Making Social Media Actionable


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The best kind of research leads to actionable outcomes.  Research must illuminate what to do next rather than give information that’s simply nice to know. This maxim is no less true when it comes to the new kid on the block, social media.

“Listening” is a logical first step for brands in the social media space.  Putting your ear to the digital ground can cost next to nothing and is a risk-free, passive means of participation.    But unless brands are able to listen in a manner that leads to broad-based marketing strategies, the very medium they are hoping to exploit is placed in jeopardy.   Today, brands risk measuring social media to obtain insights that are not grounded in widespread opinion, lack true insight and are therefore incapable of truly impacting desired business outcomes.

The primary challenge comes from the chaos that defines social media and the web on which it resides.  The true promise of social media stems from the inherent trust that consumers have for one another, versus brands with their commercially driven agendas.  The reality of the social media landscape is that it’s filled with a massive jumble of data, the majority of which shares little resemblance to the peer to peer discussion that’s coveted by brands.  And while listening tools allow you to filter results by key word or domain, disentangling peer to peer discussion from the noise requires more resources (manual or technological) than many brands are willing to invest. The end result is that the analysis lacks integrity and can lead to false conclusions.

For the time being, brands are seemingly willing to accept this outcome, partially based on lack of familiarity with what’s behind the numbers, but also due to cost and expediency.  Funding for social media “listening” usually comes from a emerging media budget, which for most organizations is quite small.  As a voice of the consumer research with applications that extends beyond social media, listening is worthy of more attention, resources and scrutiny than it currently receives. Left unchanged, the current standard stands to undermine the credibility of social media overall given that all it brings to the table is information that’s nice to know, but will not provide brand managers with the insights they need to power their brands forward.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Patrick Gladney
Patrick Gladney is the leader and chief development officer for Social Currency, Northstar Research Partners social media measurement and monitoring business. A seasoned communications and business strategist, he believes in the transformational power and potential of the social web, including its ability to uncover unique insights that can positively impact marketing and product strategy.



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