Introducing the Social Analytics Lifecycle

For several months, social media monitoring, heck, just social media all-star Ken Burbary and I have been thinking and talking about the many benefits of social media monitoring, a.k.a. listening to the online voice of your customers. Historically, most of the discussion on this topic centers around using monitoring as a reputation/crisis management tool, but that’s just scratching the surface of the potential uses and benefits. Instead we believe that the ever growing gigabytes of data generated as a result of social media participation is a customer data goldmine, waiting to be tapped.

Strategic Listening

Companies need to start thinking about taking advantage of the tools, technologies, and data available to drive improvements across many aspects of their business. If you work in product development, strategic planning, corporate communications, marketing, advertising, customer care, sales, or any discipline that touches the customer experience, then it is imperative that you begin using the insights from the social web to better inform your strategies, improve your products/services/business operations, and improve your customer satisfaction.

Over the last month I’ve worked with Ken to create a new graphic that helps illustrate how social analytics (discovery, collection, analysis and segmentation) of data from the social web can make its way through, and be used by the different business functions that exist in most companies.

Social Analytics Lifecycle

Click the image to download a higher res version on Flickr

This version of the Social Analytics Lifecycle is just the beginning, as we expect it to grow and change after discussions with other companies about how they should go about implementing strategic listening programs. We’re excited about the possibilities, please enjoy this visual representation and let me know how you’d like to see it evolve.

Four Avenues to a More Focused Social Media Monitoring Strategy

This post is a collaboration between Ken Burbary and myself. It is being cross posted here and on Ken’s blog.

Social Media Monitoring can be an overwhelming endeavor, requiring you to sift through potentially large amounts of data to separate signal from noise, all in the hope of finding key consumer/customer insights that a company can act on. The thought of getting started can be overwhelming for big brands with a broad reach. If you’ve made the decision to listen to what the market is saying about you (an easy one) and are ready to take the next step and put it into practice, then consult this guide on the 5 Ws of Listening and create a strategic listening plan first (more on this to come in a future post). Then, and only then, move on to tool selection. There are hundreds of monitoring tools in the marketplace today (In fact, Microsoft launched their own social media monitoring tool today, dubbed Looking Glass). Use the community resources available to decide which tool(s) are best for you, then move forward with the tool that has the best coverage for the media types you’re interested in, and meets the rest of your specific needs.

To make listening easier, try narrowing the focus on a subset of your business. This will make it easier to get started, and require less time and resources (typically, your mileage may vary), than trying to listen for every individual mention of your brand terms. Here are 4 specific areas that companies can focus their listening activities to do this:

  • Campaign Specific – focus on the conversation driven by a specific campaign. Not only the volume but more importantly the qualitative components of the conversation. Target keywords, phrases and important details contained in the messaging of your campaign, go beyond generic terms and brand mentions. This can reveal a useful dimension of consumer opinion, passion. Tropicana recently learned this when launching a new packaging design for its pure premium orange juice. By listening around this specific campaign, they learned about the uproar from passionate customers, and ultimately reversed course and reinstated the old packaging design.
  • Event Specific – companies invest significant time, energy and financial resources for all types of offline events. Use social media monitoring to measure and track the online conversation about an event. Integrate these the relevant conversation points with data from other channels to get a holistic view of an event’s reach, sentiment and popularity. MTV recently did this at the Video Music Awards with their Twitter Tracker.
  • Business Unit Specific – for large organizations, with many businesses spread across the globe, narrowing down which business units you want to monitor is an essential part in trying to lessen the resources burden of social media monitoring. How do you begin to do this if you’re tapped with listening for your company (especially if you’re “housed” in the corporate communications or marketing department)? Start thinking about the process by using these steps:
    • Identify your company’s strategic business units – the companies with several different business unuts surely have some idea which of those are the real revenue drivers now, and in the future. If your organization has five business units, for example, but there are two that are the real revenue engines for the company, those would likely be suspects for your listening efforts.
    • Identify business unit leaders that can help share the burden – one of the central points of this post that we hope you takeaway is that monitoring isn’t an effort that can be left up to just one person. There has to be a decent amount of burden shared across the organization. Business unit leaders know their individual businesses better than anyone else. Tap them not only for their expertise of the business, but for the insights they’ll be able to lend in making sure the data you provide is at its most valuable.
    • Determine which terms you’re going to use – anyone that’s developed a listening program before will tell you that there can be a tremendous time investment in building the keyword/phrase monitoring strategy. That includes terms, which sources to track (if you’re using less sophisticated free tools), and even which topics associated with the business unit you’d like to include. Crunching the data is important, but this stage is often overlooked to the peril of the whole project.

