There's no question that today's successful marketers need to harness the massive amounts of machine-generated data from social media networks: from Facebook "Likes" and tweets, to blog posts, YouTube videos and Pinterest pins. The challenging part is: How?
Statistics like 200 million Twitter users sending 400 million tweets per day and 600,000 pieces of content shared on Facebook each minute contribute to the 500 billion impressions by consumers that are shared online annually. Mined intelligently, this data offers a treasure trove of actionable insight about consumer preferences and habits, enabling marketers to more effectively target promotions and develop increasingly personalized and compelling offers.
Traditional analytic tools are often not up to the job of investigating the fast moving, highly diverse types of high-volume social data. As a result, analysis has become an expensive, resource-draining burden. But it doesn't have to be. With analytic flexibility and scalability, marketers can perform rich data analysis with far fewer resources.
In this increasingly social world, marketers (and their IT counterparts) should consider the following tips to effectively apply analytics to gain new insight and boost ROI on multi-channel campaigns.
1. Ask the right questions. When it comes to analyzing social data, one of the most effective approaches is "investigative analytics"-the ability to ask a series of quickly changing, iterative questions to figure out why something did or did not happen, or how to optimize a particular outcome. Instead of asking questions like "How do people feel about my brand?" investigative analytics ups the ante, to: "How do I increase sales among my highest profit customers?"
For example, by using investigative analytics, an online publishing company can drill into its data to determine what articles about what topics on which particular social media outlets are performing the best. The publisher could also discover what is the best day and time to publish an article and where it should be promoted in order to generate the most revenue.
2. Be flexible. Being flexible requires a change in thinking, as well as a change in analysis tools. In a multi-device, multi-channel social world, the questions that businesses need to ask of their data are constantly changing. Most social data is unstructured, such as the text of a Facebook post or tweet. However, along with analyzing what a consumer said, marketers need to know when and where she said it, what else she was talking about, and what she did-this structured data includes what was clicked on, downloaded, re-pinned. Solutions must be flexible enough to integrate and handle all types of data. Equally important, marketers need tools that allow for ad hoc queries that drive the complex investigation required of social data. Analysis shouldn't be constrained by data schemas that limit the type of questions that can be asked.
To date, marketers may have only been able to ask, "How many red dresses did we sell via Pinterest last week?" But with investigative analytics, the sky's the limit. The flexible approach of investigative analytics yields new ways to gain insight from questions that haven't even been dreamed up yet. For example, if you identify a spike in sales from Pinterest leads, it would serve you well to find out why it's happening and identify patterns you can then capitalize on. Questions may include: "Are there 10 boards in particular giving the most leads?" or "Are we selling more red dresses to the 15-22 demographic when the dress is pictured on a real model instead of a mannequin?"
3. Prioritize the need for speed. In a world where trending topics, social campaigns and consumer preferences change at lightning speed, marketers need to extract intelligence quickly enough for it to be useful. Companies no longer have the luxury to wait days or even hours for answers; stale data just won't do. They need technologies that focus on ultra-fast query loading and performance against large volumes of data. That way, instead of historical reports that return intelligence in hours or even days, innovative marketers can analyze and act in real-time - whether it's serving up a location-based coupon or launching a promotion that takes advantage of a trending topic.
4. Embrace social commerce. "The State of Social Commerce 2013" from BI Intelligence recently noted that increased mobile use and the visual Web are key drivers in the rise of social commerce. According to the report, Facebook has passed the 50 percent mobile usage mark and Pinterest is at 48 percent, while 35 percent of online shoppers plan to use Pinterest to make purchases.
With the huge uptick in the number of channels marketers need to reach today, channel analysis is becoming exponentially more complex. While previously, marketers may have known that someone clicked on an email that converted to a sale, they may not have known the entire chain of events that led to that; and if they did, it would have been difficult to quickly cycle through testing. Investigative analytics enable marketers to address the whole universe of social media in real-time, allowing for analysis of critical connections, such as peer reviews, price comparison activity, etc. In the hyper-connected, high-speed social media world, near instantaneous analytics help marketers immediately capitalize on consumer interest.
5. Make sure technology matches business need. Social data volumes are bumping up against storage and analysis capabilities, and traditional approaches to managing digital information are no longer sufficient for companies that need to capture exponentially growing volumes of social data.
Social data investigation shouldn't need to wait for an army of database administrators to prepare and ready the data for analysis. Marketers working to optimize campaigns need fast, easy access to all customer-related data so they can focus on customer insight that helps them provide better products and services. Investigative analysis can't be done in a silo. Finally, the systems used for social media analysis need to fully and transparently integrate with other IT systems, from CRM to supply chain and financials.
Of course, there is no silver bullet. However, the status quo of yesterday is not likely to be the answer, or at least, not the complete answer. The good news, though, is that there are a growing number of technologies to address the evolving needs of social media analytics. The right solution will likely entail a compilation of solutions that can work together within an architecture designed to meet specific business needs.
Social media has been a game changer, but don't get left behind. The time is now to turn all that social media data streaming across the Internet into actionable information for your business.