Altering a hashtag or adjusting the timing of a Facebook post may not sound like a big deal, but small changes like these can have a relatively large impact on a brand’s social media efforts. And social analytics—which comprised a 2.1 billion sized market in 2013, according to data aggregator Uniqloud-- are increasingly helping companies make these micro-decisions.
Golf Channel, for example, in April decided to change the hashtag it was using on Twitter during the Masters Tournament after its analytics tools made it clear that many more fans were following the conversation using an evergreen hashtag--#Masters—rather than a year-specific tag.
The sports cable network’s goal is to become a key part of the conversation among golf fans as they discuss golf’s most prestigious tournament, according to Carolina Castaneda, director of digital marketing.
“When people watch our coverage of the Masters they see the hashtag on the screen and start aggregating it,” she notes. With the help of analytics from Topsy, Golf Channel can follow how certain tags on Twitter are performing on any given day, hour or over a longer period.
The tool showed, for example, that on the first day of the Masters tournament—April 11, 2013—the tag #Masters rapidly gained traction, with as many as 247,000 mentions on Twitter, compared to only 19,000 mentions for #Masters2013.
“Not everyone is a marketer,” notes Castaneda, as to why more people were using the simpler hashtag. Based on that insight, Golf Channel decided quickly to use the #Masters hashtag in all its communications, abandoning the other one.
“Topsy gave us the insights we needed to adjust our Masters campaign,” says Castaneda. “We saw a big lift in activity when we switched that would maximize our reach & interaction with the mass audience. This inserts us into the conversation in a more organic way.”
Overall, Golf Channel this year doubled the number of page views, video views and app downloads driven by social media compared to the previous year, partly, Castaneda says, due to the ability to see what’s working and what isn’t, though she wouldn’t elaborate on the numbers.
“From our social lounge, where we aggregate social conversation around major golf tournaments, to hashtag strategies company-wide, we turn to Topsy to keep track of what our fans are organically mentioning, influencers, and then adjust our strategy accordingly,” she adds.
Golf Channel can also include sentiment on different athletes. “This could be used to drive decisions around which athletes to talk more about in a live broadcast or tweet about, or even longer term decisions about sponsorships,” says Jamie De Guerre, senior vice president, product & marketing at Topsy.
Social listening tools are also helping Cycle for Survival—a non-profit organization that raises money for rare, underfunded cancers—focus its efforts on the right audience, according to Katie Kotkins, director of Cycle For Survival (CFS).
The charity events, held at Equinox fitness studios in numerous cities, help to fund rare-cancer research efforts at Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Rather than having a large overhead and staff, the organization provides a platform where individuals can coordinate their own indoor cycling events, where teams of cyclists race to raise money. Social media provides the organization with an ideal, low-cost way of getting the word out.
“We are a very grass roots organization,” says Kotkins. “We spend a lot of time networking with participants, donors and supporters, and social media enables us to do that in a much broader way.”
Founded in 2007 by sarcoma patient Jennifer Goodman Linn and her husband Dave, the organization grew rapidly, last year raising $31.5 million to fund cancer research. It was also expanded last year to ten new cities. But with a lean staff, and only two people devoted to social media, it had to make sure its efforts on Facebook were getting the biggest potential impact. Social media monitoring tools from Salesforce’s Radian6 help them do that by alerting them to the importance of timing and demographics.
These tools showed CFS, for example, that women on Facebook between the ages of 30 to 40 were its most engaged users and that engagement levels were much higher in the evening. “Content was shared more and received additional traction after the work day,” says Kotkins. “We adjusted our social strategy to maximize that impact, timing our posts more frequently in the evening hours.”
She says analytics made the organization more aware of the importance of timing and relevancy in general. So when a couple close to the cause decided to ask friends and family to donate to Cycle for Survival in lieu of wedding gifts, CFS chose to post the announcement on the morning of the couple’s wedding day on its page for maximum impact. Facebook analytics showed over 5,000 people were reached. “With 8,000 followers total for the page, the post seems to have resonated with our predominately female Facebook audience,” says Kotkins.
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Mary Lisbeth D'Amico is a freelance writer based in Jersey City who frequently covers digital marketing, social media, tech startups, and venture capital. She has contributed to a wide range of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Red Herring, and Real Deals. Find her on Twitter at @mldamico.