What to Look for in a Social Media Analytics Tool

Every day, new products hit the market for social media monitoring, social media analytics, and social media listening. Let’s be clear: These tools may say they provide meaningful answers to your business questions, but often there are many needs that are not met, or users are not asking the right questions.
When looking for a social analytics tool, the first question you need to ask is – what am I trying to accomplish? Answers will usually include some combination of:

Whatever your specific business goals may be when searching for a social analytics tool, the following should be important considerations:
Data Coverage
Deep, diverse data coverage is important to bolster the integrity of your analysis. Most tools on the market carry data from major platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and news sites, but oftentimes these sites don’t provide the full story. Other sources like Sina Weibo, Google+, Youtube, and review sites like Amazon and TripAdvisor are often highly valuable for verticals like travel, retail, and e-commerce.
The depth of coverage is also important; with full access to Twitter, for example, many tools can provide reliable analysis of audience behaviors and preferences not possible with sampled access through the Decahose. Historic data is also invaluable because it allows you to provide layers of context like past campaign performance, reactions to similar product launches, and volume benchmarks around the past 5 Super Bowls. Know your audience & where they’re talking online, and then make sure that the tools you evaluate closely have access to these sources.
Ease of Use
If you can’t understand what the insights are showing you, how will you be able to interpret them for your stakeholders? It’s helpful if a social listening tool can provide you with data in your preferred interpretation format – in raw data through exports or API for more savvy data scientists, and in summaries, visualizations, and lists for marketers on-the-go. Social data should be reviewed in the context of other business data, ideally with the ability to overlay different data sets.
When querying topics, the ability to focus in on exactly what you’re looking for – whether basic sentiment, an audience profile, or a custom topic-level view – is crucial.
Many social analytics tools are confined to basic sentiment, or to categories that are keyword-based. While this may be sufficient for small businesses or organizations that are looking for a quick snapshot of their brand in isolation, such formats are insufficient to get a reliable view of nuanced conversations. If you want to look at purchase intent or analyze posts that may have elements that are both positive & negative (i.e. “I love my Jeep Wrangler, but the gas mileage blows”, or “Panera is my favorite, but I hate their new dinner rolls”) then you’ll need a solution that can be flexible for your needs.
Audience Analysis – Interests & Influencers
While organizations should constantly be keeping tabs on what their audiences are talking about, it’s just as (if not more) important to understand who your audience is, how they compare with other audiences, and what interests them outside of your brand or campaign. Many social tools can provide demographic or geographic data, but some tools go further to provide insights on general social activity, interests, and comparisons between segments.
Simple demographics also don’t cut it anymore. Wouldn’t you rather be able to group and target consumers based on real behavioral differences, and measurable preferences, than rely on traditional demographics which can inaccurately stereotype the people you want to reach?
Influencers can offer the best representation of a target audience by helping you understand their followers, and connect with people who share similar interests. Look for an offering that allows you to uncover influencers in different ways – what gives individuals authority varies by the nature of a conversation and audience. Audience-focused analyses can round out your marketing strategies by informing what to say, where to say it, and who to reach.
A Partner in Thought Leadership
An analytics tool becomes infinitely more useful as you know more about how to leverage its capabilities. Find a provider who is invested in your success. Example analyses in the form of case studies, tip-sheets, and product tutorials should be easily accessible – and digestible. Best-in-class social tools are always innovating, to make sure that you have access to cutting-edge technology. For example, so much of social sharing is now image-based, and leading tools will have some aspect of image analysis in the coming year.
You might also look for a well-rounded Customer Success program which can include both tactical and technical support, as well as fresh perspectives on new uses for social data. The best partner will give your organization opportunities to promote the best work you do, whether through white papers, webinars or at industry events.
Above all else, when assessing social media analytics tools you need to start by knowing your company & your team’s goals; then weigh whether a given social analytics tool can help you meet those goals, and measure progress toward them. A decent tool will give you reliable conversation metrics: basic sentiment, volume, and a high-level sense of trends. A great tool will help you better understand how your brand & campaigns are being talked about & why; will help you see how your competitors & your industry as a whole are perceived; and give you a strong understanding of who is doing the talking.
To learn more about how social analytics can empower your business, we invite you to schedule a demonstration for more information.

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