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Highlights from Econsultancy's social data briefing

If there are two bulls barging through the marketing tea party, they’re social media and data analytics. Econsultancy’s latest digital intelligence briefing charts the damage when the two meet. 

The third in a four-part series of reports from Econsultancy and Adobe, this analysis of 600 marketing leaders’ opinions on social data gives a lot of what you’d expect, along with a few surprises.

The Less Surprising Findings

    The research shows that while the vast majority of businesses (84%) are using or striving to use social data to understand marketing ROI, only 12% have properly got to grips with how to do this.

The report doesn’t qualify what “using social data” or “properly got to grips” might mean, but it’s easy to believe that companies are doing something, either by way of Klout, Radian6 or the like. And it’s hard to believe many respondents believe their work here is done.

      Around two thirds (64%) of respondents say their organisations recognise the opportunities with social data. And yet only 40% of companies say their firms are investing here.

The problem for many businesses is that they are using metrics to measure the success of social media activity (for example the number of Facebook ‘Likes’ or Twitter followers), but failing to make the next step by understanding how this drives or correlates with improved business performance. Without this framework, and without establishing the right key performance indicators, it is difficult to make the case for more investment in social media-related business activity and associated analysis.

Those of us who have conscientiously made any kind of argument for social media have usually made a parallel argument for measurement. (And those of us who have made earnest searches for specific non-BS data and cases of social media marketing ROI will know how hard they are to find). The next tranche of social media investment, however, won’t come about without just that kind of bottom-line evidence.

The More Surprising Findings

Two graphs – one showing whether respondents use social data for specific purposes, and another showing whether they feel they are succeeding at those same purposes – are full of enlightenment, if you read between the lines.

Seen side-by-side, you can infer a few interesting things:

  • • Most respondents are using social data to gauge sentiment, but not so many feel they’re doing a good job of it.
  • • Few respondents are using social data to measure the ROI of their social media marketing, and only 10% feel they do it well (correspondingly, a huge number seem to want to start – Adobe, eat your heart out).
  • • Respondents seem to feel like efforts to use social data to improve their product/service development are successful. Intuitively, this would seem like one of social’s toughest goals.
  • • Lastly, there’s not a lot of success or real interest in using social data to benchmark the success of other marketing efforts. Presumably, these other efforts have their own analytics.

Almost inadvertently, the report touched on an area of taboo – the use of social feedback for sales calls.

    Perhaps the most straightforward example is also one of the most powerful – including social data in individual prospect profiles for use by sales people. While companies must take care to adhere to data privacy laws (and avoid scaring people), knowing what someone said in a forum post or an indication of their sentiment can mean more on a phone call than most variables. It gives the sales person something tangible and clearly relevant to talk about, because they’re taking the customer’s lead and often an idea of intent.

This statement strikes at the heart of the social data and CRM challenge Adobe’s hoping to address. Do we like salespeople studying our social activity with mercenary intent, or not? A whole cottage industry of start-ups is working to disrupt this kind of use of CRM. And, as Facebook’s discovered, privacy’s not a beast to be tangled with lightly. Management of social signals and sales sounds like another book altogether.

The last topic to be taken up by the report is the search and social connection. This nugget speaks volumes:

      Writing on SEOmoz, Dr Pete Meyers, the President of User Effect, examines whether
social signals drive traffic

    . As he points out in his statistical analysis, there is a ‘chicken and egg’ problem in understanding the precise impact of social signals on traffic from search because more widely visible content is more likely to get more social engagement. But the conclusion nonetheless is that +1’s and Facebook Likes drive traffic, and ‘social proof’ psychological principles dictate that search engine users are more likely to click on pages which have been given the thumbs-up by others. And the closer the social connections, the greater the propensity to click.

The report as a whole’s a good 30-minute read. It’s behind a stiff paywall for non-Econsultancy members, but a sample’s freely available. Check out both here.

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