11 Simple, Useful, and Completely Practical Ways to Use Social Media Data

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I spent the last month creating 11 simple social media data recipes that any marketer can use to enhance research, measure ROI, and build smarter content.

This is the post you’ve been searching for.

If you are like me, you’ve heard plenty of good reasons to use more social media data in your marketing. But when it comes down to it, social media data is actually pretty complex and hard to put into action.

It’s okay to feel left out.

In fact, a recent survey conducted by Hootsuite found that 60% of global organizations struggle to turn social data into actionable tactics.

I hate seeing good social media data go to waste.

So I spent the last month hunting down 11 simple yet really effective ways that any marketer can turn social media data into smarter strategies, sharper copy, and more customers.

You don’t need a data scientist.

Or even need to know advanced Excel skills.

These recipes are easy to implement and completely effective. Just download the Social Media Cookbook and start putting your social media data to work.

Get Your Free Social Media Data Cookbook

  • 11 simple, useful, and effective ways to use social media data
  • The #1 persuasive way to prove impact of your social media campaigns
  • A simple test you can run to see the exact ROI of social messages
  • Dead-practical ways to discover what your customers actually want
  • Why conversation clusters and social media data boost SEO traffic
  • How SXSW uses social media data to measure the success of live events
  • Extra videos, bonus resources, and step-by-step instructions

Read the Free Guide Now

I’ve also included three sample recipes below.

Sample Recipe #1 – Persona research is better with social media data

11 Ways To Use Social Media Data Cookbook

Customer personas can help to boost the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. The theory is that instead of broad demographic characteristics such as “women 35-50 with household incomes of 70K and above” you paint a human picture of what actually drives your prospect to buy.

While personas are meant to humanize, often they are filled with marketing-focused language. For example, a persona document might say that a small business owner needs to save time and so looks for an expense management software to “accurately track all expenses in a single robust solution.”

This might be technically true. But those aren’t the actual words a customer would use to talk about their problem on Twitter.

Social media data offers an excellent source of insights to guide your persona. By using the actual language your ideal customer uses to describe their problems, it’s more likely that your marketing campaigns will resonate and persuade prospects that your product fits their needs.

Social media data can help you understand:

  • The prospect’s level of awareness around your product category. Let’s say you want to target construction companies, selling them your invoicing software. Do small construction companies know a lot about accounting? Or do they just send everything to their bookkeeper? Do they call software “the cloud” or do they barely understand the difference between software they install on their desktop and SaaS products?
  • Current dissatisfactions with other solutions and competitors. Are they frustrated with invoicing in Excel spreadsheets? Does invoicing eat up their entire Saturday? What are the common daily challenges? Have they tried and been frustrated with other solutions?
  • Market perceptions and pressures. Is there urgency and peer pressure to modernize their accounting? Or are they very happy to just do things the old way? What are the hidden buying triggers?

Some excellent sources include:

  • Online product reviews (a rare place where your customer speaks naturally about their pains and whether different products solved them)
  • Social media comments including blog posts, forums, YouTube, and other online media sites
  • Social media updates such as tweets or Facebook statuses

To pull this data, you’ll typically need to go beyond @brand mentions and internal social media analytics. Broad social media listening platforms allow you to access global conversations and collect large volumes of consumer opinion and market trends. It’s an extremely valuable way to conduct market research.

How to do it:
If you’ve never conducted Customer Persona research, this resource will get you started.

  1. Use broad social media listening to conduct general research on a central topic. In the example above, we’d pull raw global social media data on the conversation cluster “billing + construction.”
  2. From this general data, you can build a map of the most popular customer conversations. For example, you might notice that “Excel” and “Friday billing” are popular topics for your target market. This gives you a starting point and glimpse into your target market’s daily life.
  3. Clean the data by exporting into a spreadsheet. Or use a solution like Hootsuite Insights (formerly uberVU via Hootsuite) which makes it easy to clean the data within the platform. You should remove business promotion—such as tweets containing links and promotion of other invoicing products—and spam language. The result will be clean data containing the social conversations of your target market.
  4. Slice and dice the clean data. Some platforms allow you to do this automatically. For example, in Insights you can cross-filter mentions to discard clutter and focus on answering specific questions. This allows you to answer questions such as: how many tweets about “construction invoicing” contained negative sentiment over the two weeks?
  5. Create a listening dashboard to regularly monitor discussions. Once you’ve narrowed in on a specific conversation you want to monitor, create a dashboard. This will regularly pull in social media data around your chosen topic and you can log into your social media analytics every day or week to see new conversations, discover influencers, and understand what types of content resonates with actual prospects and customers.
  6. Once you’ve studied the natural language of your market, include common phrases into your final Customer Personas. This will help copywriters write clearly for your audience, improve your paid search click-through rates, and boost website conversions.

Sample Recipe #2 – Do social media contests actually drive new sales?

Driving new sales - Ways to use social media data

Everyone knows that social media contests (such as sweepstakes or give-aways) drive huge spikes in traffic, new followers, and email sign-ups. But do those people eventually become customers or are they just cheap likes?

If you are a retailer, consumer goods brand, software company, or ecommerce brand, it’s relatively easy to track the path from new email sign-ups or follower acquisition to purchase.

