In the past few months, I have been closely involved with the Analytics & Insights practice at Blogworks. When the team from Thinking Aloud, a magazine from IAMAI reached out, I shared some of my thoughts and learnings on how the social listening space is evolving and how brands can leverage it strategically.
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One of the notable trends of 2011 in context of social media adoption by brands and corporates in India has been the growing need for Social Listening. While listening is the natural first step in the social media journey, Indian marketers have so far been heavily focused on a) creating a presence b) gaining critical mass and c) engagement. With these three in place, there has been a need felt to make sense of these conversations. What are consumers saying? What’s the overall mood? Why are they engaged with us/motives? Which part of our promise/communication resonates with them? Which are the most common pain points? There is a need to listen-in and analyse.
Social Listening can be used at a very basic level to slice and dice data to understand the health of a corporate/brand on social media. But its real power lies in being able to assess the overall health of a corporate/brand. Tactical views such as volume, influencers, key associations, media type etc are useful but give only a surface view. A deeper dive can enable companies gain strategic views that can help assess the impact at a business level. I will be touching upon one such view that we developed over past few months and find valuable.
Before that, I want to briefly touch upon the social media scenario in India over the past 2 years. 2010 was coming of age of social media usage in terms of customer engagement. In a matter of nine months, Facebook grew from 20.87 million in June 2010 to 23.02 million users by March 2011. These consumers started speak and share more and more about their lives, a part of which was around brand related experiences. This led to an increase in the volume of organic conversations (users speaking on their own about a brand without any prompt). Brands saw an opportunity to engage these users and also co-opt new users and therefore set out to create their social media presence. They extensively used inorganic (paid) routes such as applications and ads which helped scale-up their engagement rapidly.
Suddenly, from ‘no. of fans’, ‘page stats’, the buzz words also started including ‘social media tracking’, ‘social media analysis’, ‘ORM’ and similar variants. While some companies continued to rely on good old Google Alerts, others realised the need for more detailed reports on the social landscape. While there are new tracking and measurement tools launched very day and more sophisticated forms of visual data become accessible, there are no short-cuts to automate insights. Technology can be leveraged effectively to pull data we seek but human intelligence helps define what data we need to pull and what we make of that data.
Participation is at the heart of social media and therefore one of the most powerful views to track is of level of participation of a social media programme. In 2010, Forrester had shared a framework called ‘Social Technographics’ to classify people according to their “usage” of social media technologies –
This gives a sense of profile of people basis activities undertaken by them – Inactives, Spectators, Joiners, Collectors, Critics and finally Creators. This can be a useful view for understanding the profiles of people in your community and customising your brand’s engagement to target each segment differently/relevant segments.
While the Social Technographics Ladder gives a hierarchy basis how they are engaging using social media, we felt it would be interesting to have a hierarchy basis how the users are engaging specifically with a brand or a corporate. A matrix that measures influence not by activities on social media in general, but actions undertaken in context of the brand or the corporate. We call this view, the Participation Hierarchy –
This framework helps us evaluate the ‘level of involvement’ of a user with a specific programme basis action taken. From bottom to top, it shows the evolution of a social media programme basis the depth of engagement with its stakeholders. If a majority of users are involved in curation (sharing links, organising information) the programme is fairly reactive. However, as it moves up, from opinions to feedback & questions to ideas and further user driven content and initiatives, it reflects a growing degree of proactiveness by the users.
Hence, a bottom-heavy programme would indicate a nascent programme where users are not deeply engaged in terms of their participation. On the other hand, a top-heavy programme driven by user-generated content and user-driven initiatives signal maturity.
The interesting paradox of social media is that while it was supposed to remove hierarchies, it actually has created more hierarchies than ever. ‘Influence’ decides how people get classified and companies want to invest into those users who are ‘influential’ or ‘relevant’ to their specific needs.
We are working at developing this and similar frameworks further but the larger point is about how deep we investigate defines the depth of answers that we get. It’s time to move beyond scratching the surface and look for trends that have an impact at a strategic level.
It is time to look beyond just engagement and tap social media for its real value – Insights.
You can also read the story here