social media data intermediate

Social media continues to rain data onto the market. Tools like Facebook Insights, Google Analytics, and even us here at HubSpot help pump and process this data, but it’s often ignored as it surges into the office.

Even though 83% of marketers indicate social media is important for their business , according to Social Media Examiner , they continue to struggle to measure ROI and use social data to improve their strategies. I mean, what are the actionable takeaways from all this data we're collecting? Below, we list 12 ways you can use social data to improve your marketing. This list will help you master these resources and use them to keep your strategy afloat. 

A Word on Social Data

Before we get to the list, let's review what exactly social data is. Social data is the information you can glean from studying your social media activities. This could include things like:

  • Engagement - Things like retweets, Likes, or comments
  • Leads Generated - You'd want to break it out by each social network, or even each update type
  • Referral Traffic - Again, you'd want to break this out for each social network
  • Sentiment - Are your interactions generally positive or negative?
  • Reach Growth - How large is your social reach ? What's the rate of growth? What's your fan/follower churn rate?
  • Feedback - What ideas are you generating from user-generated content and interaction?

As you can see, not all of this social data is just numbers, either. Social data is any data point you can glean from your social media usage. The key is not just collecting social data, but also applying it to your marketing strategy! Here's how ...

12 Ways to Leverage Social Media Intelligence

With that said, here are 12 ways you can take advantage of all that social data you're collecting -- whether you're conscious of collecting it or not.

1) Optimize your social media content.

The most obvious application of social data is to improve your social content strategy. Reviewing your data can reveal the best and worst options for a variety of variables, including:

  • Post Time - When's the best time to post content to social media?
  • Post Frequency - How much social media content is too much? Too little? Does increasing your frequency affect your follower churn or engagement? Does it help you generate more leads?
  • Format - Which content formats perform better on which channels?
  • Tone - Does your audience respond better to, say, a more casual tone versus a more professional tone?

Identify your best performing posts and your worst performing posts. By monitoring data around post engagement, sharing, comments, and clickthrough rates, you'll be able to learn whether the way you're communicating with your networks is the best it can be.

2) Improve your overall content strategy.

Social data can help you refine the topics you choose for your social media content strategy, and it can also apply to every other aspect of your content strategy. And, of course, there's much more to a content strategy than social media updates. For instance, have you thought about using social media as a testing ground for content ideas before you invest resources in their development? Here's a use case for you.

Let's say you're working with a co-marketing partner to host a webinar, and you're having trouble coming up with a topic that will blow it out of the water. Why not use social media -- and hey, you could even target your updates on some networks, or go the paid route on others -- to see which subject matters generate the most engagement? The most shares? Heck, you could even use polling mechanisms. It's way better to test out ideas on either general or targeted audiences via social media than invest a lot of your time or someone else's on something meatier, like a whitepaper, before you even know the topic's a good addition to your current content strategy.

And if you dig into the comments and questions from the content you're posting, you may just find topics you'd never even thought of that address people's pain points better than what's currently in your batting order.

3) Improve keyword research.

It's easy enough to check out the search volume on keywords, but how do you actually come up with the search terms you should be looking for? Where many SEO strategies fall short is in the keywords they target, because the person doing the research is an expert in their particular field. That means you get a bunch of keywords that, frankly, aren't even how your audience thinks or would ever, ever phrase a search query. For instance, I might search for "conversion rate optimization," while someone new to marketing might search for a longer tail phrase, like "how to improve conversion rates."

Consider monitoring the language prospects use in social media to help your marketing team execute its search engine strategy outside of your industry bubble. Compile data about how your audience refers to your product, service, brand, competitors, and industry in general. All of this is rich information for your SEO and PPC keyword research. Heck, you can even use it to improve your writing, adjusting your tone to speak like your audience speaks.

4) Invest resources wisely.

Social media marketing used to be a big ol' question mark in terms of ROI, but today companies can use the magic of closed-loop marketing to understand social media channels' impact on lead generation, conversions, sales, and actual revenue. You know, the things marketing and sales organizations are measured on. By comparing your efforts across channels, you can understand where best to focus your efforts each month to hit your goals, and where to abandon ship. This kind of social data is some of the best social data you can get your hands on, because it allows you to tie your social media activities back to the results that matter to your CMO, your investors, your sales organization, and the rest of the team who is working on meeting your goals each month.

