Jul 19, 2012

As Facebook Use Soars, Social Media Analytics Come of Age

As Facebook closes in on 1 billion users, social analytics is entering a new era, unharnessing the power of data to guide company decision making. A host of companies has emerged in the last five years to help brands identify and reward their most influential online ambassadors and get a better grasp of their return on investment in social media.

One common theme across these tools is that when it comes to measuring the value of social media, quality often trumps quantity. Brand managers are learning that likes, friends and posts on Facebook are a dime a dozen. To identify true online influencers requires closely monitoring social media streams. With five of every six online product searches resulting in a consumer buying in a brick-and-mortar store, it’s getting more important every day to identify and reward your online evangelists. A definite social media hierarchy is emerging that ranges from national celebrities, magazines and retailers to bloggers, athletes, outfitters, ski pros and store employees all the way down to local enthusiasts.

Fortunately, it’s getting easier every day to sort out the true influencers. Below is a sampling of data analysis tools companies can use to measure both their own social media influence and that of others, and to gauge general sentiment toward their brands. They range from solutions that cost tens of thousands of dollar per year to web-based tools that can cost just dollars a month and are often offered for free on a trial basis.

  • Channel Signal. Builds “big, powerful feedback loops” that brands can use to measure consumer sentiment toward them, their products and events, according to Founder and CEO Paul Kirwin. The company has developed a system for monitoring and categorizing product reviews, feedback on Twitter and Facebook, and blog entries. Companies also use Channel Signal’s data to research target markets, product ideas and new channels of distribution.
  • First Insight. Fortune 500 companies use this product to gather and analyze input from online consumers to guide their decision making throughout the product development cycle. Retailers can use First Insight’s predictive analytics to guide their decisions on product design, buying, assortment planning, pricing and marketing.
  • Klout. Businesses and individuals can use Klout to measure their own social media influence. Klout assigns rolling 90-day scores to users based on how often and recently their content is read or viewed, liked, retweeted, commented on or otherwise shared. By measuring such engagement against the number of posts a user makes, Klout hopes to recognize the most engaging rather than the most prolific content providers.
  • HootSuite. Companies can use this site to automate distribution of content to multiple social media sites from a single online interface. It includes social analytics for measuring engagement and campaign success, allows collaboration among team members, and provides a dashboard for monitoring incoming social media feeds. Many email marketing companies, such as iContact and Streamsend, are now offering similar social media tools.
  • Hearsay Social. Provides many of the same services as HootSuite. Hearsay Social is geared toward large corporations that want to facilitate the use of social media by their independent agents, reps or store managers while remaining in compliance with local, state and federal regulations. Clients include big insurance and financial services companies and 24 Hour Fitness. Hearsay Social provides easy-to-understand analytics that track activity on multiple social media sites in real time at both the aggregate and individual customer level.
  • Experticity. Through its 3point5 and ProMotive platforms, Experticity enables brands to offer discounted product to qualified store employees and other industry professionals and influential product users. Experticity clients can use its eXpert Analytics suite to measure sales by these pro-deal recipients and view other data that helps them measure their return on investment.
  • Booshaka. Provides free software that companies can use to publish a leaderboard on their Facebook pages to rank top contributors based on the quality of their interactions and their ability to engage other fans. The tool app is used to identify and recognize the most influential brand ambassadors. For a fee, Booshaka customer can upgrade to a pro version of the application that enables them to also reward top fans with gifts, perks and experiences. Essentially, the tool enables companies to use Facebook as loyalty marketing hub.