Why your social media monitoring needs the human touch

January 21, 2011

As brands have discovered, with social media there is nowhere to hide. Whether opinions are positive or negative, your brand is now fair game for everybody to talk about it. Social media monitoring has given businesses the ability to identify everything that’s being said online about their brand, products or services in real time. This knowledge is invaluable to marketers looking for a clear picture of how your brand is perceived.

Social media monitoring, then, has transformed marketers’ understanding of their customers. However, while it’s obvious monitoring is an invaluable part of an effective social media strategy, the question is, how much can these tools actually tell you and how much is left to human analysis?

The answer is that it takes both. Social media monitoring tools gather information through spidering and indexing the conversations that are occurring on social media platforms, providing a wealth of data on what is being said about your brand. However, without the insight provided by human analysis this data could prove worthless.

That’s because truly effective social media monitoring isn’t just about listening – it is about using this information so that you are in the ideal position to effectively engage with customers, develop insights that will shape current and future campaigns and manage any crises that occur, quickly and efficiently. Only expert human analysis can provide the solutions to these challenges.

That’s not to say that there are not excellent free to use and paid for social media monitoring tools on the market. SM2, Radian6 and Sysomos are the industry leaders and offer the most accurate and comprehensive results. However, while these are all high-quality tools and are essential in providing vital information about your brand, the bottom line is that none of them are even 90% reliable.

One of the central points of discussion when it comes to monitoring is over sentiment. Many have questioned whether there is a tool on the market that can accurately put messages into context, understand sarcasm, irony and slang or give a completely true picture of the conversations people are having.

Making the most of monitoring

This means in order to gain an accurate picture of the industry landscape for your brand you must use a range of these tools – as well as the best free to use tools such as Google. However, even with all this in place it is not precise enough to trust without human analysis.

That is why at agency:2 we have developed our own methodology, one which relies on both human analysis and best of breed monitoring tools, in order to gain the most precise and relevant results. At the beginning of every social media monitoring campaign we use our expertise to make decisions on what channels to monitor and which search strings will provide our clients with the most valuable information.

We then use monitoring tools to collect the statistical data and hand this to our analysts for human tagging, interpreting and uncovering the unique insights that provide the real value that brands are looking for. It takes time and effort to sift through the data and interpret the findings. However, the unique benefit gained at the end of this complex process make it more than worthwhile. It allows us to understand where conversations are taking place (and, equally as importantly, where conversations are absent), prioritise the urgency of issues raised and devise a relevant strategy.

Social media monitoring tools are fantastic for collecting information. However, they only do half the job and the information they provide won’t count for much unless it’s in the right hands. It takes specialist intelligence to make sense of this data and know exactly what to do with it. It is the combination of data, technology and analysis which will ultimately maximise the effectiveness of your social monitoring.


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