Making Sense of the Social Media Data Flood








I can understand how some business owners might be a bit jaded with all the pro-social media talk. There’s so many blog posts and whitepapers extolling the benefits of digital marketing, so much ‘you’re crazy not to be on this’ talk – and that makes perfect sense, advocates for social media and online marketing are going to be active online, where all the content is being posted, right? What you really need is a breakdown of the benefits social media marketing can provide for your business and how you, specifically, might be able to achieve them. Maybe, despite all the talk, social media won’t work for your brand, is no good for your market sector – that’s the question you really need to answer. And the thing is, the trick to understanding this might actually be to not consider digital marketing at all. One way to work out whether social media is for you is to take a step back, take social media out of the question entirely, and clarify first what it is you want to achieve.

What is it That Your Business Provides?

The first step is to establish the purpose of your brand. Purpose is not a goal or business strategy, a purpose is a something that can never be fulfilled, that remains a guiding principle for your company as you evolve and advance. For example, Hewlett-Packard’s purpose isn’t ‘to make tech products’, their purpose statement is ‘to make technical contributions for the advancement and welfare of humanity’. It’s not what you do, it’s who you are, what role you intend to fill in the wider world.

Answer the below question for your business (whichever is most relevant):

“We provide X products” or “We deliver X services”

Then ask yourself: “Why is that important?”

Why is it crucial for your clients? What benefits does your company deliver? What problems do you solve? Write down five different responses to this question and you’ll start to see a more important answer develop, more than simply what you do. It’s why, what it is you aim to achieve.

Establishing purpose is important as it frames all your actions from that point forward. Everyone in your organisation should be aligned to this goal, and understand the role they play within it.

The following is an excerpt from a 1996 Harvard Business Review paper ‘Building Your Company’s Vision’, written by James Collins and Jerry Porras.

When people in great organisations talk about their achievements, they say very little about earnings per share. When a Boeing engineer talks about launching an exciting and revolutionary new aircraft, she does not say “I put my heart and soul into this project because it will add 37 cents to our earnings per share.”

Purpose matters and it’s a critical step in overall brand planning – if you don’t have a purpose, do you have a business?

Sales, Loyalty or Awareness?

With your purpose in mind, and forgetting all notions of social media and digital marketing, what do you need to do to advance your brand? In their book ‘The Now Revolution’, authors Jay Baer and Amber Naslun suggested that your primary focus at any given time will be one of three outcomes: sales, loyalty or awareness. While each supports the others to a degree, Baer and Naslun’s advice was to focus on one core goal at a time for the sake of focus in your marketing campaigns. For each, you’ll be looking to track specific metrics:

Sales – interest, sales figures, conversion rates,

Loyalty – engagement, sentiment, influence

Awareness – audience growth, engagement, interest

Once you’ve determined which of these will be your guide, you can then move onto defining how, exactly, you might go about achieving these goals.

The How of the What

Breaking your chosen aim down into its components, consider how you’d traditionally achieve them in real life, without the aid of digital communications. How would you build interest in your offering? Would you advertise in the local paper? Showcase your products at an event? These functions have always existed and have always been carried out by businesses over time – how have you traditionally done them? What methods have you used? As you go through, note down what you’d like to achieve, what your perfect outcomes would be. Make note, too, of who, specifically, you want to reach – what audience? Where? Don’t limit yourself, aim for your ideal scenario.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could…?”

Making Sense of the Data Flood

So now, with your purpose statement in mind and an idea of the ideal outcome of your chosen objective, you’re better equipped to consider what technology can do for you. All of these metrics can be measured, in varying capacity, by digital tools; all can be achieved or assisted in some way by online marketing. But now you’re coming at the process with a defined plan, a focus in mind. There’s no point gathering followers and ‘Likes’ with no further direction than that – establishing a guiding purpose is the best way to focus and maximise your opportunities. Using this, you can now specify what platforms you want to utilise, what content you want to create and share. Sending out cat pictures to boost your engagement figures is pointless if those engagements aren’t actually tying back to your strategic goals, and you need to have a strategy in place to know what those goals are. Defining your purpose and intent is key to mining the right data, the info you need to maximise and achieve best results in the digital landscape. And there’s so much data, opportunities are weaved all throughout the millions of posts, tweets and updates sent out every second, every minute of every day. But it’ll mean nothing to you if you don’t know what metrics are important. It’s worth taking a step back to work out what your business needs before you wade into the data flood – because without planning, you might just get swept up in the currents.


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