It’s hard to sell anyone on the value of social analytics if they’ve tried it and not seen or experienced worthwhile results. When so many brands and businesses swear by social media programs, why do others fail – and how do they get back on track? Here are four reasons, and their solutions:

1. Business objectives are unclear

When you want to strike a target with an arrow or dart, there’s a clear protocol to follow: Ready, aim, fire. When brands playing “social listening catch-up” skip straight to “fire” they’re bound to miss the mark – because they never defined it in the first place.

Yes, it’s important to add social media intelligence to your business arsenal, but it can’t be a haphazard or mindless effort. What do you want out of the social data you uncover? You have to know – and it’s not as cut and dried as “We want to know how we’re doing with consumers.”

The data sourced from social listening tools can be applied across your entire organization – from PR to brand strategy to sales to customer care – and it should be.

As InformationWeek points out, “While social data offers insight, it often provides more value when combined with other data sources. On an operational level, social data can be used across departments to improve operations and outcomes, whether by understanding an issue at a more granular level or embracing an alternative business model.”

Here are common ways social analytics might be used across an enterprise:

analytics use cases

Yet despite the extensive use cases, often the only business unit dealing with social media programs is marketing – and the only executive on board is the CMO.

It takes both broad and deep buy-in to take social listening beyond number of likes and retweets and leverage it in a meaningful way for positive business impact.

In the broad sense, goals of scale matter as you roll out your social analytics program across business functions and geographical locations – and you need much more than just the CMO’s support. PR, Customer Service, Legal, Operations, HR – all can benefit from the insights gleaned from social analysis.

But you need deep buy-in from all C-suite leaders to take things this far. Educate and engage stakeholders, and get answers about their business objectives, the data they already use and what is lacking, and the type of reports they typically work from – and share how all can be dramatically improved with social analytics tools.

Social data can enhance every aspect of your business operations – but everyone has to know how to apply the tools that unearth that data.

2. Lack of training with social analytics tools

The technology is only as good as the humans guiding it, and that’s another area businesses frequently fail to understand. Just as you wouldn’t ask your accountant to read your x-ray, or your doctor to do your taxes, you can’t expect your staff to magically understand new social analytics technology without training and time.

You don’t necessarily need to hire a special person just to manage social analytics – though you can; but it is possible there are people in your organization already suited to managing one or more facets of your analytics. You’ve just got to identify them, and be sure they know how your program’s software works, and what data they’re looking for.

For example, your PR, Marketing, or Consumer Insights departments may have an ideal candidate to serve as a social analyst.

Researchers to monitor emerging trends and viable audience segments may be working in Strategy, Consumer Insights, or Innovation.

And within your Digital Marketing and Social teams could be a community manager capable of overseeing social content, customer engagement, and publishing.

Finally, key stakeholders may inform social decisions and measure performance of social data – we call these Part-Timers.


Each of these employees will have a differing degree of commitment they can offer to social analytics endeavors. But if they are tasked with sharing the duties of interpreting social analytics for actionable insights, they will certainly need time to understand how to do that effectively – not to mention time to actually do it on top of their regular duties. It’s not impossible, but it does require some flexibility and ramp-up time.

If your goals are ambitious, or your team already overwhelmed with tasks, a dedicated Social Analyst makes sense. In addition to being solely focused on wrangling demographic, psychographic and sentiment data, they bridge the gaps that occur when specialists from other departments focus on their own business unit’s singular needs.

The person filling the Social Analyst role sees a more complete picture of how social media is impacting your business, and therefore can make overarching recommendations, versus those contained to one aspect of the organization.

That doesn’t mean everyone else is phased out, however. Understanding various metrics and what they mean is still important for everyone putting social data to use – from the C-suite on down the line. Decision-makers must know how to read results coming in real-time, so they can choose appropriate actions. And particularly in times of crisis, everyone must be well-versed in whatever protocols you have in place.

The technology does not replace the need for human involvement, and everyone is responsible for their part.

3. Not having systems in place

Establishing social media monitoring as a company-wide initiative, or even training multiple team members, isn’t a system, however. It’s an initiative that must be organized into a system – where everyone knows their role.

Not having this structure in place is the cause of many brands’ failure to thrive with social programs. Especially with analytics coming in real-time, there needs to be a clear understanding of what happens with the data that comes in, and who manages it.

For example, in the event of a social crisis there are numerous questions that need answering – from what defines a crisis, to who makes the decisions about how to respond and when. These protocols must be clear, and so must the chain of command. If they’re not, you may not be able to respond before a post goes viral and causes reputational damage.

And though everyone should be aware of the importance of your social media program, and how it works, not everyone will be part of its day-to-day operations. It’s up to you to assign roles based on your company’s needs, and to task those team members with keeping others informed.

Key stakeholders may regularly view daily, weekly or monthly reports – but that doesn’t mean that’s the only time they need to be kept in the loop. Whose job is it to share real-time insights like emerging trends, or potential threats, with the C-suite? It has to be clear.

There’s no such thing as “too organized” when it comes to managing digital data. Larger organizations may go so far as to establish a command center, with an entire team dedicated to monitoring social activity.


There’s no one “right” way. There’s only what’s right for you – and what makes sense for the tools you’ve chosen.

4. Selecting the wrong social analytics platform

It doesn’t matter how well informed or organized your team is – if you don’t have the right platform, you won’t get very far. And this is another big mistake organizations make – thinking they can use any old tool to sift through social posts. It’s simply not true.

For starters, your goals provide the parameters for choosing social intelligence software. If you need access to real-time data to take advantage of emerging trends, a platform that only offers historical data won’t cut it. If you’re looking to tie in other business intelligence data, you need a platform that can integrate with other programs.

These considerations don’t even account for the changes to social media on the consumer end.

As consumers have become less tolerant of sales pitches and traditional methods, marketers have had to adapt to a more human, individualized approach. Social media listening tools have adapted as well.

A tool that simply counts things like mentions, likes and retweets – or analyzes keywords in the context of your brand name only – is far too limited to provide the insights needed to connect authentically with social consumers.

Brands looking to find and engage new audience segments need software that goes beyond simple demographics and delves into psychographic traits – attitudes, behaviors, values, lifestyle, etc. You need tools that can surface these insights whether conveyed in your native language, foreign languages, slanguage, emojis and even images.

breadth of insights

Sentiment must also be a consideration. Brands must identify both their most passionate fans, as well as their most passionate detractors – the former to source influencers, the latter to be aware of reputational threats. And all of the insights gathered must be accurate to be effective, and data must be easy to visualize and interpret quickly.

Along with these features, businesses should choose a platform that includes support from its creators – both when there’s a problem, and when developing a plan to move your business forward. Your platform vendor is part of your team – and it should feel that way. With the right support, you can only succeed.

Failure is not an option

Social media intelligence is a huge asset to businesses of all sizes, and brands who’ve experienced setbacks shouldn’t give up – because there’s far too much to gain, far too much at stake, and success is possible.

If you’ve been through the failures noted above, you now know what you need to do to turn things around. If you’ve had a different type of challenge not listed here, get in touch. We’re more than happy to offer our guidance and show you what NetBase can do for your brand.

And for more on what to look for in a social media program, download the report Make Social Analytics Work for Your Company – 4 Steps to Building a Successful Social Analytics Program.

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