Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

What To Do With Your Social Media Data


We're all seeing that social media needs to be part of our business strategy. We interact with clients on customer portals, respond to complaints on Twitter, network with partners on LinkedIn, and read the web chatter to assess the general sentiment about our business.

The media cranks out new statistics weekly – your number of Twitter followers, Facebook fans, LinkedIn connections, blog subscribers – but how do they really help us? Is social media a distraction or an attraction? Is there anything valuable in the seemingly endless amount of unstructured information that can help us make better business decisions that affect our bottom line? Yes, indeed there is. Successful organizations are collecting, analyzing, and presenting this data to the C-suite to get an enhanced view of their brand, their customers, and their prospects.

Many businesses simply don't know where to start when it comes to aggregating the unstructured data from social media sources, let alone how to use that data to influence decision-making and drive performance. Social media data can be used not only to measure how the market perceives you and your competitors, but also to pick up early trends that can drive product development, product delivery, marketing messaging, etc.  A visual representation of customer sentiment and conversation topics, for example, is necessary to really understand what's happening on the web.

So what should you show on your newly-devised social dashboard? This depends on the goals you're trying to meet with your social media efforts.

  • If your goal is branding and awareness, then measure the number of Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and blog subscribers you’ve acquired, as well as the number of mentions your company receives on these networks.
  • If your goal is customer/prospect engagement, track the number of active followers, total posts on Facebook, total comments on your blog, and total views of your YouTube videos.
  • If your goal is improving customer service, monitor negative customer sentiment and complaints, then respond to them in a timely manner.

Here are two examples of companies already tracking these measures and using the data to guide decisions and improve performance:

  • PBS has created an "engagement dashboard" to track the size of their audience on their three most important networks – Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube – and their level of engagement with various types of content. Their data comes from, Facebook Analytics, and YouTube Insights. They’re making programming decisions based on this information. However, the big limitation is that the dashboard is not yet web-based – it still requires a lot of manual work and spreadsheets. Read more about it here.
  • Comcast, famous for responding to customer complaints on Twitter, pulls social data into a customer-service application called Grand Slam, which aggregates customers' Twitter usernames, Facebook addresses, and forum handles. Customer service reps can then monitor customers’ accounts and respond almost immediately to issues.

Social media ROI is not always going to be quantifiable in dollars and cents. Some companies will have to live with the fact that re-tweets and YouTube video views will always be leading indicators that may bring future financial gains. But it's tough to find anyone who's arguing against tracking social media data these days. With all the time we're putting into it, we expect some ROI and now we're trying to figure out how to show it.

There are numerous companies with social media dashboard applications out there, from HootSuite to radian6, but the future of this trend is incorporating social data into your organization's standard BI interfaces. Once you can see social data aggregated with your company's financials, it's all going to make a lot more cents.


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