Research Report: A Framework for Social Analytics

Wherever I go, the question I hear most often is this: “What is the ROI of social media?” Even though most companies we’ve surveyed have a brand monitoring solution in place, few have yet to crack the measurement code. It remains one of the most stubborn challenges for the social business.

During the past several months, I’ve spoken with nearly forty industry experts, including brands, agencies and vendors, to learn about their approaches to monitoring and measuring social media. It is a snapshot of a moment in time; one in which the market is fragmented, messy and chaotic.

Listening and analytics tools have begun to converge, while engagement and content management tools (social media management systems, about which Jeremiah Owyang has written) remain largely separate. It’s a symptom of the immaturity of this market that the tools we need to listen and measure are separate from the tools we need to publish and engage, but there you are. Social analytics is still largely aspirational.

This report is intended to offer a framework and set of use cases that demonstrate how social media is being used in business today. It includes examples, caveats and pragmatic recommendations to help you plan, execute and evaluate your own social measurement program. Here is the main framework, the “Social Media Measurement Compass,” which lays out six use cases for social media (and therefore measurement):

Over the next several months, I will be updating this research and diving deeper into the use cases to paint a more detailed picture of social media measurement as it evolves. The focus, as it is in this report, will be on listening, insights, measurement and, most importantly, action.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the many companies and individuals who contributed their time and insights to this report, as well as to everyone at Altimeter who provided guidance and data throughout.  I’d also like to thank Andy Nguyen and Christine Tran, who produced the final document. Our intention with all our research is to be open and transparent, so please check our disclosures page for the most recent list of Altimeter Group clients.

I was recently invited to share my independent findings in webinars sponsored by Coremetrics and Visible Technologies, both Altimeter clients.

Related Resources

I look forward to your comments, ideas and questions and will cross-link to anyone who posts about the report here.  If you’d like to cite the graphics, please see this Flickr set. The Creative Commons license is Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States.

If you’ve posted about the report and I’ve missed it, please let me know.

Framework for Social Analytics

View more documents from Susan Etlinger

About susanetlinger

Industry Analyst at Altimeter Group
This entry was posted in Research, Social Analytics, Social media, Social media measurement. Bookmark the permalink.

63 Responses to Research Report: A Framework for Social Analytics

  1. Thanks Susan, for the opportunity to share EMC’s story. It’s been quite the journey… and one I’m excited to be on!

    • Thank you, Keith! I’m thinking I’d like to write up our interview and publish here; maybe we can make that work? I think people will be interested to hear more about your role as Chief Listener at EMC.

  2. Susan, thank you for producing such a comprehensive report on the state of this high growth, fragmented market. Every day we see companies doing an ever better job of linking the critical steps of listening, to analysis, to engagement, followed by even deeper analysis, for the purposes of creating an enterprise ready approach to social media that clearly delivers better (measurably improved) business outcomes. We look forward to your future report updates.

  3. Very interesting. As a market research firm, we continue to dive into how to measure and assess social media impact for our clients.

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  7. Susan,

    This is one of the best analysis of social media analytics I have read in some time. I especially liked where you stressed the importance of tying social media metrics to business goals. I think we are just at the beginning of feeling the full impact of social media on business (12% of the population in on Facebook, 8-9% is on Twitter), as more consumers begin to adopt social media the pace of change and the amount of data produced will only accelerate.

    Thanks for thought-provoking post and I’m sure I’ll be rereading the presentation a few times!

    -Jennifer @collectual

  8. Stephanie says:

    Susan,

    Great report! It is good to see that you and Altimeter Group are thinking along the same lines as we do in our organisation. I had one additional thought about the strategy you offer: The insights a company gets by measuring their various KPIS should be the base for adjusting the recommended actions and potentially even the business goals (if something just cannot be achieved). Companies should be prepared from the start to adjust their initiatives based on what they learn through metrics. We often find that our clients think of Social Media as a one-off plan, not the “eternal beta” it actually is, and making this point clearly has proven very helpful!

    Stephanie

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  14. Susan and the Altimeter team – thank you for your hard work on this report. I just finished reading and I think it’s a very good overview on the state of the industry, with some guidance for the future. At Crowdbooster we stay very close to our customers, and I hope to be able to share our understanding of this market with you when you become available.

    In your report, you mentioned that the notion of “social media” will become an artifact of this transition period because it will become integral to every part of the organization, and we will get more adept at translating the large amounts of data into actionable steps in whatever business function we are responsible for. My question is, will “social media” really go away? To effectively achieve many of the business objectives, we would still need to understand how to manage the channels. What are the effective messages, the right times to engage, people to talk to, etc. More and more people will be responsible for managing the day-to-day social media and act as a data interpreter to the rest of the organization, even if everyone in the org ends up with a social radio. What are your thoughts?

    Thank you once again!

    – Ricky Yean (@rickyyean)
    CEO, Crowdbooster (@Crowdbooster)

  15. Susan,
    Thank you for a very insightful report! A good balance between analytical and practical.
    It is something we will use quite a bit internally as well with clients.

    jorn :)

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  17. Rayna says:

    Susan, I’m new to your blog but glad I discovered it. What a report you’ve ‘birthed’ here. Thank you for sharing such comprehensive analysis. I was curious if you began to see trends emerge among the various brand categories (i.e., tech, automotive, service providers, financial, etc) as it applies to their success in organization and measurement? As a marketer for a multi-channel cpg brand I am always curious about social methodology adopted by other CPG brands but gleen valuable learnings in all industries.

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  19. Great write up. Thanks for the effort. We have been exploring the relationship between social metrics and sales/share since 2006. For example here is an example from the luxury car category. http://www.motivequest.com/blog/index.php/social-media-roi-advocacy-for-bmw/

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  29. gschirr says:

    Great report!

    It will be required reading in my new class on social media marketing (www.facebook.com/SMM4RU). Thanks for the great content!

    – Gary

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  40. Mike Wise says:

    Thanks for doing this, Susan. Good to get an introduction to you, albeit virtually. Looking forward to your writing and sharing. The B2B and B2C Social Scape desperately needs this information and your insights. Keep sharing. Thanks much. @MikeWise07

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  42. juergwyss says:

    Finally somebody who understands that Analytics is not about Klout ranking, Top 10 followed pages, Top 10 Tweeters, it’s about measuring business outcome.
    What always disappoints me is the fact that most “strategy experts” are talking about a social media strategy and campaigns without linking it to any business strategy or business target. Reading your article let me hope that this may change over time.

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  60. Very interesting and helpful but i can’t find the cases. If anyone can send me more cases i will be more than grateful

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