Businesses Understand Value of Social Data But Few Know How to Use It

A recent Harris Poll of 750 businesses conducted on behalf of Hootsuite found that while 86 percent of organizations agree that analyzing social media data is important, only 41 percent agree that their companies fully capitalize on that data.

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Businesses that are used to structured data, like customer polls and focus groups, are often simply overwhelmed by the volume of real-time social media analytics and often fail to develop an effective strategy for responding to real-time customer feedback across social, from resolving customer complaints to engaging client audiences, according to Jeanette Gibson, vice president of community and customer experience at Hootsuite.

“Now with social, there’s all this real-time conversation where some clients get 100,000 mentions in a month. Large brands like Starbucks have millions,” says Gibson. “One challenge is managing the volume, and then the other challenge is how to take that and then say, ‘What processes do I have in place at my company to direct that to engineering or development?'”

It’s not just the volume of data that companies find overwhelming; it’s also the increasing need to use and coordinate social media across all departments in a company. The survey found that 72 percent of respondents saw the number of departments using social media growing, but aligning a cohesive social media strategy across departments remains a challenge. Only 30 percent of businesses felt confident that their social media strategy was aligned across various departments. Many cited company executives as a road block to developing a cohesive social strategy, with 43 percent listing creating social media strategy buy-in among executives as a challenge.

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Demand for unified social strategy across departments is creating demand for more versatile social media managers. “Because of all the customer data,” says Gibson, “the person that is managing social strategy has to become an internal champion across multiple departments, so now the responsibilities of the social manger have to be upleveled, and [social strategists] have to be kind of a change agent.”

This new breed of social media specialist must be able to not only put strategies in place for communicating with customers but must also be able to align departments in a unified social front, and most of all, sell executives on the importance of social media to every level of a company.

As companies begin to see the potential value of social media, Gibson encourages businesses to look beyond brand campaigns designed to draw in new customers and use social platforms for retaining existing customers. “It costs 80 percent less to retain a customer than to acquire a new one,” says Gibson. “It’s not social media just for a campaign or contest. It’s about building long-term relationships. Understanding how to leverage data is key to being successful doing that.”

You can view the full report here.

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