Social media is here to stay, no doubt about that. Whether your brand has a social media presence or not, people are likely to be talking about you online. However, they might not always be talking about you in a positive tone, which potentially can be very harmful to your brand. Understanding what’s going on in social media conversations might actually drastically change the perception that you have about your own brand’s “likeability” on the market.
When it comes to interpreting and understanding social media conversations on a deeper level, it’s not that black and white. Behind the comments and statements, there are persons expressing themselves in different ways. Sarcasm, irony and satire are a great part of our language and the way we communicate. Add different languages, dialects and slang to that. And let’s not talk about pictures and video clips, which are definitely very tricky to interpret. To give you an example, someone might post a picture of a brand with the comment “great”, when the message actually is meant to be negative, as in criticism towards the brand. The picture might be a photo of a recently purchased, yet damaged electronic device, with the brand visible, and the sarcastic comment included. The old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, fits well in here. In other words, you can’t really understand the whole by only interpreting the text. In order to get a complete understanding, you need to interpret the picture as well.
So, how to analyse it? Well, it does require a bit of effort to analyse a brand’s image when there is more than dozen posts per day. There is no shortcut to it, but by focusing on the following, you can get a long way; in what tone are they talking about you? Are the social media conversations related to your brand positive, neutral or negative? Also, who are the ones talking about you? How does these “digital brand ambassadors” react to your brand, and how much visibility does your brand receive through them? Is the overall impact created by these ambassadors giving you good or bad publicity?
The only ones to understand the complexity of the human language and way of communication are real human beings. That’s why real people should be deployed in this type of analysis. Only they can accurately determine the tone of conversation. A great part of social media conversation is also noise, which is another thing that is taken into consideration. In this context, noise content refers to spam, ads, posts by the brand and posts not related to the brand that mentions the keywords used for searching the conversations. In an accurate analysis, noise is filtered from relevant conversation, and the focus is on content that really matters. This is extremely difficult to do with computer-based algorithms and only humans are able to really identify these relations. Until artificial intelligence reaches singularity with human intelligence, the same way as Skynet took over in Terminator, a combination of humans and computer-based algorithms is the best choice.
To give you an example (brand name changed), ACME brand has received 12 500 messages during the past seven days. Of the messages, 77 % are noise. In other words, only 23 % of the conversation is relevant and created by real humans. In this example case, noise was eBay merchandise ads, as well as review article ad spam (in the hope to receive clicks and ad revenues).
Therefore you can ask yourself, would you rather make your decisions based on spam, as in the total of 12500 messages, or on those 2875 messages actually created by real users? Filtering out and removing the noise is very time consuming, yet vital. In marketing, as well as in product development, it’s crucial to base your decisions on reliable data in order to understand what your customers really want.
What can we learn from this? Basically, in order to acquire a relevant and reliable insight into your brand, you need advanced social media analytics. If you’re not using such analytics, it’s about time to start using it. An accurate analysis that will dig deeper into the content and really find out what’s going on behind the surface, is needed. We want to challenge the brands to reflect on their analytics. Is the analytics relevant and at an adequate level? In finance, companies are relying on external creditors. This outsourcing should definitely be applied to social media analytics as well, in order to add objectivity and transparency when it comes to a reliable insight into your brand.
Sofia Nylund, Marketing professional, passionate about social media.