Social Media Intelligence: Monitoring vs. Measurement


Are we all ready to talk about the Elephant in the room now? Hell Yeah !

We all know how important word of mouth is, and social networking is like word of mouth on steroids. As a business, it’s vital to tap into and join online conversations not only about your brand, but also those about your competitors, your industry and your areas of expertise.

2011 seems like a year of awakening for companies with increase in social media spending. It’s becoming ever important to track the performance of key marketing initiatives. Depending on the social media platform and specific activity being tracked, you might have the option to take one or two approaches: monitor or measure. Nope, those 2 words aren’t the same! Let’s take a look at how they are different when it comes to tracking social media efforts.

Let’s look at difference between monitoring (listening) and measuring (tagging) social media initiatives, by taking a simple analogy based on listening to music.

Monitoring is like tuning into a radio station on your car stereo.

You could choose your favorite type of radio station (i.e., pop, jazz, country, etc.), but you’re still at the mercy of the radio station to actually play the music you want to hear.

Measuring is like creating a custom playlist from your personal music collection for an MP3 player. Every song is a favorite because it’s from your music library, and the playlist fits the particular activity or mood you’re in.

Keys of Social Media Optimization

In terms of tracking and optimizing social media initiatives, there are three keys: monitoring, measurement, and management. All three of these areas are different but complementary. Organizations may only have one option such as monitoring and in other cases all three options come together to complement each other.

MONITORING Social Media (Listen)

Most social media tracking is currently done with monitoring solutions, which leverage the APIs of each platform (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) to pull predefined metrics and dimensions into web analytics reporting. In most cases, any data at all is fantastic ! Kind of like picking up a clear frequency in the middle of nowhere. Data such as demographics are invaluable to organizations.Various tools such as Radian6ThoughtBuzz, Buzzmetrics, Sysomos help companies with regards to Social Media monitoring. A careful study of the organization’s needs in alignment with it’s business and social media strategy has to be done to make the right choice. ThoughtBuzz does a fantastic job in gauging demographics with a proprietary algorithm.

Some limitations of monitoring/listening approach are that companies can’t tie any of the social data to actual visitors on their other web properties, and they also can’t obtain any additional custom metrics beyond what’s already provided by the social media platforms. It’s a “take it or leave it” scenario. Because we can’t actually tag a Facebook fan page or Twitter profile page, most companies just leverage the data that these social networks provide. While we can’t tie monitoring data directly to website activity, we can use predictive modeling to understand the correlation between various types of social activity and the website’s KPIs.

Post globalization, business have started becoming more regionalized and localised targeting the niche market segment. It is ever more crucial for companies to gather social media insights on a local level. This is one critical area where most social media monitoring tools fail miserably. Accuracy in terms of providing regional content is critical. The trouble is most content is US centric. ThoughtBuzz, a SM Intelligence solution solves this problem by providing country specific indexes. It’s by far one of the best value for money solutions that gives a comprehensive coverage and detailed insights.

MEASURING Social Media (Analyze)

There are 2 kinds of analytics – social media analytics and web analytics.

SM analytics provides insights such as tonality, discussion themes, influencers, source analysis etc. The accuracy, relevancy and comprehensiveness depends solely on the effectiveness of the Social Media Monitoring solution.

Even if you haven’t launched an outbound social media strategy, you have to keep a pulse on what people are saying — good or bad — about your company, competitors and major trends. And, by representing your company in a positive, authentic way, you can build credibility for your expertise and business and link to customers and prospects quickly.

SM analytics can help you better understand prospective and current customer needs, increase visibility and generate leads. But it takes a lot of time and energy to stay on top of all of this in a manual, piecemeal fashion.

Web Analytics related to social media activities can actually be measured in some cases, meaning that companies can tag them just like they would any normal website, application, or campaign. In essence, companies can instrument or tag certain social media activities in any manner they like – choosing the level of reporting, dimensions, and metrics they need rather than having them prescribed to them by the various social media platforms.

For example, a marketing team might want to know how visitors are specifically interacting with a particular social application on their Facebook fan page. Armed with pathing and conversion funnel reports, they can better understand the user experience and fix potential fall-out points in the application. In addition, another advantage of the measurement approach is that the social media initiatives can be viewed in the context of a company’s larger online presence (i.e., treating social media initiatives as an extension of your company’s online world), and organizations can gain deeper insights into cross-domain pathing behaviors and conversion.

Currently, there are four main social media activities/areas that can be measured, not just monitored, across the leading social media platforms:

  1. Social media campaigns: Any URL or shortened URL (bit.ly) can have a tracking code appended to it so that traditional campaign tracking can occur.
  2. Facebook apps: Unlike Facebook fan pages (monitoring only), the applications and custom tabs can actually be measured and optimized.
  3. YouTube branded channels: In some cases, companies are given control over a widget area at the top of their brand channel, which can be customized to include a custom player, other content, and SiteCatalyst tags.
  4. Facebook Connect/social plugins: Any embedded Facebook features on an external website can be measured in SiteCatalyst to understand their effectiveness and overall impact.

Although the measurement options are fairly limited right now, social networks are constantly evolving and will allow more tagging opportunities in the future. It has been challenging for small and large organizations to keep pace with all of the changes happening in the social media space – let alone understand how their social media initiatives are performing. Fortunately, ThoughtBuzz has strong relationships with the leading social networks and partners which can help companies to more effectively optimize their social media investments.

MANAGING Social Media (Engage)

As the volume of social media venues and conversations rises, it quickly becomes a time- and labor-intense process to effectively track, converse, monitor and manage them.

Social media management solutions help manage outbound and incoming online interactions — along with other small business marketing activities — in a more efficient manner. They streamline and consolidate how you listen to and participate in relevant conversations on various platforms they’re taking place — blogs, social networks like Twitter or Facebook, and other public and private Web communities and sites.

Social media management tools can also help you to integrate social networking activities with your other marketing programs. These can include other online activities, such as Web sites, search engine marketing campaigns, contact management systems, and email marketing, as well as offline marketing, such as events or white papers.They also help you to more easily monitor what people are saying about your business, and by automating the process of delivering your outgoing messages through multiple social media outlets simultaneously, help you to amplify your social media presence across several social networking sites.

You can also help mitigate damage should negative conversations about your company emerge by quickly responding to complaints. Social media can also steer people to your other marketing programs, where it’s easier to individually track and manage individual customer and prospect interactions.

Some social media engagment/ management activities include:

  • Creating content on multiple places, such as a blog, Twitter, a Facebook page, etc.; monitor and scan the views, decide what comments to approve, and respond to replies on these sites
  • Scanning Twitter followers for conversations you may want to join, or checking your RSS reader subscriptions for relevant articles and new ideas
  • Checking the Social Media Monitoring dashboard to see when andwhere your business is mentioned on the Web
  • Creating and monitoring a community and topics on a site such as Facebook or LinkedIn

Let’s face it, social media isn’t a one way traffic and neither is it a simple task. It’s a lot to handle and it’s difficult to measure short-term payback on social media efforts. While taking care of brand advocates, preferences and awareness, you simply cannot ignore other marketing activities such as SEO, email marketing, contact and sales management etc.

ThoughtBuzz helps organizations achieve communication lines with an organization’s fans and users interacting or conversing online through its engagement console and action center. Other tools and dashboards can be used to complement the toolkit. Check out Mashable for the 5 superior social media management tools to complement the toolkit.

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