Social media analytics techniques are constantly advancing. Looking back, we are going through different phases of social media analytics. Based on this concept, we have passed through the first and second phase of social media analytics and we are now entering the third phase. This post gives you a high-level picture of the three phases of social media analytics.
Phase 1 – Following. In the early days of social media analytics, the big thing was the number of followers or fans. If my social media following was larger than your social media following, then I win. Brands worked hard to generate the maximum number of fans, often by paying them with cash or other offers just to get them to sign up. So social media analytics was all about the numbers of fans and followers and we spent a lot of time trying to increase our following.
Phase 2 – Engagement. After a while, we realized that the number of fans and followers didn’t really mean anything. If my following doesn’t do or say anything, they are useless to me. Sure, I can brag about my following but if they don’t buy anything, don’t provide any insights to me, don’t tell others about my great products and services then there is not much value. Instead, we started to measure engagement in terms such as social sharing, likes and comments. This was much more valuable because even a smaller but very engaged following is better than a large, mostly quiet following. With an engaged following, I can better realize the value of social media marketing in increased sales, better feedback on my products and services and so on. Forbes (Mark Fidelman) has a good article on top-10 brands with respect to engagement, 10 Lessons from the Top 25 Most Engaged Brands on Twitter. If I run a support organization, I can get users answer other users’ questions, thereby generate savings in my customer support organization. By measuring engagement, we can tie real dollars to a social media campaign. Currently, most social media analytics companies are in the engagement phase.
Phase 3 – Understanding. Social media analytics is slowly evolving into the next phase where we are trying to understand who are fans are. Having a fair understanding of our fans, we can better communicate with them, read ”‘we can better engage them” thus increase sales and other benefits. The understanding is done via user and keyword analysis, sentiment and emotional analysis, and geographical analysis. We are drilling down and analyze the keyword usage, and sentiment and emotional state of each individual fan and follower. All of this is automated and displayed on easy to read dashboard to help the marketer target users individually. For instance, a disgruntled user might post negative comments on Twitter. Via alerts, marketers are instantly be notified and can limit the damage by directly reaching out to the user. It is all quite powerful. Full, 360 understanding of customers is the next phase in social media analytics and that is where we are heading today.