Social media analytics is rapidly evolving, always challenging the ways marketers measure and draw insights from web and social media. To get the inside scoop on the current state of social analytics we turned to analytics guru Marshall Sponder. Marshall is the author of Social Media Analytics: Effective Tools for Building, Interpreting, and Using Metricsand the founder of Web Metrics Guru, who speaks regularly about social media measurement, platforms and analytics at coveted industry events, including the recent Social Media Analytics Summit in San Francisco. Fortunately, we got a chance to sit down with him to learn about the latest thinking around social analytics and what marketers need to know to stay on top of their analytics game.
Marshall defines social analytics as the data that measures key activity and engagement around people's social graphs. He would be the first to tell you that data is not that meaningful unless it captures what really matters. Marshall reminds us, as he always does in his industry keynotes, that social media measurement is hard. Here's why: there is really no defined processes and standards around it (despite industry efforts), most companies still cannot clearly articulate what success looks like, while most of social data (90% of it, to be precise) is unstructured and hard to reign in for business insight. In one of his latest industry sessions - this one coming all the way from Sydney, Marshall advised companies to start their measurement journey by first determining how they envision customer interactions and then measure how interactions are actually happening. Next, brands need to audit how they measure the interactions they can capture (as some interactions will remain elusive) and zero in on the two to three key performance indicators (KPIs) that clearly indicate how well social media campaigns are doing.
It may surprise you to hear that the most valuable insights companies need, those insights that can help them make sense of their social media efforts, may indeed be locked away from the company's social analytics vault. This data, which Marshall refers to as "ultraviolet data", is like ultraviolent light - it surrounds us but is invisible to the marketer's eye. Ultraviolet data is data that brands may not be currently capturing but data that is the key to understanding a brand's audience. Examples of such data include comments where people speculate what may happen in the future, or location-based check-ins and corresponding comments.
There is no doubt that social media data, and its ultraviolet equivalent, present real data aggregation, normalization and analysis challenges - a lot of times marketers are simply not equipped to process big social data. Marshall sees the relevancy of big data and all the heated discussions surrounding the topic as very relevant for social analytics. He explains that current processes for big data analysis are "like boiling the entire ocean" for a few valuable insights.
To avoid the big data conundrum, companies can turn to Social CRM - new methodologies and toolsets that collect the social media chatter by tying it to prospect and customer profiles. Equipped with that data, marketers can then tie social with purchase information to model sales effectiveness. Marshall recommends brands follow these tips to understand how many people are buying a product because of social marketing efforts:
- Tie social to sales - Tracking the sales effectiveness of social media boils down to marketers' ability to track social marketing efforts down to the individual sale - whether that is an actual sales through coupon redemption, a donation through a click-through, or showroom visits due to a location-based ad. When marketers can track each social action, then they can track sales effectiveness
- Integrate social analytics with web analytics - Marketers cannot get the full picture unless they marry social data to web data. Web analytics allows marketers to capture the activity from social channels and tie it to deeper customer interaction insights on a brand's website - this in turn provides marketers with the "ultraviolent data" they need to understand what makes people tick...and buy.
- Monitor Social CRM developments-Social CRM tools are on their way to resembling their traditional CRM counterparts, capable of not only capturing social profile and interaction data but evolving to tie that data to transactions. The latter will make Social CRM a key arsenal in the technology stack for today's marketers.
You probably won't be surprised to hear that even great thinkers like Marshall look up to their peers for insights and inspiration - after all, big social data is no small challenge. Gary Angel, the president and CTO of Semphonic, wins Marshall's award for overall analytics thought leadership, followed by Eric Peterson of Web Analytics Demystified, and Jim Sterne, the founding president and current chairman of the Digital Analytics Association. His favorite social marketing experts are Chris Brogan, Seth Godin, Brian Solis, Larry Smith, Oliver Blanchard and Dave Kerpen.