Some Thoughts on Social Media Monitoring and Analytics Reporting Tools

I want to trust the data that brands receive when they use any of the social media monitoring and analytics reporting tools available to them today. (And, as I found out when I was researching this post, there are a lot of them and I’m sure that some are better than others.)

My biggest concerns with the data received from social media measurement tools are not really based on the accuracy of tools themselves. Instead, my concerns are based the nature of social media.

When using these tools, brands need to consider the fact that not everyone uses social media. Therefore, for some brands, the information received from these tools might not accurately convey what their customers or potential customers think about their products or services. (For this reason, I pull my hair out when I see brands request that people complete a survey on any of the many social networking sites out there. To be sure, the survey results won’t be based on a representative sample. If the survey is for fun [are surveys really fun to take?] then okay. But, I wouldn’t make a business decision based on the results.)

Furthermore, with all the businesses, bots and parody accounts on many of the social networking sites out there, how can brands be sure they are getting an accurate representation of what their customers or potential customers are saying about their brand? Furthermore, even when posts are being sent from real human beings, are these tools sophisticated enough to understand sarcasm? And, what about retweets, reposts and the like? (It’s possible that some of the measurement tools take these concerns into account. But, how can brands truly be sure?)

It appears to me that what these tools are really measuring is what people are likely to see when they are on the Internet, not necessarily what people really think about the brand. Therefore, I look at the data received more like a focus group than a scientific survey. That is, the data isn’t necessarily telling brands what most of their customers think about their products or services. Rather, the data is telling them that a person, business or bot is posting something about the brand and what they are writing about is something the brand might want to look into. (In my opinion, this is a distinction that, while obvious, should always be kept in mind.)

The Value of Social Media Monitoring Tools

I do think there is value in monitoring and measuring what is being said about a brand online. In fact, I think that it is something that all brands must do.

One of the most obvious reasons why brands need to monitor what is being said online is so that they can respond to problems and take corrective actions, if necessary. This is a chance for the brand to provide great customer service and possibly get some positive word of mouth advertising in the process.

The Value of Expertise and Experience

For the reasons that I mentioned earlier, I don’t think that social media monitoring should replace more traditional market research techniques, even if it is cheaper.

However, a recent analysis by the Face Agency demonstrated that when combined with other data sources, social media data can be used to help predict major events. In this case, they successfully predicted what film would win the Oscar for Best Picture at the 84th Academy Awards.

There are two takeaways from their blog post that I’d like to point out.

The first takeaway is that if a brand uses social media data alone, there is a chance that they could arrive at the wrong conclusion. This could be a very costly mistake.

The second takeaway is that it took the expertise and experience of the people at the Face Agency to look at the bigger picture and dig a little deeper before making their prediction. That is, they had the foresight to combine the social media data with other data sources when they were doing their analysis.

Therefore, if brands are going to be making major business decisions based on social media data, it might be prudent for them to get assistance from an outside market research firm or agency to help guide them through the process.

Final Thoughts

It is necessary for brands to monitor what is being said about them online in order to help identify potential problems and make corrections, if necessary.

However, in my opinion, social media monitoring and analytics reporting tools should not replace other more traditional market research techniques. That is, they should be used in conjunction with the more traditional ways of measuring the success of the business and what their customers and potential customers want and need.

Furthermore, if brands are using social media monitoring tools to make major business decisions, it might be helpful for them to hire an outside market research firm or agency to help with the analysis, as there might be additional factors at play that the brand might not have even considered.

Photo credit: PopCultureGeek.com on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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