Measure Your Media's Impact On Social By Using Targeted Social Listening

Targeted social listening: We use this technique to pinpoint how our media impacts social, and how social affects overall ROI.  Measuring social media alongside other online channels is not new. What is new is the complex approach to uncover the delicate statistical relationships between paid media and online social conversations. There's a wealth of data in every social interaction, but it takes constant selective monitoring (social listening) and analysis to tease out real insights attributed to media which in turn may help inform future media planning, optimizations and creative.  

Social listening is commonplace, and the majority of it is used to do four things: 1) tracking buzz; 2) monitoring overall sentiment; 3) identifying critical customer issues; and 4) gauging customer advocacy.  

Each approach has a specific role and allows clients and agencies to get a pulse on their social strategy, though none address the real connection to other communications channels.  Without that connection, you lack the understanding of the role your online campaigns have on social conversations and you ignore important feedback from your consumer. By employing a targeted social listening approach, you can begin to uncover the interdependence between online media and real social insights

So what is targeted social listening, and how do you deploy it?  Here are six steps to get you started:

1.        Listen by channel. Online conversations occur across various social channels (e.g., blogs, news, networks, forums, etc.). Lumping these all together will clutter your analysis, since each channel has its own purpose and requires independent attention. News is mostly PR, blogs represent influencers, and Twitter content is limited and immediate. To get a clear signal, you must listen and analyze social buzz and sentiment by channel.  Determine which channels have sufficient volume.  Start by quantifying your volume metrics across the four social categories -- UGC, networks, social news, and blogs -- and then use these data to test correlations against your online media data.


2.        Segment listening. Online conversations only represent a fraction of total conversations -- though you can be certain that if people are writing about you online, they are also talking about you! It is critical to know who is saying what. To do this, you need to crunch and categorize your social data.  Certain listening tools provide some level of demographic segmentation, though I would caution this is based on a small sample.  Segment your social data based on themes, topics, tone, sentiment and plain meaning.

Identify and group clusters of conversations into social profile segments with the use of statistical methods.  Having profile segments is a powerful way to help interpret the meaning and patterns within conversations.

3.        Calculate the paid to earned ratio. Prior to thinking about how your paid media impacts social, you need to test whether a correlation exists between online media and social conversations, albeit it may be lagged.  If a correlation exists, create a ratio by dividing total conversations by total online media (use the log function to normalize the data).  Use the ratio to track the impact of media on social.  

4.        Indentify scalable insights. It is difficult to tease out insights from a sea of text data; you need a systematic approach to arrive at insights.  We claim that a topical insight is valid when the selected keyword combinations appear as a theme more than 15% of the time for topics with 1,000+ mentions.  A trend is significant when we see a pattern for 2+ consecutive months (with an obvious linear presence).

5.        Understand social's role in the mix.  We all know consumers' purchase behaviors have changed, with a significant number relying on social media for validation and research.  Social media is often used to measure loyalty, though we now know it plays an important role throughout the consumer lifecycle.  Determine where in the lifecycle social is most significant for your campaign, and use the listening segmentation technique in step 2 to understand what portion of your target audience is most active and at which phase of your campaign.  

6.        Use your analytics resources. Tap into your internal analytics resources to crunch the numbers; they know the data and will quickly determine patterns using their tools and statistical methods.

Now more than ever, marketers will need every advantage they can get to stay ahead of the competition.  Plan with social in mind, and optimize your campaign more effectively by using targeted social listening.

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2 comments about "Measure Your Media's Impact On Social By Using Targeted Social Listening".
  1. Nick Drew from Yahoo Canada , October 24, 2011 at 11:51 a.m.
    Good article, although point 3 leaves me a little baffled. There may be a correlation between advertising and earned media - although this is far from causation - but there are often other factors driving social feedback. A news article, for example, or a particular poor batch of products can overwhelm the impact of adspend. Point 5 - very good point; a corollary to it is to 'understand social's role in the mix - and listen in the right places'. Consumers use different social tools at different stages in the purchase process (Facebook vs tripadvisor for choosing a hotel, for example), and this is really where your point 1 comes into play. And you forgot point 7 - don't forget that social is just one of many channels that consumers use, and brands need to keep it in perspective for measurement. It's important, but it's not the only game in town.
  2. Jackie Kmetz from SpaceCurve , October 28, 2011 at 1 a.m.
    Great article Michael. Solid recommendations for a sound approach to effective listening and digesting of the information.