Understanding Social Conversation Data

Over the last couple of years, I have worked with a social media monitoring and online community management and market research companies and each one advocates the value of their access and ability to interpret social conversation data, however very few, if any can position themselves in the overall social conversation space.  In order to highlight the different layers of social conversations which offer organisations the opportunity to filter and mine social data with the goal of extracting consumer and market insights I have developed the social conversation sphere.

The social conversation sphere highlights 6 layers of online conversations which take place across all social channels including, websites, forums, blogs, social networks, public hosted communities and private communities:

All Online Social Conversations

The largest sphere contains all online social conversations on all subjects across all channels and provides access to the broadest levels of conversation.  This area can be used by an organisation to answer a broad question about their company, products, customers, and competitors, current and potential new markets.

For example an organisation may launch a new brand, product or website and after a period of time, they can carry out some broad analysis of conversations to find out customer and market perceptions based on the key themes which emerge from any and all conversation around a particular word or phrase.  They may find the key messages have got across successfully and the target customer group are using the product/service as intended or they could find that a different group is using the product in a different way.  All findings provide feedback and understanding for an organisation.

Social Media Monitoring tools can be used to filter conversations to narrow down the social data sets.  See below for how to select social media monitoring tools.

 Subject Ecosystem

The subject ecosystem contains all social data from all social channels filtered by a particular subject area, for example you may be interested in coffee, alcohol, fast food, travel or some other broad subject area.  This layer of social data is refined and narrowed down by key search terms which restrict the data set to one which is relevant to this key subject area.

This is where social media monitoring and filtering tools kick in and help you identify subject, segment and market social data sets.  See below for how to select social media monitoring tools.

Company/Product/Brand Ecosystem

The company, product, brand or service ecosystem contains all social data from all public social channels, both third party sites and earned ecosystems, which is filtered by a particular company, product, brand or service name.   This layer of social data is refined and narrowed down by key search terms relating to your company/brand/product or service, providing the opportunity to extract insight from relevant conversations.

This is where social media monitoring and filtering tools kick in and help you identify data sets relating to your company/brand/product or service.  See below for how to select social media monitoring tools.

 Earned Company/Product/Brand Ecosystem

An earned ecosystem is one where a company/product/brand or service has garnered public support/engagement across third party public social networks owned and managed by organisations and individuals not associated to the company/brand/product or service.  Conversations which take place on an earned ecosystem provide different types of insight to those on hosted or own public and private social networks, as many of these sites offer a level of anonymity and may have different guidelines and moderation services to those managed and hosted by a company.

An earned ecosystem property may be an industry publication or website, an independent blogger, a forum or social network run by a fan or customer, a competitor’s site or a comment on a news of blog item.

This is where social media monitoring and filtering tools kick in and help you identify data sets relating to your company/brand/product or service which take place within the earned ecosystem.  See below for how to select social media monitoring tools.

Hosted, Managed and Owned Ecosystem

As more and more current and potential customers use online resources as a means to research companies, brands, products, services and individuals, there are more and more social channels to access both independent information and also platforms for more direct access to a company, brand, product, service or an individual.  Companies can and do monitoring conversations across all channels, but may not respond across each and every one, but use their own platforms both on public social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and also public hosted customer communities on their own websites like Dell’s ideastorm.com, Starbucks, mystarbucksidea.com and skys help forum.

This ecosystem provides the opportunity for a company, brand, brand, product, service or individual to have the opportunity to invest more time and resources into facilitating conversations between and with existing and future customers; provide a platform to extract ideas about new products and enhancements to existing products and services and opportunity to reflect back to the community about the actions taken based on feedback in these communities.

This provides a deeper level of insight and provides a test bed for product development ideas, market and campaign messages.  There are a number of companies who provide hosted online communities and forums, these include:

Lithium, buddymedia, pluck/demandmedia, liveworld, salesforce,

Private Online Customer Communities

At the heart of the social conversation sphere is private online customer communities, which provide a platform to create in depth on-going conversations with a small group of engaged customers over an extended period of time, this may be anything from a few months around a particular project or over a number of years.  These communities bring together customers who are happy to participate in a range of market research activities, the output from which is fed back into an organisations market research, insight and new product development teams, influencing business, marketing and new product development decisions, de-risking innovation and accelerating the success of new product launches.

There are a number of companies who provide Private Online Customer Communities, these include:

Communispace, Vision Critical, Promise Communities, Insites Consulting, Brainjuicer, Facegroup,

Social Media Monitoring Tools

There are a range of Social Media Monitoring Tools and service providers, each of which has its own strengths and weaknesses, some being more suitable for some work than others, a selection of providers include:

Radian6, SDL/SM2, sysomos, neilsen buzzmetrics, visible technologies,

The paper below provides an overview od the key features and functionality of social media monitoring tools and guidance on areas to think about when selecting them.

    Selecting Social Media Monitoring Tools

    As many organisations embark on  social Listening and Insight projects, there are a number of areas to consider when selecting a social media monitoring tool and insight partners.

