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4 ways to make your social data work for you

4 ways to make your social data work for you Brad Brief

What defines social media success? In the early days of social marketing, brands raced to amass legions of fans and followers. The accumulation of likes, tweets, shares, and impressions were considered by marketers as benchmarks of success. For brands, success often meant building, but not necessarily understanding, its social audience.

4 ways to make your social data work for you

With the deep pool of data now available to marketers, we've begun to see a shift in how social success is defined: less by volume and more by action. By focusing on social segmentation, brands can use consumer data and social metadata to gauge not only the effectiveness of their content, but also the actual engagement of their audience.

Given the volume of social activity and data associated with some brands, the task of segmentation can seem potentially overwhelming. To help manage it, we've identified four steps to social marketing success.

Analyze the social data

To a certain extent, the sheer volume of social media activity has created an "iceberg mentality." When we look at an iceberg all we see is what's floating above the waterline, which in the case of social data would be high-level measures such as likes, tweets, impressions, pins, reach, and so on. But when you look deeper, below the surface, you get the rest of the story.

With social data, as we metaphorically dive beneath the water line, we begin to pull data that reveals much more about our audience. We move from volume measures to actual demographic and engagement metrics.

For example, did you know that one tweet contains more pieces of metadata (150) than characters (140)? In addition to technical specifications, engineers can analyze the metadata's timestamp and location stamp, the URL of the author, a unique numerical ID, and IDs for all replies, retweets, and favorites.

Meanwhile, you can analyze Facebook content for reach, engagement, virality, and paid and organic performance, and cross-reference that against user data such as country, city, gender, and age. At the post level, you can track engagement for each piece of content -- which can be particularly helpful in determining what type of content best resonates with your audience (for example: links, video, photos, or question posts).

Also at the post level, you can measure interaction by type of content, time of day, length of post, response time, and response distribution. Beyond the post level data, you can also analyze your fan base to determine your most active influencers and how often fans are engaging with your brand and social content.

For Pinterest, there's a wealth of social data that extends far beyond pins. This includes repins, impressions, clicks, and trends, all of which you can use to assess your Pinterest activity over time. Brands can look at a variety of data for the last 30 days, including Top Pins, Top Boards, Best in Search, and "Power Pins," which are pins that have had the highest engagement over time.

From a demographic standpoint, Pinterest marketers can review the country, language, metro (U.S. only), and gender of their audience. And within Interests, you can learn the most popular categories, boards, and businesses that your brand's pinners are interested in.

Naturally, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are only the beginning. There is valuable data to be collected from other social platforms -- Instagram, YouTube, Google+, Snapchat, and Tumblr, to name a few. There are also numerous social data aggregation platforms that are extremely effective at aggregating what can seem like a staggering amount of social data. Some of the most popular include Simply Measured, Crimson Hexagon's Open Monitor, Followerwonk, Tracx, and Unimetric.

The best advice for marketers on the data analysis front is to understand what social engagement data is most important for your brand, and carefully evaluate your options. Whatever route you choose to take, the more you know about your social audience, the more effective you can be in segmenting that audience and optimizing your social marketing efforts.

Segment your audience and content

Just as every fingerprint is unique, no Facebook fan, Twitter follower, or Pinterest user is the same. But there are similarities to be found, and these can be applied to segmentation categories that can help you target your audience and create more effective content in the future.

We can use measures such as demographic, age, and geographic location to begin to create manageable segments. Then, by leveraging small data, we can provide insights that will help optimize engagement. For example, who has the highest engagement with posts that feature links, or pins that feature product pictures? What time of day are they most frequently posting, tweeting, or pinning? Segmentation can help you find out.

As you gain a better understanding of your audience, you'll also find insights into their consumption of social content. You can use social data, particularly at the post, tweet, or pin level, to integrate with your audience segmentation. Do videos generate more shares than photos? What types of pictures get the most repins?

Understanding these content questions will help you provide variety to your posting cadence, better understand the context for how the content is consumed, and optimize by prioritizing the most effective content.

Enhance measurement opportunities

Beyond the data available that we discussed, you can put URL parameters into those links in your posts that take visitors to your site if clicked on. In Google Analytics, these are known as "UTM parameters" and their implementation is well documented.

When visitors click on a modified link, they appear in your reporting as having arrived through your posts. You can then see whether your social site traffic is engaged or not, plus all the other information that site reporting can supply about your post's visitors. This will create an additional measurement layer for your social content and is particularly valuable in helping to evaluate engagement.

Test, learn, and optimize

Lastly, don't be afraid to test and learn. This level of available data creates opportunities to experiment with the ability to measure quickly and at a detailed level. This will allow you to optimize content for your target audience, and you never know: you might be surprised by what content creates the highest engagement.

The social media marketers of today are in a great position -- we have a wealth of measurement opportunities available to us, and a tried-and-true stable of strategies for activating them. Super-charge your social marketing with data and segmentation, and you can take social engagement to the next level.

Brad Brief is director, social marketing at Enlighten.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Growth concept" image via iStock.

Brad Brief is the Principal & CEO of Digital Social Strategies, a full service Digital Marketing agency created to help clients maximize the impact of their Digital, Social, Mobile and Search marketing efforts.  With an extensive strategic...

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