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How To Solve The Social Media Data Puzzle For Businesses

Social media can make an impact in even very traditional arenas, such as American presidential elections, so it's hard to ignore the potential benefits to businesses. I meet many business owners who feel that social media is important, and want their companies to do more. Given the different platforms available, each with varied user demographics, peak times and application tricks, it can be difficult to know where to start. A natural approach would be to spend a little in different areas and then see which performs best, and the wealth of data which can now be obtained from different platforms and tools give business owners handy metrics to target. However, this approach has pros and cons.

The good news is that, according to Robert Lang of Socialbakers, the importance of data and analytics is going to grow strongly in 2017:

On social media more than on any other marketing channel, data has been part of the equation from day one, and understanding your data is mission-critical to both improving your performance and delivering greater value from social channels.

I don't need a crystal ball to tell you that in 2017, social media is only going to become more important and influential, both in society and for marketers like yourselves. The key to taking advantage of this will be in the tools. Businesses will invest more and more in social and, as such, the tools they use will need to be smarter, more integrated and easier to use.

It's natural to think that more data is automatically better, and I welcome the idea of powerful consolidated tools, but for a business new to this area it raises the question of what should be measured. There is a wealth of data available on a social media post, or the page it could link to:

  • Views, comments, shares, likes, subscriptions and follows
  • Average duration per page
  • New users vs repeat views of existing users
  • Age, gender, langauge and location of viewers
  • Click through rates to other content
  • Browser and device used

How do you work out what is important? I'm sympathetic to businesses struggling with this question. I've worked in chemical research and generated thousands of pieces of data per week which can be a tremendous headache to analyse. I learnt some tricks in data visualisation and statistical analysis, but it wasn't an easy process. I propose that a business only needs two things:

  1. Business relevant goals which relate to financial performance. New sales, repeat purchases or customer retention all seem reasonable, and you only need one or two important goals.
  2. Factors which show behaviour that leads to the business relevant goal. What do potential customers tend to do before they go onto purchase your product or service? Perhaps they follow your LinkedIn profile or like your Facebook page.

Once you have enough data a correlation test could show which metrics are aligned with business performance, and you should be able to create a simple predictive model to describe this e.g. liking your Facebook page and retweeting your posts makes someone 50% more likely to respond to an email marketing campaign. This might sounds ambitious, but will help you work out where to invest your time and money on digital marketing. Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute reports in Epic Content Marketing that OpenView Venture Partners has reduced their sales cycle in half because their blog, promoted on Twitter and LinkedIn, drives people to their website. In their blog posts they answer the typical questions which entrepreneurs have so OpenView don't need to put effort into searching for prospects. They know that investing in blogging, and sharing on social media, gives them a demonstrable business return.

Imagine how valuable that knowledge would be for your business.

About The Author

Alasdair Graham is the founder of Apex Discovery and a coach who helps leaders and businesses grow. If you found this blog post useful then please share it.

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