20 January, 2015
Social Data: Why Marketers Should Proceed With Caution
“The world has witnessed two revolutions in the way consumer data has been solicited and collected,” wrote Amazon’s Andreas Weigend in 2009. “Today, the online world has shifted to a model of collaboration and explicit data creation.”
Five years after Weigend predicted the explosion of social data online, many companies are still struggling to transform social data into actionable insights. Marketers in particular tend to be evangelists for the social data revolution. They’re right to get excited about the potential of social data – just as long as they maintain a critical eye.
There’s still a lot that the data doesn’t tell you. Here’s what marketers need to know in order to make sense of social data.
- You’re not getting the full picture.
It’s critical that marketers to know how to profile and segment their audience according to demographics. What we know about an audience, though, is limited by what individuals choose to share about themselves online. For instance, an estimated 83 million Facebook accounts are fake. Furthermore, social data is often unverifiable or incorrect. For this reason, don’t assume that information collected about one demographic is conclusive.
- It’s not always about location, location.
As a marketer, it’s important to be able to pinpoint where a brand’s target audience is based in order to better allocate spend and boost return on investment (ROI). The more information marketers have about where their audience is located, the better.
Here’s where it gets tricky: While the technology exists to map location information about social conversations, not very many users are actually sharing that information. In fact, social data intelligence platform Pulsar reports that fewer than five percent of social media users make their location publicly available on their profiles.
Marketers can still gain useful demographic and location information from social platforms. The key is to remain aware of what information is missing – and whether that renders your findings statistically insignificant.
- Don’t leave sentiment analysis to the bots.
Automated sentiment analysis can be a valuable tool in a marketer’s toolbox. After all, how better to keep a pulse on your brand’s reputation than a platform that paints a picture of all the chatter?
Although many social data providers claim that sentiment analysis is 80 percent accurate, research from FreshMinds suggests that they might be overstating the accuracy of such tools. Such platforms work by classifying social posts as either “positive” or “negative.” Since many social posts tend to be “neutral” in sentiment, automated sentiment analysis doesn’t necessarily capture a complete snapshot of what people are saying.
When businesses perform actions based on whether a post is classified as either positive or negative, the situation gets dicey. Smart marketers know that automated sentiment analysis can be useful as long as human analysts are involved, too.
- Keyword and topic searches can under-deliver.
Brands want to be able to engage in the conversations that matter most to them. Keyword and topic searches, therefore, are the bread and butter of an organic marketing strategy. When it comes to keywords, however, you might be dealing with a lot of smoke.
Due to the high volume of “neutral” posts online, keyword searches often yield lots of meaningless mentions and noise that provide zero insights. Most chatter on social media isn’t about brands and can distract marketers from the information that they’re missing. Overall, marketers need a robust data-collection strategy but should keep close watch on the analytics.
- The social landscape is far from static.
It’s hard to believe, but Facebook celebrated its ten-year anniversary in 2014. The popularity of social media platforms has transformed the way brands communicate with their audience. In a field as dynamic and fluid as marketing, brands should expect to undergo several massive overhauls in the way they do things.
Social media will continue to evolve and it’s the job of marketers to figure out how to keep up. Whether it’s adjusting their strategy to reflect changing demographics or staying up-to-date with user behaviors, marketers need to stay light on their feet.
Brands are in a trial-and-error phase as they seek to harness information from social data. Big data is a key player in the social revolution, but data still requires lots of context and human investment in order to yield insights.