5) Gauge brand sentiment.

Social monitoring tools can process data across networks to measure how often your brand is mentioned, and whether it's mentioned in a positive or negative light. Or if you don't neet to quantify social media sentiment to this extent, you can simple gauge sentiment through a community manager . To make this really helpful, though, it's important that you tie the data back to specific campaigns and content so you can establish what it is you're doing that people love, and what grinds people's gears. This is really useful data for a content team to use to shape their tone, when creating your buyer personas , and of course is a PR professional's dream!

6) Identify influencers.

Social data can reveal the people in your audience who 1) mention your brand, product, or service, and 2) have large followings in social media. Once you find these influencers, set a plan in place to reach out and engage with them to build a relationship. If you have a centralized marketing database , you could even create an email list that automatically identifies those influencers based on how many times they've clicked on your content or how many followers they have. Building a relationship with the movers and shakers in your market can help you score mentions and endorsements from these power brokers, which will help your brand's clout and social reach in the process.

7) Improve products and services.

Customers are not shy about the products or services they love and hate. Especially the ones they hate. They will give you this feedback in social media, and product marketers can use it to get critical, unfiltered (which can be good and bad) assessments of new features as they're rolling out. For example, one of Lady Gaga’s products (or services, I suppose) is her concerts -- and her team uses social media to make her set lists! Before the show, her team looks at data from Spotify to identify the most popular songs in the concert’s region, and they make sure to include them on the set list. Brilliant!

8) Improve and triage customer service issues.

This concept of receiving product and service feedback can be similarly extended to a customer service setting. Social media is a notorious soapbox for upset customers -- from legitimate complaints to straight up cursing, you can certainly glean a lot from reviewing social media customer service interactions. But you can also monitor this on an ongoing basis to try to address needs and problems before they get out of hand. Set up monitoring alerts around parts of your product, service, or brand to help get ahead of possible functionality problems. That way, you can alert your engineers, developers, or IT if you see an inordinate increase in problems around a certain term for which you're monitoring, so they can get on a fix before more people run into the snafu.

9) Monitor the competition.

Ooooh, time to go spying! Social networks need information and content to survive, so many companies publish everything in their social feeds. By watching your competitor’s profiles, you can get a sense of the content, products, and marketing campaigns they’re running. You can also see which types of content and campaigns get the best reception from their audience by monitoring Likes, shares, retweets, and comments, and use that information to improve your team’s strategy. We've actually written an entire ebook about social media competition with a section dedicated just to gaining competitive social media intelligence -- check it out if you want to learn more ;-)

10) Improve segmentation.

Data shows that 84% of B2B marketers segment their email campaigns , but 37% say a lack of user data is a major challenge . Social networks provide a wealth of data you can use to segment your audience to improve targeting and personalization. For example, you can use activity data to keep customers who have recently engaged with your brand in a social network in a separate segment for special treatment. You can maintain a segment for followers who have shared your content in the past to make sure they receive calls-to-action to share your latest material. We actually have a new feature in HubSpot called Social Contacts that makes all of this incredibly simple, too, if the idea of merging your top-of-the-funnel marketing and middle-of-the-funnel marketing is as appealing to you as it is to me.

11) Track event impact.

Great events spark conversation. Great events also usually have hashtags . These days they do, anyway. You can track your audience’s mentions and feedback during an event -- or even figure out what local events you should be going to right now -- through event hashtags. This will also help uncover which sessions and speakers are the hottest, and which need improvement next time around.

12) Close more sales.

Your sales organization needs as much information as you can get your hands on to personalize their approaches, and frankly, just to make them generally better at sales. Context is everything in both marketing and sales these days. Culling social data yourself, or empowering your sales team to both prospect and create richer profiles of their current leads based on their social profiles, can help advance leads further down the sales funnel. For example, one might engage a lead about a particular product or topic having seen the person Like, comment on, or share related material. Or perhaps you can leverage common LinkedIn connections to get an introduction to a prospect who might be perfect for your product or service. Even something as simple as the last tweet a person sent about your brand can help a salesperson speak in terms the lead will hear. If you're interested in learning more about this concept, check out a recent blog post about how to use Twitter to prospect .

What social media data are you collecting? How are the insights helping you actively shape your marketing strategy?

Image credit: JohnONolan

Originally published Dec 19, 2012 9:00:00 AM, updated October 20 2016


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