If you want a social analytics tool to add value to your business, you have to buy it right.

Check out these five pointers for doing just that.

When it comes to integrating a new analytics tool, simply having a smart team and a good strategy doesn’t mean (or at least in our experience doesn’t correlate with) successful adoption by the wider stakeholder group. 

Most people are balancing conflicting priorities. They are busy, they don’t want changes imposed on them that require time for re-adjustment, and they resent the implication that some new tool is being made available because they were in some way underachieving. Let's call these re-active factors.

Conversely, they want to innovate, they want to solve problems better and in less time and with a greater degree of success. We’ll call these pro-active factors.

In every organisation where we’ve seen real, sustained adoption (and by that I mean including people outside of the social or digital teams) of the platform, the correlating factor has been the way that the procurement happened, the way that it spoke to the pro-active factors and successfully countered re-active issues early on.

In each of these successful processes, there have been a number of common themes that we now look for and try to engender in the procurements we take part in.

1. Social analytics should help you achieve business goals not social goals

This may seem obvious but you’d be surprised at how often tech grows like a weed inside an organisation, it’s just really easy to pick a piece of tech designed to solve a short-term, immediate goal that has little to do with what the business is trying to achieve.

And once a piece of tech in use, there’s very little incentive to shift it. The problem with this is that tech bought re-actively then gets used pro-actively and if you have a system of measurement in place it’s FAR easier to create campaigns that are designed to be measured by what you already have rather than campaigns designed to achieve real business impact.

Or to put it another way, the technological tail starts wagging the dog. 

2. Never ask people what they want a social analytics tool to do for them

There’s a great book that I was pretty much forced to read at the beginning of our accelerator process called the mom test, I heartily recommend it.

It focuses on good questions to ask if you want to get useful answers back and “what do you want our social analytics to do for you?” falls squarely into the bad question category. Most people simply don’t have the points of reference to be able to offer helpful answers.

They tend to want either stuff that can be done for free or “magic” and very little in between. Instead talk to them about the demands of their every day jobs, bottlenecks that insight could help with, repetitive tasks that could be automated etc...

I really do suggest reading the book but if that sounds too much like hard work, check out this summary deck below...

Summary of 'The Mom Test' (v2 2013-11-05) from Max Völkel

3. Remember, insight that doesn’t lead to action is pointless

After you’ve done step two and before you even think about the features you want you need to have a really strong definition of the problems you want to solve.

In my mind, for a problem to lead to a requirement, it has to fulfil a few simple criteria:

  • It needs to have a solution that actually exists in conversational social data.
  • That solution needs to lead to an action.
  • That action needs to be feasible.

So for example “I really wish I knew what people were saying about our shoe polish” is a bad problem to solve using social data.

Firstly, there will be very little conversational data around and secondly, once you’ve collected it, what are you going to do with it? Thirdly, even if all seven people who have mentioned it in the last five years agree that you should make a different shade or similar, is that data really robust enough to make a decision on?

You can fix this by making a list of the things that you can actually change in the short, medium and long term, then prioritising them into what will help the business most.

I use a grid system like the one below. Your must-have features are the solutions to the problems in boxes eight and nine, problems where finding a solution would provide a major benefit in the short and medium terms.

Your 'desirable' features are in boxes six and five. You have time to work with your supplier on boxes seven and four and if the stuff in boxes one, two and three is of little benefit, you probably don’t need a solution.

 social analytics priorities

4. Buy the lowest tech you can

Again, maybe self-evident but it’s more important than it seems, this isn’t just about not paying for redundant functionality, it’s about maximising usage by people who are borderline in terms of their tech literacy.

If the only thing a piece of tech does is solve a problem that a user has every day then there is very little room for the user to get lost in the process, forget how to use the software or give up due to the hassle factor.

Remember that the point of tech is to solve problems so it only adds value to a business if people are actually using it to do so. 

5. Never underestimate the value of a good UI

Having spent the last 800 words going on about problem solving, it’s worth remembering that people have to enjoy using, or at least not hate using any tech if it’s going to be adopted.

Our repeat log-on figures (people who used the platform more than once a week) jumped by upwards of 800% when we launched a prettier / simpler UI simply because logging on was a better experience.

Outside of social media teams, social analytics tech operates on the periphery of most people’s day to day. That’s not to say it can’t add a huge amount of value, it’s just that for your average PR person (I’m not picking on PRs, I am/was one) social analytics is just not pushing it’s way into their every day yet.

Even amongst social teams at really smart agencies, I’ve been surprised by how much people rely on instinct and creativity in a vacuum of data.

When questioned as to how they came to decisions and why there was no real data to underpin what they were doing, the answers were almost all the same “Yep, I could get some data on that but it would take one of the data guys a couple of hours to get it done and have you seen my to-do list?”

If your tool’s UI actively discourages people from trying to get simple data for themselves then it will only foster this kind of “data’s for the data guys” approach and in doing so it will limit the value it will bring to the organisation.

In summary 

In the end, it all boils down to business value. The only way you get real value from social tech is if a few, really important things happen in conjunction with one another.

You need to understand both your business goals and nature of the data you're going to be capturing (conversations). You need to understand what actions that data could inform and the best way to prompt them, and you need your people to see the value in taking those actions and (of course) to go on and take them.

If you can do that then social data can be transformative, I’ve seen it happen, seen businesses save serious money, reach new audiences in new ways and grow new product lines from nothing all through the power of social data, and in every case where this has happened it’s been because they understood how to adopt the right tool in the right way that would help unlock the value in that data.

Sam Oakley

Published 16 February, 2015 by Sam Oakley

Sam Oakley is the Co-Founder of StashMetrics, a former director at Wolfstar and a contributor to Econsultancy. He can be found on Twitter and Google Plus

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Comments (1)

Ana Jesus

Ana Jesus, EMEA Marketing Manager at Shoutlet

Those are some great pointers Sam. Social data can deliver an incredible amount of value to an organisation but marketers must be clear first on what they plan to do and have capacity for in social so they can find a suitable provider to fit their needs. Indeed whatever their goals, these should ultimately be linked to bringing business value back to the organisation.

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