Why brands need social media monitoring and analytics

This content is 12 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Last week, I was asked to give a short (10 minute) talk about social media monitoring and analytics. I’m not exactly what you might call an expert in this field, but I have been around the loop with this as part of some work I did a couple of years ago, when the company I work for started to make better use of social media, although I’ve since moved on to other activities.

In researching for my talk, I decided to reach out via my own social network(s) and have to say that I was pretty amazed by the response. Within a few minutes of tweeting, I had responses that gave me some fantastic angles to cover.

Looking for inspiration for 10min. presentation on social media monitoring... any insight appreciated - no vendor pitches please
Mark Wilson

Even though I can’t share the presentation (I used some slides that were “loaned” to me by others), I can write about what I presented, so here goes – with special thanks to David Gentle (@DaveGentle), Graeme Goulden and Jim Millen at Fujitsu; Brent Ozar (@BrentO), Consultant and Author at Brent Ozar PLF, LLC; Louise Parker (@LouParker), Sales Director at Sentiment Metrics; and Eileen Brown (@EileenB), Author and Social Media Consultant at Amastra – as well as to the many other people who offered assistance but whose work I haven’t “borrowed” here!

“Social working”

Many organisations are experimenting with (or even gaining real value from) social media and are rapidly trying to discover ways to exploit these new channels before their competitors do. The challenge here is that the steps required to gain value from social media go against conventional wisdom: In business, we want things to be routine and predictable. Social media, however, is organic in nature and is driven by people’s passions and interests.

Integrating the virtual and physical worlds

One way to consider social networks is that we need to look after customers in the virtual world, just as we would in a physical context.

For example, in a restaurant, management touch tables and customer check-backs are an integral part of the service in the UK and elsewhere. They are used to see that customers are happy with their meal, ideally before any simmering concerns become full-on dissatisfaction. In the past, restaurant customers didn’t talk to each other. But with social media, they do, and bad experiences snowball fast.  In real life, you can hear your customers complaining and shuffling toward the door. The same happens in social media too.

Smart organisations can use this to their advantage and build brand advocacy. For example, one upset Mum sent a tweet after she had taken her four-year-old child to McDonald’s to complete his Marvel Set figurines only to receive a Littlest Pet Shop character (another type of toy) instead.  Instead of sending a tweet to apologise, McDonald’s took the initiative to send a real mail and titled it “you tweeted, we listened”, including the missing Marvel figure with a handwritten note. Cool right?  Especially for McDonalds as that mum had a popular blog and she wrote about it leading to 50,000 page views a month and, even better, the story was included in the updated version of Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff (Forrester Research)’s book Groundswell.

Some organisations are particularly smart and they integrate customer feedback into their loyalty programmes and CRM systems. In an example, which Eileen Brown wrote about on her ZDnet blog, a customer tweeted to say how much she loved cornbread when staying at Gaylord hotels (a US hotel chain).  The company offered her some, but by then she’d already left. A few weeks later and she stayed at another one of their hotels and, a short while after checkin, some cornbread was delivered to her room – without even requesting it.  She then blogged about the great customer service, closing the communication loop and making it clear that she was a satisfied customer.

What’s the alternative to this? Well, sadly, things don’t always work out so well. These pictures have been around for a few years now but became Internet memes. Thankfully the names of the restaurant chains involved are not so easy to find…


Losing sight of the individual

The next part of my talk was borrowed from Chris Brown and Louise Parker’s SoConBuzz talk where Chris highlights a hotel on Trip Advisor which ranked really highly (9 out of 1068 hotels in London) but for which some very negative reviews really stand out – this is the social media challenge – we need to be able to identify these individual responses, this individual dissatisfaction and react at the tactical level to address specific concerns.



Four phases to actionable insight

Louise continues her SoConBuzz presentation by talking about four phases to actionable insight. Watch the video for the full details but, in short:

  1. Listen – monitor content and actively respond to it.
  2. Categorise – filter out the noise and focus on what’s important.
  3. Analyse – analyse conversation threads and identify leading topics.
  4. Act – drive actionable insight and add real value.

The value of social media

The real value of social media is not so much as another channel to market but as a method to understand what customers are saying about you – and to engage. But, more than that, by integrating with other data it’s possible to provide a holistic view of the organisation, enabling both tactical and strategic change to take place.

My take on social media monitoring and analytics

It’s all very well quoting chunks of other people’s work but I did mention at the head of this post I’ve had some experience in this area as, two years ago, I began an experiment with corporate blogging, backed up with other social media channels. Before launch, we wanted to measure a baseline so that we could measure the impact of our efforts but we found that enterprise tools (e.g. Radian 6) were expensive and free alternatives lack functionality, granularity, or just don’t really join up. Most importantly, any social media programme needs commitment of resources – agencies can only go so far.

I’ve found that the majority of social media case studies are from business to consumer (B2C) organisations. In the business to business (B2B) space, customer conversations tend to be fewer, and are less likely to be online – and even for B2C organisations there will be differences between sectors.

Critically, for marketing teams it’s important to understand that social media is different to other marketing communications channels – it shouldn’t be led by campaigns with time and budget limitations – social media endures after these have ended – and it’s a conversation, not a monologue.


Social networks are an important element of customer interaction and integrating virtual and physical worlds is crucial. In summary, organisations need to:

  1. Understand what it is they want to measure – and there will be a human element to this too as humour, irony and sarcasm are still challenges for many tool sets.
  2. Make sure that they can take action with what they find or else the exercise becomes just an expensive way to collect a lot of information, and possibly to leave customers feeling ignored (in my experience @VirginTrains is selective in the tweets that it responds to, in stark contrast to the other rail operator on my journey, which is @LondonMidland).

In addition, beware that social media has a global reach – we found it practically impossible to monitor social media for a single geographic region – and make sure you know how you will cope in the event of a crisis (there are some well-known examples in the form of Eurostar and the Ford Motor Company).

And finally…

If you’re a manager who is struggling to “get” what social media is about (you’re probably not reading this blog), but consider this tweet:

RT @ Blogging about the real challenge with enterprise social http://t.co/geYQMJSr < agree - social business is human business!
Anne McCrossan

Euan Semple (@Euan)’s post is short and to the point but it makes an important point: to understand social networks you have to experience them – “feel the fear”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.