Social Media: Diamonds in the Rough
4. Making Sense of the Data
Once the raw information is compiled, there is a good amount of human—yes, human—analysis that needs to come into play. For instance, someone who tends to be loud in a forum isn't necessarily influential. (Like in real life—just because someone talks a lot doesn't mean others are necessarily listening.) So, while analytic tools are invaluable for identifying influential sites or authors, there really needs to be some human analysis of content, as well. Some aspects of influence—such as relevance and credibility—require qualitative assessments by people to validate.
Beyond understanding how users are communicating on social platforms, the right analytic framework can help answer focused business questions that marketers have about customers and consumers. Actionable insights from social intelligence can help facilitate a targeted dialogue with a customer, shift communication plans, generate sales leads, steer product decisions, protect corporate reputation or boost brand equity. A long-term research program can help brands understand how they are moving the needle over time and how to shift gears when needed.
With social, the sample of a brand's customer base is typically engaged and passionate—they want to be heard. What's really powerful is when marketers can align and integrate their social research with other ongoing research within an organization. Consistent research frameworks allow marketers to connect the dots, and social can often enhance and augment findings from other programs. Think of it like research on steroids, it can have a great impact on business performance.
Michelle Vangel is the director of insight practices for Bellevue, Wash.-based social media monitoring, analytics and engagement provider Visible Technologies. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.