What is Social Analytics Research?
Mike Baglietto |
 09/27/19 |
5 min read

What is Social Analytics ResearchSocial analytics research skills are in high demand, with agencies and in-house social media pros offering expertise around how to uncover brand-relevant, actionable insight. It’s complicated, but those who are best at it make it look easy. Effortless, even. But it isn’t.

So, what’s involved?  Let’s explore that a bit.

Conversational & Cultural Context in Social Media

When using social analytics to understand the conversations that are happening on social media, it’s important to not lose sight of context. Whether working to better understand a brand, category or a topic associated with either, the goal is the same: Capture the consumer point of view.

And we use social analytics to capture lots of key intel to support trending terms, including:

  • The language most commonly used when discussing your campaign and if it’s used in either a positive or negative way, as well as the relationship those words and phrases have to your goals for your campaign
  • The issues that have driven the greatest amount of passionate conversation
  • Language that may overlap with a future plan for this or another campaign, and whether that language means that initiative should now be expedited
  • Whether, when people are expressing negative sentiment, they are sharing relevant pain points (i.e., constructive feedback that can be addressed at the campaign, product, or brand level) or simply being detractors (i.e., sharing non-actionable or non-specific negative feedback)
  • If your campaign mentions, in conjunction with your category or competitors, are primarily positive or negative
  • Adjacencies that the brand may not realize exist – either with other brands, influencers or consumer segments
  • Unmet needs that tell the full story behind a scathing complaint

Timing is critical though.

Real-time Context Clues

We observe and analyze natural conversations as they are happening. It’s really the only workable way to approach it (and this is something elaborated on in a bit). Real-time analytics is a serious game changer, particularly one that surfaces relevant insight.

We also pay close attention to cultural context, as a brand’s message may look very different in the Northeast versus the deep South, for example. The features consumers love/hate may be similar geographically, but understanding the way a segment speaks and accommodating that can be what differentiates your brand from competitors. People want to feel understood and valued and understanding cultural/regional context can help you achieve that.

Social analytics research helps you understand cultural and regional context

At times, there can be a disconnect.

Social Analytics Research Disconnect

Marketers are often blinded by what they already know about their brand, and it stops them from seeing insight that goes beyond what they know. Or maybe it even flies in the face of it! Understanding and trusting the accuracy of the insight that’s surfaced is crucial. If a brand is going to accept a new truth about its positioning, potential new ideas or consumer segments, it needs social proof. And social analytics can help provide that proof.

At times, there’s a perceived disconnect around its value – and its ease of use.

Working with specific brands and seeing what is actually being said by consumers is an exciting brand exploration. We parse the intel to see what we can learn. From there, we develop strategies to demonstrate that consumer understanding leveraged as part of marketing campaigns can truly resonate.

While it sounds matter-of-fact, brands sometimes misunderstand and view this one set of research as “the one and only” source of truth they’ll need to inform all of their marketing efforts for the coming quarter – or year. We advocate that this isn’t the case.

All relevant research is valuable and does help brands better understand consumers in the long-run. Social media should be viewed as an ongoing, ever-changing beast, and one that can quickly spin out of control if left unattended. Social analytics research can be its harness, in a way. These insights can help direct action plans to deal with changing sentiment when brands are forewarned:

tracking changing sentiment so brands are forewarned

The possibilities of what we can learn from social analytics research are endless.

Brands Can Uncover Endless Insight with Social Analytics Research

Social analytics research isn’t just a brand health preventative. It’s used for so much more, including (but not limited to):

  • Developing in-depth profiles of target consumers to focus a brand’s time, effort, and money to achieve its acquisition goals
  • Delivering real-time insight on emerging situations before things spiral out of control, and providing the context needed to respond swiftly
  • Developing a deeper understanding of your customer base, including attitudes, preferences, and expectations throughout the customer journey
  • Informing organizational improvements across several key areas, including investment priorities, product gaps, and loyalty drivers
  • Identifying your most passionate brand advocates to extend your reach and influence others to act
  • Capturing customer experience insights to influence strategy, product portfolio management, and new product developments

Continuous monitoring is recommended as consumers preferences/needs/wants change rapidly and social analytics can help you keep that pulse.

The way your consumers feel about product X or service Z may give you an overall sense of preferences, but it doesn’t guarantee they’ll feel the same way about a product or service that comes with a different set of variables. Or that something hasn’t happened today to change the way they feel entirely.

Whatever a brand needs to know is specific to the topic at hand. More than that – it’s actually very specific. It applies to a given client and then, within whatever client parameters, the research gathered is specific to the topic at hand

Suffice to say, social analytics are customized solutions that help a brand understand fluctuations in real time. And real-time insight is important.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Social analytics research can be broad or specific, but it’s never the same. One size does not fit all.

There’s no way to say “well, we know that cosmetics consumers love X” because that’s far too generalized to be valuable. “We know that XYZ Brand consumers that are moms have this to say about Y feature of Z product.” The latter can inform a marketing campaign, but the former is vague and not actionable.

Best practices for social analytics research

Social analytics is specific to the topic at hand. And should lead to actionable insights.

Trying to capture analytics based on preconceived ideas is not research – that’s idea validation in its most basic form. That (idea validation) can also be done using social analytics, but not in the way one would think.

Validate Those Ideas

Idea validation takes a similar approach (as social analytics), as it’s also informed by the data. A brand is starting from an informed consumer impression, but it’s not tied to maintaining that idea as the status quo. Traditionally, validating an idea leads marketers to ignore contrary evidence and seek support of an existing premise.

But when looking at it from a social analytics standpoint, marketers are open to accepting findings that may invalidate the idea entirely. One that can lead a brand on an exciting new path to category change and growth.

It’s a new world, but the proof points we’re able to demonstrate with social analytics opens new doors of opportunity for our clients.  Be sure to connect with me on LinkedIn and I’ll tell you all about it!

Lynn Duffy bio picLynn Duffy has 20 years of experience working with both non-profit and for-profit companies including United Way, Urban League, Family service agencies, Xerox, General Electric, AAMCO, Trane, Saucony, Viactiv, Vera Bradley and many others. Through her work at DAC, she enjoys challenging conventional thought and developing research-based, data-driven solutions that uncover strategic insights to business challenges.

Her experience includes developing metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) for local lead generation across integrated media platforms as well as digital strategic platforms, personas, audience segmentation and custom research studies addressing a vast majority of business challenges. These challenges include copy and creative content, consumer messaging, digital transformation, and purchasing habits to name a few. 

Lynn lives in New York with her husband. Outside of the office she enjoys traveling, photography, yoga, and most recently has taken up archery.  She holds a Masters from Boston College.


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