In September I attended the MRS Social Media Intelligence Summit with Paul Edwards, our Chief Strategy Officer, who participated in a panel alongside Alex Gordon (Sign Salad) and Tim Britton (YouGov).
The day’s aim was finding better ways to understand and monitor social media given that it is essentially qualitative data on a quantitative level. Tom Ollerton, Marketing Director of We Are Social, opened the summit, followed by talks from Francesco D’Orazio (FACE) and Carrie Longton (Mumsnet), panel discussion and then several workshops.
The world of social media monitoring is obsessed with reporting on the sheer quantity of data available, often leaving finer points dismissed and more genuine insight missed. In reality, the strength of social media data is in these smaller details which are much harder to quantify and use but when properly utilised can be extremely valuable. Telling a brand that 10,000 people have tweeted about them is interesting but being able to tell them that 100 members of their target audience expressed an interest in the product are both much more relevant and useful to the brand.
As the day progressed it became clear that the general consensus is that social media should focus on what really matters, like context, reach and penetration, which are the most important in the sphere of social media.
Context has dual, equally important meanings. Firstly, a brand needs to measure its social media presence in relation to other brands and competitors. Showing a 100% increase in Facebook “Likes” YoY may seem impressive, it becomes less so if a competitor originally
had ten times as many likes. Secondly, when dealing with individual tweets/posts it’s important to analyse their context (both whom they are coming from and what they are discussing). Most tools currently focus on simply drawing out mentions/followers, but what would be a lot more useful is looking at mentions by a demographic or interest group. With this we would have an entirely new way of looking at consumers which could broaden the horizons of traditional tracking entirely.
Reach demonstrates how effective a campaign was based on how many new followers/likes it had brought the brand (a simple before/after analysis isn’t reliable enough here) or what kind of coverage it was witnessing over different social media sites. It also determines if your social media audience is remaining stagnant or if it is expanding your traditional audience base and therefore working on several different levels.
Similarly, looking at the relative weighting of social media networks/methods of interaction is also vital. A like on a Facebook page is worth more to most people than a tweet. Likewise a series of tweets or someone who repeatedly mentions a brand is of more interest than someone who has just mentioned it once as an off-hand comment.
PULSAR, a specialised social media monitoring tool developed by FACE, looks like it might be the first platform to really be able to deliver the sort of in depth analysis that brands need and is a tool definitely worth keeping tabs on in the immediate future.
We also shouldn’t be too hasty to ignore neutral comments. In reality it is often these less polarised neutral comments that can provide the most possibility for insight. A person mentioning a brand regularly, albeit in a relatively neutral manner, can be investigated into further than someone who has mentioned the brand once only after “loving” their latest ad. Being able to pick out people with both deeper interactions with a brand and a more “normal” interaction with the brand could provide the most potential for analysis. Many people primarily use social media to either vent frustration or praise something, a landscape unrepresentative of real customer perceptions and somewhere where a middle ground can be easily missed. Although an anomaly in social media monitoring, neutral comments could help define broader patterns of usage, connection and involvement with brands.
Social media is an invaluable tool to brands but it must be used a lot more effectively, which requires updating and refining the way we, as an industry, moniter it. To do that we must be conscious of the subtle nuances between user groups and work out how to pass this on to our clients.
James Dixon // Hall & Partners, London