We’ve been looking at a lot of social data over the years. By 2011, we had gathered 120 billion impressions on Facebook alone — and now we’re into the trillions.
That’s thousands of Facebook accounts, Twitter profiles, YouTube channels, and so forth. But let’s not mistake having lots of data with performing lots of analysis or creating lots of value.
When you hear someone mention “big data,” you know you’re getting big buzzwords and big confusion.
Pop their bubble by asking how to make those pretty charts actionable and how it ties to actual business performance.
Here are 7 simple techniques to extract value from your social analytics.
1) Show context
Colorful and likely viewable on your ipad in real-time or whatever.
Great, fans are increasing. But why? And does this have any bearing on revenue, leads, or whatever business goals you have?
There are a lot of tools and analysts that claim to be doing analysis, but are really just generating charts. Bust through this by using the MAA framework — Metrics, Analysis Action.
Metrics are what the numbers are — perhaps your dashboard or recurring performance report.
Analysis is WHY the key numbers went up or down — can you trace it to a campaign, creative, competitor action, or seasonality?
Action is what you’ll do to amplify what’s already working or correct what’s broken.
Any time you have a chart with lines that are going up or down, ask the “so what?” question to determine context. It might just be noise or something nor worth paying attention to.
2) Make sure you’re looking at business metrics.
Don’t get caught up in vanity metrics like impressions, fans, pins, and favorites. You can use them as diagnostic metrics to troubleshoot if one of the key business metrics is down.
Narrowing down to just 2-3 key business metrics will eliminate much of the clutter and cost of your reporting. Then you’ll avoid the siren’s song of the flashiest new software, which despite its real-time reporting, doesn’t know your business or its underlying drivers.
When you start with business metrics and trace back to the early indicator metrics that affect performance, you save time. What most people do is ask for an exhaustive inventory of all data elements possible, then select what they think might be interesting.
You don’t have time for the needle in a haystack game.
3) Always set metrics in pairs.
If you don’t, you subject yourself to gaming, intentionally or inadvertently.
Want to increase your conversion rates instantly? Just cut the ads or campaigns that are lower performance, even if they’re profitable.
We had tried out one consultant who went into a client campaign and cut nearly everything. He didn’t optimize a thing for two months, but claimed victory based on this sole metric.
Usually, you’ll have a volume and margin metric trade-off for each pair.
- Click-through rate vs average position in search
- Cost per click vs conversion rate
- number of posts versus reach per post
- Revenue per visitor versus visitor conversion
- Cost per lead vs value per lead
Here is the Facebook traffic for the Golden State Warriors. We can attribute their massive increase in engagement due to the team winning, as well as strong digital efforts.
If you don’t have your counterbalancing metric, you’ll be taking credit for something that isn’t yours.
4) Show both grids and trendlines.
A grid is like an Excel spreadsheet — rows and columns. Finance people like this. I know — I have an undergrad in finance.
A trendline graphs a metric over time or another variable (product, geography, customer segment). You’re looking to quickly (visually) spot a change, which is hard to see in a grid view.
It’s not that trendlines are better than grids– they each serve a purpose. The former is for analysis while the latter is for reporting through the chain of command.
Sparklines next to grids give you the best of both worlds. You get to see the actual numbers in a grid plus a mini-trend chart. You can do this right in Excel, you know.
5) Use color.
Conditional formatting shows increases as green and decreases as red.
You can choose whatever colors and shading scheme you like. Just don’t arbitrarily decorate your report with colors arbitrarily — ensure you have meaning.
We like to use color-coding for social channels and be consistent about it:
6) Use subtotals and grand totals every which way.
This is a corollary of setting context.
Your reporting folks might not always understand that you need grand totals to determine percentage marketshare and contribution. If you’ve grown 23 percent month-over-month in a particular business metric, you might have cause for celebration.
But what if the average of your competitors was 32 percent growth? Or what if last year at the same time, you grew 45 percent?
You could be comparing November to December sales this year versus the same time last year for your Christmas tree company.
If you’re a real numbers geek, you’re also comparing row grand totals versus column grand totals to determine whether a change was due to time or composition. Most people put months into columns, but not necessarily.
Google’s AdWords Editor and Facebook’s Power Editor don’t include grand totals. This drives a lot of us nuts who are preparing summaries for the client.
7) Put most important metrics first.
In other words, the lower in the funnel, the more valuable. So report on sales, leads, clicks, and impressions, in that order.
If you have a complex analytics operation, you’ll have a summary tab, perhaps even automated.
Some folks call this “swinging on the hinges,” where a few changes affecting conversion rate make a bigger impact than keyword selection or headline tweaking. The idea is that the closer to the point of conversion, the bigger the impact you can make.
This goes well with pairing metrics together, like we talked about with MAA and the AEC (Audience, Engagement, Conversion) funnel.
If you’ve got a strong social presence, you know that you get more value from activating existing fans/customers to rave about you than by trying to coax new people to engage. Traditional marketing flows down the funnel, driving customers downward like nails in a plank.
So make sure you are starting from conversion and moving up the funnel.
The value of your customers is not just what they bought from you, but the value of their influence on the purchases of friends. For highly influential people the latter is greater than the former.