This article originally appeared in Mobile Marketing Watch on November 14, 2014.
Social media marketing is growing up, in large part due to the rapid development of sophisticated social media management platforms with capabilities that enable the social marketer to demonstrate tangible business results.
In recent weeks, major social platforms including Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram have announced richer analytics offerings, enabling marketers to track the performance of their efforts within the social networks and, in some cases, how those efforts impact downstream results. These new developments signal a paradigm shift in social data collection and analysis.
Since its infancy, social has continued to evolve as a marketing and engagement strategy, and we’ve now reached the accountability phase of this evolution:
- Observation: Watching social performance and making inferences
- Experimentation: Taking these inferences, formulating hypotheses and testing them
- Executive Mandate: Leveraging these insights from testing to delegate actions across platforms
- Accountability: Taking responsibility for social marketing campaigns by measuring and optimizing performance
Despite that, only 15 percent of marketers in a recent Duke University study said they can demonstrate the impact of social media on their businesses using quantitative approaches. Almost half of respondents said they haven’t been able to demonstrate the impact of social media spending on their business at all. To address this increasing issue, a new and critical – yet under-publicized – role is emerging in today’s social media organizational structure: the Social Analyst.
What is the role of the Social Analyst?
Today’s social marketers are still grappling with challenges faced at the advent of social media and every other new marketing channel or tactic (websites, online ads, even “digital” generally): measuring results and demonstrating ROI. Unfortunately too many social marketers are still focused on volume or vanity metrics (like Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and YouTube views), which might get the social team a round of applause but likely not what they really need, like more budget and resources. A recent survey by eMarketer found a majority (66.5 percent) of executives are not confident they are accurately measuring the value of social media. Moreover, Forrester’s recent “Data Defines the Future of Social Relationship Platforms” report shows that measurement is still a top problem for social marketers and highlights the need for measurement in the “accountability” stage of social.
The key to getting social the respect it deserves is to align social programs to outcomes the business cares about by collecting, analyzing, and reporting on the right data. Enter the social analyst, whose job it is to:
- Proactively explore social data to find insights and opportunities, determine which metrics to measure that map to overall business and marketing objectives, and demonstrate meaningful ROI from social media
- Serve as an authority on both digital analytics and social marketing, acting as a liaison between teams
- Create dashboards and visual insights to efficiently illustrate trends and/or activate teams to action, which he or she regularly delivers to all impacted departments and executives within an organization
Moving from “Social Janitor” to Social Analyst
Thanks to the advanced social data collection technology available today, social marketers have access to more data today than they thought possible even two or three years ago. Unfortunately, because most organizations have a siloed digital analytics function, members of the social marketing team tasked with data analysis often become “social janitors,” spending their time:
- Reactively responding to low-value data inquiries and issues
- “Scrubbing” data and compiling it from many disparate sources – a time-intensive process
- Focusing on vanity metrics, instead of how social media influences the bottom line
- Wearing too many hats: collecting data, moderating conversations, engaging communities, and providing insights
Does any of this sound familiar? Being a social janitor can be inefficient and frustrating. By implementing the right team structure, social measurement frameworks, and technology, companies can move from employing frustrated social janitors to establishing and enabling true social analysts.
Take, for example, the case of global nonprofit Heifer International, which relies on social media to educate and engage communities around the world in support of its mission to end world hunger and poverty. By bridging digital analytics and social marketing with a social analyst, Heifer has been able to align its social campaign strategies with business and marketing objectives using data-driven insights. This can be seen with its #BeyondHunger campaign, where it used demographic data specific to social platforms to better understand and engage a younger target audience (a key business objective), crafting a successful Instagram-based “selfie” campaign that got high-school students to share their love for Heifer via social media in a fun way. The social analyst was able to set up the proper tracking for this campaign to report back on its success in terms of the key business objective to increase engagement and reach of over a million views for the campaign with a younger target audience.
Why is the Social Analyst Critical to the Communications Function of an Organization?
The global scope of Heifer International places increasing importance on the role of the social analyst, who is tasked with keeping the entire organization informed about social media campaign performance and interactions in terms that matter to the broader business.
To meet these demands, Heifer International relies on the social analyst to:
- Know the organization’s audience and its respective social platforms’ audiences at the data level (How are they behaving on social? When do they engage/take action and why?)
- Identify 2-3 goals for what the messaging on social channels should accomplish for each audience (engage, inspire, comment, share, etc.)
- Test messaging. If it doesn’t work, change it, test it and try again.
- Measure impact. Ensure tracking is in place to tie social efforts to concrete business goals, whether it’s volunteer sign-ups, donations, or awareness around a specific campaign
- Report back to the organization on key findings and results; present them in a visual and succinct format.
Adobe’s own social analysts, as part of the company’s Social Center of Excellence, work directly with brand managers to align social programs with KPIs such as subscriptions on the Creative Cloud side of the business and website visits, webinar signups, whitepaper downloads, and leads on the Marketing Cloud side of the business.
As Forrester’s Nate Elliott attests, the future of social marketing is data-driven. With the increased focus on social commerce options from Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest (and likely other social platforms soon), marketers will see even more downstream activity directly linked to the social customer journey. It is therefore increasingly important for organizations to ensure they are creating synergies between digital analytics and social marketing departments and roles.
About Heifer International
Heifer International’s mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. For 70 years, Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. Heifer is currently working in more than 30 countries, including the United States, to help families and communities become more self-reliant. For more information, visit www.heifer.org, read our blog, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or call 1-888-5HUNGER (888-548-6437).
Maegan Clark is the Social Media Manager at Heifer International. In that position, she manages the organization’s global social media strategy, including content, analytics, and engagement.