Social Media Analytics


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[Wanted to mention the upcoming Semphonic Webinar – led by Phil Kemelor, Chris Meares, and Paul Legutko – on migrating to Omniture’s Version 15 of SiteCatalyst. This isn’t a product review, it’s designed to be a consideration of the changes and potential issues/advantages for shops thinking about or planning to migrate. Should be VERY timely for a lot of folks. Here’s a link for (free) registration:]

It’s long been one of my ambitions to write a book. I do love to write (as every reader of my LONG blogs can probably guess), but as reliable as I generally am putting out words every Sunday, I have never yet put down word one in anything intended as a book.

My friends, on the other hand, have been prolific in this past year. Pamela Lund wrote an excellent book on the impact of social media on our lives. Bob Heyman wrote a book I’ve talked about several times on measuring ROI in Online Marketing. It’s a book that helped launch a new product line (Analytics Agency of Record) at Semphonic and to which I got a chance to contribute. Now, Marshall Sponder has released Social Media Analytics (McGraw Hill) to which I was also able to add.

I’m both admiring and envious of them all! They are each very worth reading and, at least for the foreseeable future, as close as I will get to being in print.

I wanted to drill-down into more detail on Marshall’s book; partly because I’m going to be writing quite a bit more over the next few months on Social Media measurement. I’m still going to be adding to my year-long series on Web analytics and DB Marketing Convergence, but a lot of the most interesting work we’ve been doing at Semphonic in 2011 is in the Social Media space. Some of it (which I got a chance to talk about a bit in my recent webinar with Scott) is around Social CRM and fits very well into my ongoing series. Other aspects of the work, however, really need to stand on their own.

Social Media Analytics is a great discussion of a very big topic and introduces a whole bunch of themes that echo my own interests and viewpoints. In some places, that’s natural. I got a chance to contribute heavily to the “Advanced Social Analytics” Chapter (8) so it would probably be surprising (and distressing) if I didn’t like what I read there.

But that’s really just a small piece of the total effort. Marshall covers A LOT of ground in Social Media Analytics. The book starts with a broad discussion of Social Media but quickly dives down into targeting, handling internationalization issues, mining social intelligence, tracking Fans and Followers and understanding their value, measuring influence, scorecarding, content creation, monitoring technologies, and data convergence.

In almost every section, you get Marshall’s unique strengths as a writer: his enthusiasm for the topic, his hands-on approach, his passion for conversation and listening (the breadth of contributors to this book is pretty impressive), and his surprisingly practical perspective on things.

In the past few months, for example, we at Semphonic have been helping bootstrap a global social media effort for a giant technology company. We’re spearheading the measurement piece and, even in its early stages, it’s involved us in a complex set of novel and challenging issues around internationalization. So the problems of internationalization are fresh in my mind, and yet I would have never have expected them to show up as Chapter 3 in a book on Social Media analytics. Too practical and too problematic I would have thought.

No so. As in all of the chapters, Marshall not only talks the talk, he walks the walk. He used a variety of tools as he explored the topic and he talked to people (not me in this case) who were obviously deeply enmeshed in the practical difficulties of international, multi-language, multi-cultural social measurement. He gives a great overview of what types of difficulties you WILL encounter if you try to do something in this area.

Another of my favorite chapters is the one on Facebook fans and followers measurement. I’ve seen a number of studies of the value of a Facebook fan and I regularly get asked about these. All of these studies remind me of the old cartoon with physicists looking at a complex set of equations with a step labeled something like “Magic Happens Here.” None of the Facebook fan value calculations I have ever seen are anything but subjective poppycock. Marshall deconstructs several of these measures, explains where the “Magic” happens, and shows how VERY subjective such calculations are. By putting several of these side-by-side, he makes it abundantly clear how flimsy they are. At some point in the near future, I hope to write a bit about how such a value COULD be derived. For now, I’ll say that Marshall’s discussion is the best I’ve read of why the current set of calculations SHOULDN’T be taken too seriously.

Interestingly, Marshall echoes Bob Heyman’s theme in another really good chapter – Monitoring Tools and Technologies. The discussion here is one Marshall is particularly well-suited for because he tries everything and so has a completely realistic sense of actual tool capabilities and claims.

The part I’m talking about, however, isn’t in the excellent discussion of why check-box approaches to product comparison/selection are inadequate (I particularly enjoyed the great discussion of the stupidity of comparing the number of sources crawled claims made by Listening Tool vendors as if they were real or meaningful), it’s the part about how we staff and hire social media measurement functions.

Listen to this: “…I have come to believe marketing and communications agencies are not the most appropriate entities to measure marketing or PR campaigns run on behalf of their clients, especially within social media. Too often there is an inherent conflict of interest, as MarCom firms measure their client’s online buzz, and data can be skewed, often unintentionally, to show the successful completion of agreed-upon campaign goals.”

That’s exactly what Bob and I walked away from our conversation thinking and talking about, and Marshall is right that it’s an EVEN BIGGER mistake in PR and Social than it is in the relatively “hard” disciplines of online marketing.

Social Media Analytics is a great overview of the field, with far more in-depth tips and tidbits than you’d reasonably expect in such an easy to consume package. In a field changing daily, Marshall’s ear-to-the-ground approach delivers something that is remarkably up-to-date and current. And his combination of hands-on approach (just getting the seemingly inexhaustible list of tool choices is valuable), careful listening, and clear-eyed perspective consistently deliver valuable insight on the real issues of social measurement.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Gary Angel
Gary is the CEO of Digital Mortar. DM is the leading platform for in-store customer journey analytics. It provides near real-time reporting and analysis of how stores performed including full in-store funnel analysis, segmented customer journey analysis, staff evaluation and optimization, and compliance reporting. Prior to founding Digital Mortar, Gary led Ernst & Young's Digital Analytics practice. His previous company, Semphonic, was acquired by EY in 2013.


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