Lower cost with ongoing monitoring but limited analytical capability (Radian 6 & Sysomos Heartbeat, Lithium etc.)
    • Higher cost and more geared toward research (Brandwatch, Sysomos MAP, Infegy, Crimson Hexagon etc.)
  • Make a tool matrix of the primary requirements you need to cover and perform a cost benefit analysis. If, for example, you will face tight delivery deadlines, the tool must facilitate a fast access to data
  • Consider the vendor’s pricing model and support offered. Some might charge you based on volume of conversation, while others will allow you fair usage of data. In some cases the pricing will depend on the real time access to data, which you might not need at all. Vendor support is extremely important if you face issues such as downtime, API or implementation problems

Keep these principles in mind when developing your social media strategy and you are on your way to success.