10 Ways to Turn Social Media Data into Smart Data

"Big Data Prob," by Kaml Phuc, via Flicker.com (Creative Commons License)
"Big Data Prob," by Kaml Phuc, via Flicker.com (Creative Commons License)

Originally posted 2 March 2016 by Nicole Matejic

Social media aren’t just a marketing channel—they’re a gold mine of information. If your primary goal with social media is solely to amass a large digital entourage, it’s time to change tactics to extract meaningful smart data intelligence from your social media analytics. Here’s how, in 10 easy steps.

1. Change the way you think about data.

Crunching the numbers on demographic and audience segmentation data might not be a sexy pursuit, but knowledge is power. For a professional communicator, being able to strategically harness that information to create tactical content that responds to your users is well worth the effort.

When to communicate on social media is as important as what you communicate. Take a look at your Facebook insights and Twitter analytics to see when your audience is online and schedule your content to go live at those times for optimal organic reach. Facebook insights will also tell you what type of content your audience engages with the most. Take note of what engages them and replicate those successes.

2. It’s not about you. It never was. It’s about your audience and how you make them feel.

While sentiment analysis (the process of determining whether a comment or post is positive, negative or neutral) is not an exact science, it does have its place in gauging your audience’s perceptions about and feelings toward your brand, the content you are producing and your organization’s place in the broader information environment. Listen to the conversations happening on social media—not necessarily to respond, but to cultivate ongoing relationships.

There are a myriad of social media sentiment analysis tools on the market that can assist you with monitoring sentiment, from Mention to Hootsuite’s uberVU (both well-integrated solutions that also provide social media scheduling capability) and more. The key is to know what you’re measuring and why. During a crisis, for example, your ability to gauge just how outraged your audience is can give you valuable insights into how to craft your response messaging.

3. Social media is the biggest free market-research tool in history.

Every social media platforms’ analytics will tell you which pieces of content engage your audience the most (in a positive, business-as-usual context). Listen to these spikes of data genius and replicate that success by emulating the same timing, content style and framing.

Conversely, if you have a piece of content that has tanked or created a crisis, you may gain a great insight into why your audience reacted unexpectedly. Listen to that feedback and avoid doing that again.

Got a question you’d like to put to your audience? Ask! Give incentives for audience participation in market research (and don’t call it that, for a start!) with service or product giveaways and get the insights you’re after from the people you’re interested in hearing from: your loyal fan base.

4. Likes, followers and raving fans mean nothing if they aren’t converting.

Whether you’re in the sales, votes, fundraising or public relations game—if your digital entourage isn’t clicking through to your website, buying your product, voting for you at the polls or signing up to your charity, you aren’t harnessing that online momentum to achieve your offline objectives.

It’s critical that communicators keep their eye on the long game of conversions and not get caught up in a frenzied chase of “double tapping” fans. If someone double taps your photo on Instagram, they have given you about 0.5 seconds of their attention. That’s not engagement. It’s window shopping at best.

Quick and easy ways to make sure you are converting window shoppers to buyers, viewers, voters or subscribers include:

Focus less on “likes,” “retweets” and other superficial metrics: They aren’t engagement.

Focus less on the volume of commentary arising from your post and more on the quality of that engagement. Audience sentiment analysis can help you determine how messages are perceived and whether and messaging is getting traction.

Focus more on how many people clicked your link, watched your video (all the way through), subscribed to your email list or bought your product.

5. Social media networks are digital marketing machines.

From Facebook tracking pixels to Google remarketing, you now have the ability to follow your audience on their web-surfing adventure by using smart API logins or digital marketing strategies. If you’ve ever wondered why you see ads for products you’ve researched online on unrelated pages, smart data strategy is how.

Why track users’ browsing journeys? Because statistically, most people don’t take online “window” shopping through to purchase (on average, 68.63% of online shopping carts are abandoned, according to a recent analysis from Baymard Institute). However, a higher percentage will buy items left in their shopping cart after email digital marketing prompting, for example. Don’t be afraid to play the long game by seducing your audience over your storytelling journey to close that digital deal.

6. Facebook insights are…extremely insightful.

From what time of the day the majority of your audience are online to where they live, how old they are and which pieces of your content they engage the most with, review your Facebook page insights regularly to ensure your content marketing plans align with your audience demographics. If you are selling surfboards, for example, chances are you’ll sell more to people living by the ocean than in the desert.
7. Twitter knows just as much about you as Google does.

Want to know which payment cards your audience uses? Which telecommunications network the majority of your followers are subscribers with? Or perhaps you’d like to know which income bracket they fall in?

Twitter analytics is your new best friend.

8. Use your social media data to make smart decisions.

When you know your audience demographic data, segments and even method of preferred payment, building social media marketing campaigns that appeal to your target market is easy. Target those people you know are interested in your service or product to drive conversions. Knowing preferred payment methods is particularly helpful in an international context, because different modes of payment are accepted in different countries.

9. Context is key.

Social media data is only useful when placed in the correct context. For example, engagement might be high during a crisis, but that isn’t a positive metric. Similarly, large numbers of “likes” don’t constitute in-depth engagement. Find out how each social network’s algorithm responds to “likes” versus comments, for example, to really understand how to get your content into the feeds of new people organically.

If you’re in charge of your organization’s digital strategy, you’ll need to keep abreast of changes to all the social platforms you use to communicate. Mashable’s social media feeds and website is a great resource for sound analysis and practical social media and technology advice.

10. Social media only provide you with one data set.

What other information does your organization have you may find useful?

Social media data is only one gold mine of information you may be sitting atop. Find out what other relevant information your organization may have and analyze that in parallel for a broad assessment of your audience, target market and strategic outlook. Your website data is a great place to start, as is offline sales data for brick-and-mortar stores.

So take some time to investigate the impact you’re having with social media. How could your digital strategy be improved to take advantage of smart data?

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