Social Media Analytics For Global Brands

In some ways, the issues facing global brands in relation to social media analytics are no different to those of smaller, domestically focused organisations.

No matter which regions you are targeting, the evidence is growing that social media everywhere is more a consumption medium rather than an engagement one.  Take Twitter as an example.  Even if a brand has a large number of followers, there are all manner of reasons why that simple follower count should not be used as a proxy for genuine reach.

Many of those followers may be fakes.  Even if there are real people attached to those accounts, how many of them will even see the content you post?  And even if they do, how have they discovered that content?  Was it because they stumbled across it in their feed?  Or were they actively seeking to validate your claim from elsewhere (such as a TV campaign)?  With global brands, many of these factors are further complicated by language, time zone, brand and country specific social properties, and so on.

One of the key challenges for global brands is determining the actual reach of their respective social media assets.  And to what extent this should drive the localisation and adaption of social media content.

In the absence of hard data direct from the social platforms themselves, marketers have traditionally been forced to rely upon proxy social data.  Totalling up the follower numbers of Twitter accounts who share your content provides a “potential impression” number.  If you’ve based your sales and marketing calculations on impressions and frequency numbers, would 20 million ‘potential’ Twitter exposures really generate the kind of genuine brand visibility needed to translate into meaningful sales and profit figures?

What if you could see how many people really did have the opportunity to be exposed to your content via social.  And what if you could use this data in combination with insight into what roles social media really does play in an audience decision journey.  As it happens, developments among some of the big social media platforms to deliver better data and insight to advertisers has had the knock on effect of making more robust impression data available.

One of the most significant developments in social media analytics over the last 12 months has been the amount of real data being provided by social network platforms themselves.  Twitter led the way last summer when it opened up its analytics data to give more genuine insight into what Twitter users actually saw and reacted to.

For example, in July 2014, Twitter rolled out its analytics platform to all Twitter users.  One of the key pieces of data revealed via the dashboard is a real “impressions” figure.  In other words – how many people really had an opportunity to see and engage with your content.  Twitter is looking at which Tweets really did appear on a screen or mobile device, that a real human being actually had a chance of seeing in the first place.

The reality is quite sobering.

On average, each Tweet will be seen by roughly 3-5% of your follower base. That’s a significantly smaller number than “potential impressions” gained by simply taking follower counts as a proxy for reach.

What Are The Implications For Global Brands?

It seems obvious that if you’ve been planning and measuring success in social media around broad metrics such as potential impressions, then you need to revise what those numbers are really telling you – as well as reconsider what data you should be using to determine the make up of your marketing mix, in relation to the audience decision journey.

And there are further complications for global brands.  Even allowing for the fact that a more accurate reach figure can be determined, it still won’t provide “reliable” reach.  At least, not in terms of the traditional definition.

Even if you are confident you have reached 3pc of your Facebook fans with a single post, you can never be sure that the same people are being reached each time.  And although this is a problem for any brand, it is a further challenge for global brands that need to understand the impact of global social media assets at a regional or local level.

Understanding Social Sentiment Across Language And Culture

If that weren’t a big enough challenge, then global brands face further issues with understanding social media sentiment across geographic and cultural boundaries.  The use of sentiment analysis in relation to social media has continued to grow apace.  With the gargantuan quantities of social data being generated, brands have to largely rely upon automated techniques to assess audience sentiment.

In many ways, social media can provide the best market research platform available.  However, the general issues surrounding social media sentiment analysis are compounded for global brands. Automated sentiment technologies often have a tough time with context and irony.  This is bad enough when only dealing with English.  But when multiple languages are thrown into the mix, then the issues are compounded.

Trying to screen for how representative a social platform is in relation to the demographics of a specific country and allowing for interpreting sentiment from machine translated content is no easy task.

What Can Be Done?

It isn’t all doom and gloom for global brands when it comes to social media analytics.  As mentioned, the social platforms themselves are continuing to provide more accurate data, much of which provides more detailed insight into audience behaviour on a country by country basis.  Automated sentiment analysis tools also continue to improve. The key for global brands is to acknowledge the complexity of the audience decision journey , not least the fact that this will vary from sector to sector and country to country.

More research and effort up front to determine what those decision paths actually are should help shape the right analytics tools and metrics to use in a specific context.

And although the data revealed by the platforms themselves may not immediately appear to be delivering good news in terms of large reach and engagement numbers, those brands that face up to the complexities and nuances of multi-country, multi-language social media are far better placed to gain genuine insight, than those that don’t.  And by default, they are more likely to succeed.