In previous blog posts, I’ve discussed the opportunities and challenges social media presents for organisations, and identified four areas that they must get right in order to ensure social media success. I argued that organisations must clearly understand how they are performing in the social sphere. And it is to this idea, that of social analytics, that I return to now.
The use of social media in business brings a distinct set of challenges. Foremost among these is the scepticism that C-suite executives often display towards social. While social is increasingly seen as a part of the complex, fragmented modern marketing mix, it is rarely seen as central to it. There is an understandable, natural hesitancy in many large organisations to adopt new channels for customer engagement; after all, they need to be certain that current trends are not just a flash in the pan.
But with social, there is another key limiting factor: the lack of proper analytics. Meaningful goals and outputs for social media are hard to define and, more importantly, difficult to tie back to business benefits. Setting targets for reach or engagement through social media platforms is all well and good, but these will only gain traction in the organisation if they can be tied back to key metrics such as sales and profitability. In short, then, executives want to know whether engendering social conversation is actually making them money. Without this certainty, many organisations simply use social ‘because we should’, without a clear strategy and, as a result, fail to realise the benefits of social fully.
Given this situation, the field of social analytics remains surprisingly underdeveloped. The market is certainly saturated with social listening services and social CRM providers; companies that can ‘scrape’ and summarise data on a particular organisation or product from social platforms. A smaller number then offer nominally analytical services, which work on the basis of analysing social media metrics and sales data in isolation. But what is lacking is a solution that can actually prove this direct link between social media conversation and sales and profitability, rather than simply assuming a correlation.
Claiming causality around social media – that seeing a particular post or taking part in a social conversation is the defining factor stimulating a purchase – is difficult, maybe even prohibitively difficult. But the same is true of all marketing channels. What organisations can legitimately desire, however, is a service that considers social buzz as just one part of the purchasing decision, and combines social media metrics with broader data on sales and advertising spend to identify attribution. Until this challenge is tackled, many organisations will continue to struggle to elevate social to the same level of importance as traditional and digital media channels as part of marketing campaigns.
Luke sits in Deloitte’s Marketing & Insight practice. His work focuses on Customer and Social Analytics, particularly the use of business insights to improve customer engagement, increase marketing effectiveness and inform growth strategies.
Read Luke's previous blogs How social media is changing brand management and Four ways to win with social media.
Connect with Luke on LinkedIn.