    • What is the business goal for the listening project?
    • What insight does the tool need to deliver to support the business goal?
    • What are the core areas of a Social Media Monitoring Tool which need to be considered?

    Understanding each of these areas provides the basis for the tool selection and insight partner process.

    Business Goals for Social Listening Projects.
    Social Listening and Insight projects have delivered business benefits across different teams within organisation, these include

    • on-going listening projects which monitor current
      conversations around companies, products, brands and their competitors
    • Individual insight projects which interrogate
      historical social data and current conversations which have identified

      • key influencers for key subjects
      • campaign messaging for online word of mouth campaigns
      • themes, topics and tone for website content strategies

    Through these projects, Insight, Innovation, Online Strategy, Content Strategist, New Product Development and PR teams have all delivered value to the business through social listening and insight projects.

    What insight does the tool need to Deliver?
    Social Tools support 2 forms of social listening, which provide reports and insight back to different teams across the business and can answer

    • on-going listening and monitoring, where individuals
      and in some companies, listening teams, listen for conversations about companies,
      products, brands, competitors and feed this information back to different areas
      within their business which include

      • PR
      • Customer service
      • Innovation
      • Marketing
      • Risk & compliance
      • Technical support
      • Individual retail stores/locations
      • individual social insight projects, which look to answer specific business
        • who are the key people talking about my business
        • what are the key subject areas my target customers are talking about
        • can I align my campaigns with key subject areas
        • what is the reach of an online campaign
        • other customer research and insight questions


    What are the core areas of Social Media Monitoring Tools which need to
    be considered during the selection process?

    There is a wide range of social tools currently available in the market whose core function is to track, monitor and collect social data, which can be used by the different teams within an organisation.

    Social Media Monitoring tools have 3 core functions

    • Collection of Social Data
    • Index and Store Social Data
    • Dashboard to interrogate and report on social data collected.

    Collection of Social Data
    The data collected is the individual conversations and contributions to online public forums, online communities, comments on news sites and blog posts, social networks, like twitter, Facebook, Youtube and LinkedIn etc.  Each conversation identified has associated data which can also be collected relating to the individual contributor, which
    may include IP address, social network username and public profile information.

    Indexing and Storage or Social Data
    Each social media monitoring tool owns a social data warehouse; which is the social data they have collected and indexed for use by their dashboard and export to deliver reports and insights to clients.

    The social data is collected from a range of sources, which grows on a daily basis as the tools add more sources.  The availability of data relevant to your area of interest is an important aspect to consider when looking at tool vendors.  Areas to consider around data are:

    Volume of Social Data
    The size of the social data warehouse varies, between different social media monitoring tools and the historical data held varies from 1 week to 4 years, these are important areas to consider when evaluating a social media monitoring tools as is the ability to add in new social data sources for a specific country or industry.

    Geographic Spread
    Many Social Media Monitoring tools originated in the US, therefore the largest percentage of social data comes from US domestic websites, social networks, forums and blogs.  As the companies have moved into new international markets their volume of local market data has increased.  It is important to look at the volume of data from your local market and the ability of the tool to add in and develop the local market data set.

    Local Language
    SMM Tools have a growing volume of international language data sets, however the level of accuracy of the results depends on the international expertise within each vendor and their approach to indexing, storing, analysing and reporting on local languages.  It is important to run some local market tests for volume and relevance of local market social data.

    Social Media Monitoring Dashboard
    Each Social Media Monitoring Tool has a dashboard which has 4 main areas of functionality

    Setting up the search
    When evaluating tools it is important to look at the dashboard to establish how searches are setup, to understand what results are produced and how to filter and refine searches to narrow down the data set into one that can be used by the different teams within a business.

    Reporting on Findings
    Each SMM tool has a reporting dashboard which can be used to report on the findings of the searches carried out, be those on-going monitoring or deeper analysis of historical data sets.  It is important to look at the reporting capability of the dashboard and to understand what insight can be obtained from the data and how it can be reported to one or more areas of the business.

    Many SMM tools offer a workflow capability which enables the listening team to forward individual conversations to other individuals within the organisation for action or for integration to internal CRM systems.

    Data Export
    Data export is another feature which is available where selected data sets can be exported and used by other reporting tools and analytics tools.

    It is important to understand the key areas of Social Media Monitoring tools to ensure these are considered during the evaluation process.

    Social Media Monitoring can provide valuable insights to a business, which will help it understand more about their customers, help them find ways to engage and learn from them and gain a broader understanding of their position in the market.  It is therefore very important to understand the core strengths of each of the Social Media Monitoring Tools and evaluate them with your business goal in mind to ensure maximum value from using them within your business.

    It is very easy to buy SMM Tools, it is harder to demonstrate value to the business if you have not selected the best tool for the job.

    To get our whitepaper on selecting SMM tools or to find out more about how we can help you in the selecting and evaluating SMM tools, contact us on:

    Email:  Julie@purplespinnaker.com

    Call:  +44 7887 644 799