It goes without saying, but after you’ve done these three things, it’s time to start collecting and analyzing data. If you’re interested in seeing how other companies have narrowed listening to a specific business unit, check out this presentation from United Parcel Service (UPS) at last year’s BlogWell.

  • Product Specific – if you aren’t planning to monitor around a campaign, event or business unit, you can always monitor specific product and/or service sub-brand(s). The process is very similar to how you would monitor business unit conversations – identify the appropriate sub-brand expert (developer, leader, marketer, etc..), identify those at the product level that can help you share in the burden, develop your list of terms (a time-consuming process as you may already know), and ultimately gather and analyze the data. The folks at Verisign (PDF) have been doing this exact same thing (with the help of agency partners) with good success.

The Power of Monitoring Strikes Again.

Every once in a while you have one of those “WOW!” moments and feel like you need to share it with as many people as you can find. Today, one of those kinds of events happened to me.

I’ve talked a little bit here, and on my other blog for Dix & Eaton about how important listening in the social media space can be. Not only is it a way to gather valuable intelligence on your p0tential community (if you are using social media channels externally, particularly), but it is also a valuable tool to avert crises that can flare up to ridiculous proportions because of the fluidty of content on social networks.

On Wednesday morning, I was followed by an account named @CableStinks. Now, if you are active in social networking, particularly Twitter, you’ll know that there is a heavy spam component (especially recently) that you must wade through to get to the good stuff. This account struck me as odd though. They were using the Dish Network logo, and some of its marketing copy in its bio and tweets. Normally I’d just dismiss this as idle spam, but I tweeted about it shortly after I received the follow request asking if Dish Network was aware of this account clearly ripping off their logo.

Well, apparently I raised a flag over at Dish Network’s compliance office. I received an e-mail from someone at Dish Network, and then spoke briefly with one of their compliance officers about the account. Unfortunately, I had no additional information to provide them above the fact that I was followed by this obviously fake account.

It seems pretty clear that Dish Network is monitoring social media conversations. How else would they have found me? I wanted to take the time to offer a kudos to Dish Network for monitoring online conversations and trying to put an end to this spam account. But I also wanted to offer up a cautionary tale: Don’t monitor and you might be the victim of someone misrepresenting your brand on social networks!

Relationships Over (Self) Interest…R.O.(S).I

OK, before I start getting the hate comments on my blog and through Twitter, I know that ROI means return on investment. Through the great work of Olivier Blanchard, and others, I think we’ve achieved a greater understanding of what ROI REALLY means when it comes to social media.

That being said, that isn’t what this post is about. In one of my first posts, I referenced the book Trusted Advisor. I’ll reiterate to you that it is an excellent read for communications pros of all shapes and sizes. The primary argument of the book is that, in client settings primarily, we should be focused on high levels of credibility, reliability and intimacy and much lower levels of self-orientation.

So with that as the backdrop, I wanted to continue stressing how important developing relationships are over promoting your own self-interest. This isn’t something applicable to just social media, it’s applicable to life. Get out from behind the computer and meet people in real life (or, IRL if you’d prefer) that you’ve interacted with on social networks. I bet you’d appreciate their insights even more as a result. Are there people you haven’t interacted with that you’d like to spend more time getting to know? Send them a reply on Twitter. Drop them a line on Facebook. Send them an e-mail through LinkedIn.

Whatever you decide to do, remember…relationships > self interest every single time. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy your holiday weekend!