We Heart Social Data: But What Do We Do With It?

Submitted on Tue, 3/12/2013 - 1:00am
No one wants a warehouse of data that collects cobwebs and dust. We want data that can help us make our work more meaningful and efficient. We want data that will help us change the world for the better.

When it comes to collecting social media data, most of us are hoarders. We like to ramble off the number of followers or retweets we have and pat ourselves on the back or shake our fists at the sky depending on our expectations. The trouble is: data that doesn’t inform decisions is a waste of space.

No one wants a warehouse of data that collects cobwebs and dust. We want data that can help us make our work more meaningful and efficient. We want data that will help us change the world for the better.

We all have a role to play when it comes to making data-informed decisions – especially where social media is involved. I’d like to share some tactics I use for exploring social data and putting it to use for our organization.

Social Data for Community Managers

I’ve often described my job as air traffic control for my organization. Social media managers should be monitoring how people talk about brands, campaigns, and products, but they need a way to report this back to the organization. As social media manager I see things and notice trends intuitively, but it’s only when I use this information to help keep the rest of the organization informed that I’m doing my job correctly. Here are the types of data I collect and how we use it:

  • Shared Content Performance – this determines the content I share and how I continue to phrase and word things. I find this out through web analytics, platform data (Facebook Insights, Twitter analytics, Topsy, etc.)
    • Application: Use this information to create content that your community likes, to further understand the sharing behavior depending on the social platform, and to help you better manage your community on a day-to-day level.
  • Brand or Cause Ambassadors – I find out who our passionate or engaged users are (those who go above and beyond simple sharing and are actually conversing with us). I use a combination of Facebook Insights, Crowdbooster, Sprout Social and Small Act Thrive to find this.
    • Application: Engage and reward people loyal to your cause or brand. At the very least, give them added attention and show them that you notice their passion and efforts.
  • Community Issues and Behavior Change – I track customer service inquiries that come through social channels. I typically just plop them into an excel spreadsheet. But this information can help us identify issues and needs based on where we are upsetting people or providing faulty help. Along with customer complaints, I like to keep track of positive comments or evidence of behavior change. I usually screen capture these exchanges as photos and will refer back to them if I need to. I will share these mentions with the appropriate colleagues or I will document them and share them with the social media quarterly report.
    • Application: Use this data to actually change organizational processes or procedures in response to the identified needs, and for assessing which organizational programs and practices are effective.

Social Data for All

Now that you’ve spent time keeping an eye out on this social information to help you better engage with your community, don’t forget to look at how you can help and assist informing other parts of the organization.

There are obvious implications for using your social and community data to inform your fundraising efforts (and new data management platforms are taking this into account as well), for example, such as better tracking of your staff interactions with donors, and what affect that may or may not have on giving, or investigating any correlation between giving levels and particular social networks, to help you target your campaigns more effectively.

There’s so much to track. There’s only so much time. But no matter whether you are a social media manager, a CEO, or an HR professional, my guess is you could be using social data to make you more effective at your job, and to help your entire organization perform more effectively. Aside from using it to identify your online community rockstars, you can use social data to improve the way your organization is working to change the world.

So: think of ways you can create meaningful reports and processes that help you and your organization become not just “data driven” but data-informed.

Danielle Brigida is a wildlife geek and works as the Sr. Manager of Social Strategy and Integration for the National Wildlife Federation. She actively engages a wide range of constituents using a mixture of online tools and social sites. An early adopter of social media with creative, engaging campaigns, Danielle has been recognized as: 10 Most Generous Social Media Mavens by Fast Company, 10 Green Women We Love by Greenopia and one of the 75 Environmentalists to follow by Mashable. You can follow her on Twitter @starfocus.