Social media monitoring is a catch-all phrase: in sloppy office jargon, it refers to pretty much everything that measures or analyzes social media content. As with all next big things, it can be hard to grasp how it became so indispensable and what exactly it involves. This post sheds some light on the origins, the evolution and the different approaches of SMM.
Back in the day, when all the commercial buzz around social media started (it seems like ages ago, but we’re talking 2008), the idea was to develop software that would measure and enable interaction with social media conversations – something like customer relations management systems combined with web analytics. But because the business was still in its infancy, there were no industry standards for even the most basic elements, such as a mention or a click. Which meant some software counted apples, while others weighed oranges.
During the initial boom, brands started investing in SMM software, but faced with the deluge of data produced by social media, they soon realized that, without an original strategy for measuring and researching, the software can’t select the relevant bits of information, which make up only a fraction of all results. Because a computing tool, no matter how smart, is unable to come up with a branding strategy and collect insights based on that, human involvement in the process became indispensable. This latter is what we like to call social listening.
The constant improvement of monitoring software solutions continues to this day. But listening has branched off into a whole new direction.
Analytics basically means direct access to data generated in social media conversations with the help of software tools. Most of these tools are fairly simple to use for anyone with a digital marketing background: you enter a keyword search, and the software, after sifting through tons of data, produces results packed neatly into graphs, pie charts, word clouds or whatever else you want to impress your boss with. Historical data is key here, as social media monitoring aims to establish trends over periods of time rather than capture snapshots of the moment. Regardless of all the hype around real-time marketing, there’s no such thing as real-time data, anyway – it’s more accurate to talk about near-time, since Web spiders only crawl new content every so often.
Listening is a bit more advanced: it’s analytics in the hands of experts. Clients who prefer not to spend their time generating pie charts from keyword queries can assign the whole lot to dedicated researchers, who will then do the necessary legwork and provide them with regular reports.
Social intelligence is even more complex: it’s a combination of software analysis and good old market research with a qualitative output. Researchers run keyword searches with the software, then analyze the retrieved material very similarly to what they would do with the transcript of a focus group session. As one of our colleagues put it: “The software generates the haystack, and we find the needle.” This method allows for a variety of customizable functions, from a basic exploration of social media chatter to understanding people’s mindsets to charting new territories of discourse a brand can inhabit.
Here at Replise, we have all three levels of social media monitoring covered. Analytics, with direct tool access. Listening, involving dedicated experts. And social intelligence, leveraging the know-how of a team with a solid background in market research and a firm grasp of the latest technology. Now, if only we had a pizza chef as well…