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3 Basics For Managing Social Business Data

Social data management gets messier as more departments get involved. Clean up your management approach with this advice.

According to a new report from Altimeter Group, the average enterprise-class company owns 178 social accounts while 13 departments are actively engaged in social media. That generates a huge amount of data that is still largely isolated from the data collected from CRM systems, business intelligence, market research, email marketing and more, the report said. Failing to capitalize on and integrate this data causes businesses to miss out on social data's benefits.

"The goal of social data intelligence is not simply to justify the existence of social business initiatives, but to recognize at a strategic level that signals from the outside world -- as seemingly chaotic as they may be -- now constitute critical input into organizational decision making," wrote report author Susan Etlinger.

Businesses are struggling in three areas when it comes to making sense of social data. The first is managing the many players in a business that social tools attract. According to the report, social tools are no longer just for marketing and corporate communications employees -- there can be up to 13 departments involved in social media.

[ Businesses continue to struggle with social business. Read How to Beat Top Social Business Obstacles.]

Because of how many employees are involved, processes to identify the data, put it in context, benchmark it, share it, act on it and document the process properly can vary, the report said. Social data analysts are struggling to serve their diverse needs.

The second problem businesses face is how to measure social data. Matt Hixon, CEO of Tellagence, said businesses need to rely less on traditional metrics and understand that social data is different. "The fundamental problem we have is that few people are doing genuine new research to understand social data," he said. "They are using old models that were never designed for social networks and are trying to fit the data into them."

Finally, because social data and the role of social data analyst are so new, neither has earned the respect of the business. A lack of standards and the immaturity of social analytics tools both contribute to this phenomenon, the report said.

Despite the challenges, there are three steps you can take to make the abundance of social data more actionable. To start, you need to work backwards from the business' goals, the report said. Here's where to focus your efforts:

1. Tie Metrics to Business Strategy.

"To make social media more relevant to your organization, you must tie it to something that matters to the C-suite, primarily in the areas of revenue generation, brand lift and customer experience," the report said.

To do this, you need to first form a hypothesis. For example, if your goal is to understand the impact of social media on revenue, start at revenue-generating events and connect them back to social content. Or if your goal is to improve customer experience, set a hypothesis that sentiment in social data should correlate roughly to sentiment in other data collection channels, such as surveys, the report recommended.

2. Define Nebulous Metrics.

Businesses are often asked to demonstrate increases in metrics such as engagement, reach and influence. These tell you how people are interacting with your content, how far it's spreading and who influences the conversation.

But before you track those statistics, you need to determine what they mean to your business. Start by defining the engagement metric. Decide what metrics you will use to calculate engagement: for example time on site, shares, retweets, etc. Then go through the same process for determining how you will define reach and influence.

"Measure your progress by the extent to which you are able to drive alignment around these definitions," the report said. "One litmus test is the ability to provide a consistent answer to the question, 'How do we define engagement for our organization?'"

3. Prioritize Your Metrics.

Finally, you need to set expectations for what data you will have readily available, what resources are required to analyze it, the value of the metric and its priority. "This will establish that the analytics team is thinking strategically about what is credibly measurable, what is measurable with caveats and what is not yet measurable within the organization," the report said.

To do this, start by listing the core set of metrics you want to evaluate, then score them on a scale of one to five based on four criteria: how useful the metric is to your organization; your organization's ability to deliver this metric; the time and staff power it will take to deliver the metric; and the degree to which other metrics or future decisions rely on it. Average your overall score to determine where to focus.

The big data market is not just about technologies and platforms -- it's about creating new opportunities and solving problems. The Big Data Conference provides three days of comprehensive content for business and technology professionals seeking to capitalize on the boom in data volume, variety and velocity. The Big Data Conference happens in Chicago, Oct. 21-23.

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