Social Media Analytics Powers the Whole Organization

I was invited by SAS Analytics to the SAS Global Forum in Seattle last week: I led a social media roundtable with apparel retailer, The Wet Seal, and Seattle’s-own Starbucks. Yes, Starbucks coffee was served in this relaxed, interview-style session. In addition to two great panelists, I also got a preview of the new SAS social analytics toolset. Keep reading for more about all three, plus a surprise. (Disclosure: SAS invited me to its SAS Global Forum event as its guest and as a speaker; SAS paid for my airfare and direct hotel expenses.)

The hour-long social media roundtable kicked off with a few minutes spent talking about social media marketing proper. We hit the start-up issues, selection of organizational champions, and so on – all of the things you’d expect as a part of a social media discussion. Within about five minutes, however, we expanded the scope beyond marketing and dove into the emerging discipline of social CRM (define). With audience participation built in from the start – and with social CRM thought-leaders like Esteban Kolsky and Paul Greenberg in the audience, the session took off.

The shift from social media marketing to social business was deliberate on my part: the SGF conference was focused on business analytics, and the social Web is seeing a bloom in both the types and applications of analytics. Beyond dashboards and the display of unstructured data in ever-prettier ways, the tools emerging now are more deeply connected to the business itself. That’s a great step forward.

My own personal focus has always been deeper in the organization: in past columns I’ve started with the purchase funnel and the social Web feedback cycle and then shown how operations – and not just marketing – drive that feedback. Simply put, social media isn’t about the creation of more messages: it’s about the creation of experiences that drive them.

Social Analytics: Tools Evolve

The roundtable discussions covered the importance of involving the entire organization in the social media program. Many efforts start in marketing, but to really get “social” right means moving across the business, across the silos, and connecting efforts at the employee level. Social technologies available to both businesses and customers facilitate cross-functional work-teams: platforms like Lotus Notes and Lotus Connections, Socialtext and Microsoft’s Outlook and SharePoint, along with Jive Software’s enterprise collaboration platforms, Lithium’s support and social CRM tools, and a dozen more have enabled social behaviors internally, driven now by increasingly advanced analytics tools.

On this note, SAS unveiled its social analytics tool set. Announced in a press conference with Katie Paine, the listening platform has an out-of-box social media and Web analytics integration, and a sentiment accuracy of better than 90 percent. Here’s why this matters: as the social Web continues to unfold, and as businesses along with non-profits and service organizations increasingly adopt social technologies, sentiment and related conversational analysis is going to have to scale in a big way. Human inspection can always improve the classification of specific posts but brings along with it a whole set of issues, ranging from costs to the complexities of outsourcing. So, being able to get +90 percent of the daily 10,000 to 100,000 posts that a big brand can find itself swimming through in real time, without intervention, is critical. This is where a heavy stats capability and analytics can really pay off.

Wet Seal: In the Know

Back on the panel discussion, Wet Seal (representing the retailer was CIO Jon Kubo) talked about “The Outfitter” as a part of its online social tool set. On the surface, it’s an “outfit configurator,” performing the expected functions as it helps site visitors to mix, match, and plan wardrobes. But as noted, that’s just how it appears on the surface.

Under the hood, Wet Seal’s “Outfitter” is a business engine. Wet Seal operates in the “fast fashion” segment, so keeping up with tastes is critical for business success from both sales and expense points-of-view. The Outfitter taps the changing fashion tastes of Wet Seal’s customers, in much the same way as Coca-Cola Freestyle allows thirsty people to create their own personal soda blends, helping Coke spot flavor trends before they’ve even happened.

Starbucks: Customer-Driven Innovation

Over at Starbucks, customers have been busy using the Salesforce.com-based “My Starbucks Idea.” In the two years since implementation, some 80,000 ideas have been submitted, and over 200 direct innovations have resulted. Now 200 out of 80,000 may not seem like a lot, but that’s the wrong way to measure it: based on direct customer input, Starbucks has been averaging two innovations introduced per week for the past two years. Take a look at SBUX stock price performance over the past 24 months and compare it with the Dow, Nasdaq, and Tim Hortons. Customer-driven innovation evidently pays off.

Managing Your Social Reputation: It’s a Small World

Now for that surprise I promised: in what is now my ultimate small-world connection, I discovered that Katie Paine and I both lived in the same small town – Durham, NH at the same time. As you think through your social program implementation, think about your own standards for social conduct. It’s a small world, and the reputation you build online will travel fast. You just never know who that person standing next to you will grow up to be.

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