What Social Analytics Can't Tell You

Vision Critical, a customer intelligence platform provider, collaborated with three global brands to develop the “What Social Media Analytics Can't Tell You" report. The company's findings identify significant gaps in the social media data many companies use to analyze customer behavior. The Big Data that companies collect and analyze from social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter has major blind spots that impact their ability to successfully engage, market to and serve customers.

“What Social Media Analytics Can't Tell You"
Three Vision Critical customers, a major motion picture studio, a renowned broadcasting company and a cross-category apparel brand, looked at their social media audiences by turning to their Vision Critical Insight Communities — representative communities of thousands of customers who provide ongoing feedback through online surveys and discussions. By combining social media data with customer intelligence, these companies and Vision Critical uncovered that just 30 percent of a company's social media audience is responsible for 90 percent of updates.

The findings also reveal that the majority of social media users are quiet, absorbing content others share without posting themselves. Companies have no visibility into the majority of their social media audience, even though this group is actively listening to them. Significantly, the behavior of customers who post frequently on social media differs in important ways from those who post less often. Users who frequently share on social media have different purchasing patterns, TV consumption and recommendation preferences than those who post less frequently. The report identifies how companies can fill in the gaps left by social media analytics and how they can cater more effectively to the majority of their customers in order to become truly customer-centric.

"The vast majority of what companies hear through their social media channels come from an unrepresentative portion of their customers," said report co-author Alexandra Samuel, vice president, social media at Vision Critical. “Most social media users are quiet, viewing content from friends, but not posting. Much of a company's social media audience is invisible, proving that social media analytics tools don't capture all social media activity, don't correctly mirror customer preferences and poorly represent the entire social media audience."

“In the age of the empowered customer, where people have more influence over a brand and the decisions it makes than the other way around, companies need a deep understanding of their customers," said report co-author Andrew Reid, president, founder and chief product officer at Vision Critical. “While social media analytics can provides part of that understanding, companies need to engage in a continuous, two-way dialogue with their customers in order to get the meaningful feedback and insight they need to make informed business decisions."

Data from top brands reveals 90 percent of social posts come from 30 percent of the social audience
The “What Social Media Analytics Can't Tell You" report classifies users into three types: “Lurkers," those who post once a week or less; “Dabblers," those who post two to four times a week; and “Enthusiasts," those posting five times a week or more. While 85 percent of social media updates come from enthusiasts, this group represents only 30 percent of a company's social media audience. Lurkers, accounting for a mere five percent of posts, represent the majority (52 percent) of a company's social media audience.

Because lurkers are quiet on social media, does not mean they're not listening. Nearly 70 percent of lurkers visit Facebook at least once a day, and 90 percent of dabblers are daily Facebook users. For companies, the findings illustrate that social analytics captures the behavior of only a small slice of their overall social media audience, and that lurkers are the largest untapped audience.

Report discovers differences in buying and consumption behavior between social media enthusiasts and lurkers
How customers behave on social media is a strong indicator of how they make purchases, watch TV and recommend to friends and family. Enthusiasts shop differently from the majority of social users. They are more eager to find a great buy and are more likely to use social media in the buying process. A quarter of enthusiasts shop for apparel in big-box stores, compared to only 14 percent of lurkers. Enthusiasts are also more likely to make both social media inspired purchases (41 percent) and apparel purchases (26 percent) in big box stores.

Enthusiasts also watch different TV shows and follow different topics on social. A major broadcasting company found that lurkers and enthusiasts have different preferences in programming. Lurkers enjoy documentary programs, while enthusiasts watch TV related to fashion and DIY. The two groups like different social media activities, as well. Enthusiasts prefer topics about cooking, dining and wine (42 percent), while only a few lurkers do (19 percent).

Even the most influential social media voices are less impactful when a company's entire social audience is considered. Social analytics tell companies what influencers share and post, but they do not show how those posts resonate with quieter users. Enthusiasts are more likely to share an opinion (79 percent) or provide a recommendation (88 percent). Lurkers, on the other hand, are less interested in influencing their friends and are also less dependent on their friends' opinion and input.
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