Social Media Analytics is often misunderstood, because the social media itself is misunderstood! Social media isn’t about brands. It’s about people sharing their lives with others they know – or get to know – based on common interests. And it’s a place for brands to observe these interactions and connect with consumers. But they must remember one thing: Social media may provide your brand’s first and last impression, so both need to be good ones. This is where Social Analytics comes into play.

Let’s break down just what this crucial business tool is, and why you need to use it. It should, perhaps, seem obvious. Social media offers a huge pool of consumers ripe for brand communication. But that attitude is dangerous in its brand-centric focus.

What Is Social Analytics?

Techopedia defines Social Analytics thusly: “Social Media Analytics (SMA) refers to the approach of collecting data from social media sites and blogs and evaluating that data to make business decisions. This process goes beyond the usual monitoring or a basic analysis of retweets or ‘likes’ to develop an in-depth idea of the social consumer.” This is a pretty apt description, though we’d like to clarify that “social media sites” encompasses not just Facebook, Twitter, and the like, but forums and review sites as well as blogs and news outlets. Just as buzzwords lose meaning over time, many brands lose sight of the value of Social Analytics because at first glance social data comes with a lot of noise. Nobody has time to sort through results that include spam, bots, and trolls to get to the good stuff. When you have state of the art tools, however, Social Analytics becomes a treasure trove of consumer insights you can’t find anywhere else. Building on that, we’d extend the definition above to say Social Analytics is a collection of data unearthed via multiple techniques from multiple sources versus a single tool in and of itself. To clarify, let’s run through some terms often confused with Social Media Analytics.

So-Called Synonyms That Aren’t

If Social Analytics is a destination, what tools contribute to the journey? And what are their distinctions. Social Media Intelligence is the closest term-cousin to Social Media Analytics. Social Intelligence represents the stack of technology solutions and methods used to monitor social media, including social conversations and emerging trends. This intelligence is then analyzed and used to create meaningful content and make business decisions across many disciplines. Social Media Listening is one of the terms most often confused with Social Media Analytics. But Social Listening applies to one specific aspect of Social Analytics: Learning about your audience. The goal here is to uncover what they love, hate, and love to hate – as opposed to any assumptions you may have. It’s about getting to know them as people, not just prospects. For instance, if you want to know what people in Boston have to say about pizza, you can find out using a tool like NetBase Pro. From there, you can look for additional common ground to create audience segments to make your interactions more personal. Social Media Monitoring is the second term most often confused for Social Media Analytics. It’s also thought to be synonymous with Social Listening, but the two are very different. Social Monitoring focuses on following social audiences to be alerted to spikes in activity that present either an opportunity you wouldn’t want to miss, or a potential disaster you want to avoid. It’s about seeing posts like this in time to respond and avoid a viral crisis: Social Competitive Analysis is the process of investigating competitors of your brand and their audience. Because social media is such a transparent medium, Social Analytics Tools can be applied to brands beyond your own. This gives you the advantage of seeing how they serve their customers, what consumers love or hate about them, and what new products or services they’re offering. This information allows you to save the day when things go wrong, or save your own budget by learning from competitors’ mistakes. You’ll also see what your shared audience gets excited about, so you can capitalize on fresh ideas you might never have had yourself. Image Analytics is a new feature made possible by the evolution of Social Analytics technology. Image Analytics levels up text analysis by identifying scenes, facial expressions, geographical locations, brand logos and more in social images. This is especially useful when a brand is pictured, but not called out in social text. As social users become increasingly visual, the ability to perform Image Analytics becomes more of a deal-breaker when researching Social Analytics Tools.

Several outlets are using this image to talk about actress Yvette Nicole Brown taking over for Chris Hardwick while he is investigated; Nissan, Star Wars (Disney), and Dolby should all be using image analytics to see where things go

Social Media Sentiment Analysis Social Sentiment is the tie-in that applies to all facets of your Social Analytics. Without it, you don’t have any way of gauging why you’ve suddenly got 500K more “likes” or shares than usual. What if an uptick in activity isn’t a good thing? The only way to know is through Sentiment Analysis. This layer of Social Analytics uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand whether social conversations are positive or negative, and to measure the strength of those emotions. This helps you triage responses so you don’t waste energy on posts that don’t matter, while ignoring posts that do.

Emotions when talking about dogs on social – the “love” is strong

Customer Experience Analytics combines Social Listening insights with Voice of the Customer (VoC) verbatims like surveys, star ratings, net promoter scores, website feedback, chat messages, market research, and data from internal systems like call center, help center, and web support collected via CRM tools. This additional data can be brought into your Social Analytics to give you a comprehensive understanding of your customers across all touchpoints.

Approach Is Everything

The best investment you can make is in Social Analytics Tools that bring all of the above functionality into one place. This gives you a peek behind the curtain – and you’re smart to make it about looking and listening and learning, not pushing your agenda. Think of it as having a VIP ticket to a show – it doesn’t get you on stage singing with the stars unless you build a relationship with them over time. Once they realize you care enough to come to every show you just might get pulled up to join them. This is the best way to inspire engagement between your brand and your audience. Chili’s offers a great recent example. When Twitter user and nanny @Bel tweeted about a white lie she told her charges, the restaurant chain played along brilliantly: That’s how you make friends on social media.

Use Cases for Social Analytics

Of course, it’s not just about making friends or engaging your audience – though those are important marketing endeavors. The insights found through Social Media Analytics can power every part of brand operations. Here are some examples: Increase Customer Acquisition By delivering what they know their audience wants, Activision has seen their brand grow. Their Overwatch League netted more than 10M views in its first week, and more than 200K per session. Protect Brand Health By offering the type of meaty stories they know their readers love, GQ rode out a negative spike in sentiment to stay high on the top Media and Entertainment brands list. Lower Customer Care Costs The Westin circumvented fitness amenity complaints by answering consumer “wishes.” They provided “well-being” experts to guide their fitness experiences while staying at the hotel, and also signed a deal with Pelaton to offer virtual group cycling to their guests. Maximize Product Launches Ugg for Men made the most of their newest line by gifting some slippers to the right influencers, reaching more than 3 million consumers. Boost Campaign Performance Also smartly using influencers, iHeartRadio generated huge engagement for the iHeartRadio Awards and nominated artists. Improve Crisis Management James Madison University uses Social Monitoring to understand public misperception and gauge when, if, and how to respond to potential crises – among other things!

Invest Wisely and Reap the Returns

Many tools offer some of the features listed above, and if you’re on a budget starting there is better than ignoring Social Analytics. Ultimately, though, you want to invest in a suite of tools that does all of the above, with a commitment to innovate when the next technological breakthrough happens. The more data you have access to, the better your understanding of your audience, and the better you can serve them as they wish to be served. That’s what brings them back for more. And that’s what Social Media Analytics does for brands. This has been part 1 of our Social Media Analytics Guide for 2020, designed to keep you in-the-know on the tools, metrics, and skills necessary to compete in an increasingly global arena. Read the other parts of this comprehensive series by clicking below:

  1. What is Social Media Analytics and Why Is it Important?
  2. What Is Social Media Monitoring?
  3. What Is Social Campaign Analysis?
  4. What Is Social Sentiment Analysis?
  5. What Is Social Listening & Why Is It Important?
  6. What Is Image Analytics?
  7. What Is Audience Analysis?