The Silver Bullet for Social Media Measurement
I have been doing a lot of work lately with clients on social media analytics and using several different tools to do so. Thus, I thought it would be worth passing on some of my latest thoughts as it relates to leveraging different social media analytics platforms and actually making them useful for your business.
First off, I have had experience with many of the major social media anlaytics platforms (including Radian6/Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Sysomos, Hootsuite, Sprout Social, Google Analytics and others). I actually really love most of the platforms and they all are exceptional... at something.
So what is the silver bullet for social media measurement? Sorry to get your hopes up, but there isn't one. Regardless of what a sales rep might tell you, there just is no silver bullet for social media measurement.
Here are six reasons why:
1. Social media platforms change VERY fast
In order to stay competitive, web/mobile apps and platforms need to iterate constantly, sometimes as short as every couple weeks! How can analytics apps possibly keep up with all the constant changes across all of the platforms? The reality is, they can't. As a result, the social media measurement platforms will almost always be missing that newly released stat that you really want and you will end up logging in and grabbing it manually. Trust me, you will.
2. New social media platforms pop-up frequently
It seems like almost every week there is another new platform announced. How many social media measurement platforms do you think include new micro video blogging app Vine in their standard reports or the latest rendition of MySpace? Marketers are using these platforms and finding success, but they are not using the most popular measurement tools to prove it. Again, they are likely pulling this data manually.
3. The boss is picky
Depending on the preferences of whoever is at the helm of a company, the requirements for measurement can vary dramatically. Some CEOs and managers might love to see each and every interaction on one single network, while others might prefer a broad survey of several different platforms. While some analytics platforms provide great flexibility in reporting, it isn't enough for many of the most demanding of business leaders.
4. Different industries have wildly different needs
Depending on the industry, different social media platforms are more relevant. For example, my agency (Tent Social), does a lot of work in the destination & hospitality industry where social review sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp and Opentable are enormously important. Compare this to a CPG company like Coke where these sites have zero relevance. Given the dramatic difference in approach to analyzing data for a big CPG versus a hotel or restaurant, you can see how it would be difficult to have a one size fits all solution.
5. Technical infrastructure is almost always underdeveloped
At the end of the day, the most important metrics are sales metrics and systems for measuring this data are even more fragmented than that for social media. This is because the final conversion often happens in a location completely removed from the online marketing experience. As a result it is often near impossible to connect the technical back-end of actual sales data with that of the marketing activity that drove people there. There are some exceptions to this, of course, especially for highly developed online retailers. But for the vast majority of businesses, that operate as a combination of online and off, this is a major barrier to effective measurement.
6. Data is useless without interpretation
It seems like every new web app has some sort of social data component baked into it and they will preach that it gives you all the analytics you need. But what none of these companies sell is 'intrepretation' of the data. That is, there isn't an analyst, brand manager or consultant that comes with the download to help users make sense of the massive amount of data. To derive actionable metrics from social media and online marketing activities I can guarantee you that you will need to cherry pick data points from several different locations. From there, the data will need to be interpreted, analyzed and checked for biases before decisions can actually be made based on it. This is not something a web app will ever be able to provide 'in-the-box'.
The intent of this post is not necessarily to plug the use of an agency or consultant alongside your analytics (although I would be happy to help you, if you like), I am more writing it as a caution to those who are signing up for different social media analytics platforms, expecting it will give you everything you need to measure the success of your efforts all in one spot.
Which platform or combination of social media measurement platforms do you use? I would love to carry on this discussion in the comments.