Social media data has been overwhelming from the get-go. Even the smallest company has access to an overwhelming amount of data, and sifting through even 100 followers without a data scientist has eaten up more than one frustrated social media marketer’s weekend.
Then comes the analysis paralysis and inevitable doubt: Maybe you’re collecting the wrong data. Maybe your data-collection method is off. Maybe none of this means anything anyway!
It’s a lot to take in.
Fortunately, the latest push for big data in business has rubbed off on social media marketing. New technologies make organizing social data organic to your marketing processes, and it’s getting easier to show social media ROI every day.
If your company is still stuck in the data dark age, here’s your warning: It’s time to embrace data-driven decision-making for social media.
Social Data: Why Now?
“Who needs data when you have expert intuition?”
It might be hard to find a marketer who is willing to say that out loud these days, but intuition has long played a leading role in business and marketing decision-making. However, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers and The Economist’s recent study, “Gut & Gigabytes,” this habit is dying out.
The study shares insight into how 1,135 senior executives make high-level strategic decisions, zeroing in on two important recent changes: First, that data is more readily available and customizable, leading marketing specialists to look to data to inform their intuition more often. Second, the number of people involved in the decision-making process and the amount of externally and internally sourced data increases every year.
Marketing specialists now have unprecedented access to the tech trifecta: easy-to-use tools, real-time data and the ability to collect data and make decisions with company stakeholders. This heady combination makes it easy for marketing managers to trade out expensive focus groups and market research firms for lower-cost (and easily accessible) social data technology. Marketers are using this newfound insight to build increasingly customized and personal social media and content campaigns.
How to Embrace Data-Driven Decision-Making
If you’re one of the many companies that hasn’t yet embraced the unique insights of social media data, here are three steps you can take to start capitalizing on the data at your disposal:
- Identify your goals. Practical science starts with identifiable goals. If you aren’t sure what question you’re trying to answer or what decision you’re trying to make, you’ll be overwhelmed by the data you collect and waste time answering questions you don’t need to know the answers to.
Identify your target audience and specific data goals from the start. Then, you can break up the data you collect into silos of actionable information to create a truly practical body of data. The more focused your data-collection goals, the easier it will be to compare and combine insights from online and offline sources for a well-rounded view of your marketing activities.
- Embrace technology to collect data. Don’t be afraid to dive right into the social media data-collection technologies available to you. Social listening tools such as Social Mention help you understand how customers perceive your company online. Social influencer tools allow you to identify the most powerful brand awareness partners. And social segmentation tools within each social platform let you target your efforts on a more granular level.
Schedule time on your calendar every day to use these tools and familiarize yourself with relevant features. As you expand your knowledge, use the data you collect to target other data-collection opportunities.
For example, social media APIs can help you merge your social media efforts and collect more data for your own marketing purposes. You could use Twitter’s API to put a widget on your company website to collect social data without forcing customers to navigate away from your site.
- Get your team on board. Finally, the social in social media is not a misnomer. A successful social strategy engages your customers and your internal team equally. Your entire team needs to be on board, from your CEO to your sales team to your developers. The combination of targeted data collection and supportive team activity will allow you to dig into less obvious insights and opportunities for growth.
If you’ve been avoiding data until now, 2015 is the year to get on board. Data is more useful and manageable than ever before, and you’re going to need it to inform your social strategy moving forward. Embrace the latest technological developments to uncover unexpected insights and create truly effective marketing experiences for your customers.
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