A proven way to analyze behavior over time is to use a cohort analysis. This tracks a segment of people over a set duration, following their behavior and measuring sales outcomes.

Let’s say you launched a contest in October. You could track that cohort of new sign-ups and follow their progress over the course of six months. This helps you see the true economic impact of your contest. How many of these new sign-ups redeemed a promotion or coupon? Is this group of new sign-ups more or less valuable than the subscribers we gain from our website? How many of the subscribers we gained from the contest actually went on to make a purchase in the last six months?

How to do it:
Cohort analyses are relatively easy to do, especially if your marketing analyst has a good command of Excel and MySQL.

We’ll go through the basic steps below. For complete instructions on how to conduct cohort analyses, here is a helpful resource.

  1. Pull raw data from your social media contest entries. To track social media entries back to purchase behavior, you’ll want to make sure that you have at minimal a unique customer ID (email address or a unique number) and the date and time of sign-up. This dataset should be given a cohort indicator, for example “October Contest Sign-ups.”
  2. Decide on a central question you want to answer. Such as: do new email sign-ups from our contest purchase a product within the first three months? Or do people who share our Instagram giveaways eventually buy products from our online store?
  3. Once your time frame has passed, you can now see which social media sign-ups eventually became customers and calculate the ROI of your social media contest. This is done by querying your database for purchases over the last three months and comparing with the customers gained by the contest. Let’s say your contest generated 25K new email sign-ups. How many of those leads eventually made an ecommerce purchase or redeemed an offer sent via email at a physical store?
  4. Summarize the findings noting key patterns. For example, you might notice that the majority of purchases occurred 10-15 days after initial acquisition. This gives you a valuable view into the typical buying journey of your customer and shows that perhaps social teams need to build immediate incentives to drive new social media followers towards purchase.

Sample Recipe #3 – Use this test to measure the direct ROI of social media messages

Social Media Data Cookbook - Contest for new sales

Measuring the ROI of social media can require some complex tracking and analysis. But often the most effective way to prove the value of your marketing channels is to run a test. This helps you quickly measure the impact of social media messages on sales revenue.

In this test, you’ll be answering a simple question: do social campaigns directly create sales? This will involve tracking specific messages and following them through click to purchase.

This test works best for B2C products (such as travel packages, software sales, hotel bookings). However, you can adjust and measure for B2B lead measurement, although tracking the lead through a complex sales process will require more sophisticated analysis.

How to do it:
Below is a simple test that a hotel brand could run to see if Twitter campaigns influence room bookings. You can run similar tests for other products so long as they have a relatively short buying journey such as retail products, consumer goods, apps and software.

  1. Decide on a timeframe to run the test. We suggest at least two weeks. Also set a goal such as: we want to generate 200 room bookings from Twitter between November 15 – 30th.
  2. Create a Giveaway that attracts people with buying intent. For example, a Las Vegas hotel could offer a $1,000 dinner at a 5-Star restaurant in Vegas. This ensures that you are offering something enticing to people actively intending to visit Vegas during your test.
  3. Decide when the contest will take place and add the rules to a specific contest landing page.
  4. Decide what participants will need to RT to win. For example, “I want to win a High Roller Dinner in Vegas w/ VIP acess @VegasHotel. Join here: http://ow.ly/E4pYP.”
  5. On your contest landing page, offer a widget where people can book their package immediately. Include an incentive for booking immediately such as a special insider contest deal (free upgrades or an extra day free).
  6. For all links shared via social channels, use Custom URL Parameters. This allows you to create URLs that 3rd party analytics systems (such as Google Analytics or Omniture) can use to measure the effectiveness of your campaign, joining social and web data together. Here is how to use these in Hootsuite.
  7. Promote the contest on social media channels, sharing your Custom Links. A few tactics include using your Hootsuite Dashboard to monitor for keywords and brand mentions relevant to your offer, reaching out to anyone tweeting about “Vegas trips” or leads asking questions to staff on social channels. Hootsuite also offers geo-location tools, making it easy to deliver messages to different regions—for example, LA markets can receive a tweet about a “weekend getaway” while New York can receive a message about “escaping the cold.”
  8. As you are running a test in a specific timeframe, you’ll be able to see how many people redeemed your promotion. This gives you the overall economic impact. The Custom URL Parameters will appear in your third party web analytics, allowing you to see the specific messages that brought the highest sales.
  9. Use this data to refine your social strategy. Which messages brought the highest conversions? Was Twitter more effective than Facebook for driving immediate bookings? What was the average time to purchase after discovering your promotion? This can show that perhaps more lead nurture is needed (if people don’t convert right away). Or it could show that you have a very small window to convince people to buy before they leave your site and find another offer (often the case with vacation packages).

Get the Cookbook – 11 Ways to Actually Use Social Media Data

The complete guide has a ton of other recipes, additional tools, and more helpful resources. It’s completely free and ready for you to read.

  • 11 simple, useful, and effective ways to use social media data
  • The #1 persuasive way to prove impact of your social media campaigns
  • A simple test you can run to see the exact ROI of social messages
  • Dead-practical ways to discover what your customers actually want
  • Why conversation clusters and social media data boost SEO traffic
  • How SXSW uses social media data to measure the success of live events
  • Extra videos, bonus resources, and step-by-step instructions