Getting a handle on social media analytics tools

Social media analytics tools differ from the BI tools you're used to. Here's how they work and why they can nurture customer experience.

At this point, executives know there is no turning back from social media. It's a reality they have to face.

Social media can help brands listen to and connect with their constituencies, and communicating through social platforms allows companies to reach out to their audiences and interact directly.

But many executives struggle with how to measure the true impact of social media platforms and want return on investment to justify their use. They want advanced analytical tools to gain insight on how social platforms affect their companies.

Why social media analytics matters

Social media analytics also differs from traditional analytics in its complete reliance on online data as its data source.

The goal of any analytics platform is to crunch data and then generate meaningful reports, charts, key performance indicators and scorecards for different purposes. In a traditional sales department setting, analyzing sales trends tends to be easy, as most of the data resides within databases. But, as we consider social media-based unstructured data, it causes significant challenges for traditional analytics tools to assess and analyze.

Data that is captured from social media is not easily measured. Items such as brand awareness, testimonials, and product or service reviews would pose a significant challenge to a traditional analytics tool or tools that are standard database-driven.

But with HootSuite, Simplify, uberVU, Sprout Social and other tools, you can process information and offer meaningful trends and analytics capabilities that help capture how social media contributes and helps drive interest and revenue by becoming more aware of consumers or clients responses to campaigns and the brand.

Why social media analytics differs from traditional measurement

These platforms identify the trends based on myriad measures, such as: consumer likes, conversions, influencer mentions, trending articles, Twitter followers, website visitor traffic, volume of shared content and, in some cases, advanced sentiment analysis. These data feeds differ from what traditional analytics tools can handle.

Social media analytics also differs from traditional analytics in its complete reliance on online data as its data source. Traditional business intelligence tools rely heavily on data stored in a local or internal database. But with social media, most of the data is cloud-based and accessible only via special application programming interfaces written for each social media site.

For more on social media analytics tools:

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Social media monitoring tools: What they can and can't do

Social media monitoring analytics for the faint of heart

Even though many of these tools need to offer reporting capabilities based on the channel at issue -- Twitter, Facebook or blog, for example -- they also need to interconnect and bring all these statistics together under a common, understandable dashboard.

Social media analytics tools also need to deliver customized information, such as dashboards, to colleagues based on business unit or role. This enables the organization to offer direct feedback to the affected branch or department and manage it at that level.

Because the pace of social media conversation can change within seconds, real-time reporting is a must-have; companies need to process and present results and insights in real time.

Social media helps organizations stay in constant contact with customers and other constituencies. The ability to measure and analyze customer behavior vis-à-vis products or how they arrive at your sites or brand can perpetuate sales and ensure clients have positive experiences. So ultimately, social media analytics is part of ensuring customer satisfaction.

This was first published in March 2014

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