Data Analytics Uncover Insights and Impact of Social Media

Social media generates enormous amounts of data, but data alone does not offer insights. Social media analytics can drive decision-making, but it needs to be decisions based on realistic insights gleaned from social conversations that have value.
By Joshua Ferdinand

Social media was the darling of the technology world for many years, but in the last few years the polish has dulled in many ways. People use social media for many different reasons – some good, some bad.

Good reasons from the business perspective are to discuss product and services experiences, recommend particular brands, express particular needs, and share a variety of other information with their network, or the world for that matter, when postings are public and not limited to the person's network.

The bad reasons people use social media is to purposely cause dissent or even outright lie, like leaving a bad review that is not true to their positive experience. Social media has other weaknesses. A company may do a poor job of executing a marketing campaign which leads people to just "disappear" with no explanation as to what made them unhappy.

Data analytics generated from social media needs to offer insights into the marketplace, the competitive position, customer behaviours, and similar critical business factors so that business leaders can make valid decisions based on facts.

Explaining Behaviour?
Social media offers a business many advantages. They include the ability to broadcast the brand to a global audience. It offers opportunities to connect employees, market products and services, publish information of interest to the public, drive consumers to websites, attract skilled talent, connect with diverse suppliers, and so much more.

However, social media is also an excellent source of shallow, false or inaccurate information. Draw data for analysis using this type of information, and decision-making can easily be steered in the wrong direction.

Complicating the picture is the fact the external social media companies like Facebook and Twitter are frequently changing their programmes, determining what and how information between users is distributed.

There is another weakness inherent in social media analytics: They do not explain why customers behave the way they do on social media. For example, what drove a social media user to decide to not purchase a product after being exposed to the marketing campaign? Analytics explain how people are using social media, marketing strategies that lead to sales, the type of talent attracted, and even whether supplier diversity programmes are successfully attracting innovative diverse suppliers. None of this information explains the underlying reasons for people's behaviours.

Extracting Valuable Hidden Insights Through Analytics
Using social media analytics is a process that should be approached carefully. Crimson Hexagon is a company that helps some of the largest companies, like General Mills and Anheuser-Busch InBev, extract insights from unstructured text and images across several sources that include social media, enterprise-wide data sources, and public online sources.

The company produces social media analytics, using Gohfar F. Khan's definition from his book "Seven Layers of Social Media." Khan defined social media analytics as "the art and science of extracting valuable hidden insights from vast amounts of semistructured and unstructured social media data to enable informed and insightful decision-making."

Crimson Hexagon provides tools that are capable of capturing and interpreting valuable social media signals, and filtering out the noise. The company’s clients use social media analytics for a variety of reasons that include brand positioning assessment, research on competitors, understanding demographics, identifying industry trends, marketing campaign planning, performance benchmarking and early warning of an impending crisis.

In fact, advanced social media is also used to rebuild business reputations, discover creative ideas for new products and assess competitors.

Competia.com, founded by Estelle Métayer, analyses social media as a source of competitive intelligence. Competia.com's data analytics tools are used to gain information on anticipated future moves of competitors and customer segments, scan the competitor's strategies, map key influences, and identify trends. The company provides “strategic intelligence,” which is a structured process involving research, analysis and distribution of information for strategic decision-making. Some of the analysis includes social media analytics.

Scaling for the Most Impact
Social media analytics are elements of social media intelligence (SMI). SMI provides strategic insights, meaning it can tap into how social media users think and behave so that companies can strategically plan. The SMI tools monitor social media conversations, collect and analyze the data, and use the analytics to produce insights that inform short- and long-term strategy development.

Using Crimson Hexagon's services, artificial intelligence is also now entering the social media analytics and SMI arena. Analytics and SMI are not simple social media listening, which some companies are still using for decision-making, not realizing they are subjecting themselves to poor decision-making. Social media listening is the same as social media monitoring and only provides surface-level metrics like the number of likes or retweets.

Scaling the social media to get the most impact and the most impactful data for data analytics is one of the decisions that businesses must make. Analytics can help with that process also. The social media analytics can drive scaling, but once again, vanity metrics should not be in the driver's seat.

Vanity metrics can be deceptive. Massive amounts of data and subsequent analytics can look impressive while actually deceiving the person using them for business purposes. They include metrics like downloads, page views and registered users. The metrics are easily manipulated and are not necessarily correlated to critical metrics like customer or supplier engagement, costs, or revenues. Vanity metrics are not produced within context, in other words.

Social media has become a complex technology, making monitoring and analysis equally complex. It is a tool for conversation, marketing, reputation building and more, and it takes special tools to collect the right data to produce useful analytics.

Useful social media analytics support good decision-making because they provide accurate insights about critical business activities and programmes. They also enable businesses to scale their social media effort so the ROI justifies the results.