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Turning Social Data into Social Results

The universe now contains a lot of social data. This article is about general approaches to turning social data into social results. (It was the topic of a Social Media Today expert thinkers webinar.)

Humans are peculiar creatures: what time they do not spend socializing, they spend monitoring themselves and collecting infinite volumes of data about their own behavior. The result is what we call...

The Vast Social Data Miasma

social media channels

So how do we use this swirling data cesspool to provide meaningful business insights?

For that we need a general framework:

The Three Keys to the Gates of Data Nirvana

1. Solid Data (accurate and complete)
2. Sensible Questions (well-defined and meaningful)
3. Rational Interpretation (objective and informed)

Since we already have Key #1 covered, it becomes Questions and Interpretation that are most critical in extracting value from social data. The challenge is, however, that every brand, every business, every product, every audience is a unique snowflake floating in the endless social snowfield. And hence, although there are many useful generalizations, the precise best Questions to ask, and the exact Interpretation that applies, remains specific to every situation.

Key #2 is an often under-served aspect of data analysis. Sometimes people expect data to simply sing answers to them, without anyone having to think too much about it. Instead, deeply considering the questions that a business wants to answer is usually the most important part of the process.

We think of the Questions as residing on a Pyramid of Data Inquiry, with the deeper, more "existential" questions forming the base, through to the more questions at the tip.

The Pyramid of Data Inquiry

social data 

Interestingly, the evolution of inquiry about Facebook Posts also tracks the evolution of social media as a component of marketing budgets generally.

Next we can give some further insight as to how we use the Data we have to answer these various types of Questions.

What response do my posts get?


[From the white paper "Optimizing Facebook Engagement".]


Is the response to my posts good? 

social strategy

[From a client competitive study. Brand names withheld.]

Are my posts worthwhile?

social media marketing

[From a client performance report.]

Don't let pretty charts fool you!

Finally, we come to Key #3: Interpretation.

You can make a sexy chart about anything. Well, we can. But data always requires context, always makes assumptions, always has uncertainty - and hence always requires Interpretation.

While this is a topic worthy of an entire website, our general guidance is that the more broad and general the questions (i.e., the further down the pyramid you go) the less certain the results become, and the more open to interpretation they become.

All inquiry is valid. We use Track Social to answer questions at all levels of the Data Inquiry Pyramid. However, it is also important to understand that not everything is knowable -- and at the level of Existential Questions, social data is sometimes only able to provide directional guidance to humans, who then have to make decisions with human brains.

Join The Conversation

  • Mar 21 Posted 4 years ago treb (not verified)

    I really like what you have to say here Dan! It was a great read and you really did quite a good job of bringing to light many of the issues/misconceptions of social media. Thanks for sharing.


  • Coastline Ink's picture
    Mar 21 Posted 4 years ago Coastline Ink



    Have you considered contacting your local bookstore and working with their publicity person? They might have an active social network and could be good exposure. Independent bookstores are often overwhelmed with authors who want to sell books in the store, but I'm delighted when someone offers to contribute to my store's social media platforms. I would readily welcome a guest blog, occasional (don't over do it) Facebook posts, and other engaging content. And, eventually, I would be far more inclined to have an event with that author than I would with any other self-published author. 


    Coastline Ink


  • Mar 20 Posted 4 years ago Christina Garcia

    I really like the way you have explained each and everything in the form of Cylinderical Charts etc. However before you plan to turn out social data into results, the first and the most important thing that you need to consider is to publish your story as well as links on all the high PR social sites and in order to post on a bulk of high PR social sites within a matter of seconds than all you have to do is to go with a  <a href="">social networking engine</a>, as it posts your desired content to over top social sites within a few seconds and for free too!

  • Mar 20 Posted 4 years ago Dan Erickson

    I'm a self-published author trying to build a platform.  I have a blog (like everybody else) and have started using social media to promote my work.  Keep in mind I have little time or money.  I'm a college instructor and a single dad.  Two things:

    1. My platform posts get little response, but my personal posts get much more response (on Facebook).  I have even less response on Twitter.  Linkedin is a tad better than Twitter.  Nothing on Google+.  I think my posts are written well, but it's hard to get much response.  Of course, I don't have huge numbers of followers.  How can I get more response?

    2. I've paid for Google Adwords and some Facebook promotion from time to time.  The numbers gp way up, but it doesn't increase sales, and the numbers sink back down after the campaign is done.  Do paid campaigns really work?




  • Faaastcash's picture
    Mar 20 Posted 4 years ago Faaastcash

    The social data in the web universe will never going to extinct. The data keep revolving along social platforms. Social platforms are the best way to communicate in web world. The best thing is that if there is something very useful it keep coming to you.

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