A nagging question in the mind of communications professionals these days is “What’s the best way to tackle social media analysis?”
In short, it depends.
There isn’t one universal solution for taking advantage of the vast treasure trove of information about your company or organization on social media channels.
Like so many things in life, getting informative social media data isn’t easy. When launching an analytics program, here are three points to consider:
Are people talking about you?
“Nobody is talking about us,” is the No. 1 reason companies don’t start a social media analysis program. If your audience isn’t talking about you, what are they talking about? What makes them tick? Learning everything you can about your audience will help you connect with them both on and offline.
For example, a paper company with low brand recognition may not have much buzz on social media channels. In that scenario, it should consider looking for people mentioning the things their customers use paper for (writing letters, art projects, paper airplanes) or problems they are having with paper (paper cuts, printer paper jams). Information gleaned from this content may hold immense value for how the company markets its product and may have insights for perfecting its business processes.
Do key staff members and stakeholders support the need to start a social media analysis program?
Mining social media for valuable insights and data can be great for understanding your audience and improving how you do business, but you can’t do it without getting input from other business areas. First and foremost, you’ll need to understand the needs of your colleagues — what information do they wish they had? Beyond that, your social media data won’t be useful until you can sync it up with data from other departments. This will enable you formulate smart metrics to help gauge the success of your organization’s efforts.
If you work for a nonprofit, you may be able to easily track mentions of your issue as a gauge of overall awareness, but it will be difficult to provide actionable analysis without more information from your colleagues. Did a spike correspond with an unusually high number of interactions with potential donors?
In other words, unless you know why something happened, why your colleagues should care and how to best present them with your information in a compelling way, you likely won’t have much support to continue your social media analysis work.
Do you have the time and resources to commit to making sense of the data you collect?
Monitoring social media channels for valuable information does not have to make a big dent in your budget. It does, however, take time. Creating smart tools and dashboards to collect data and monitor conversations is a great first step to harnessing social media to your advantage. Identifying how you plan to staff your measurement program is vital to ensuring that you can sustain it, and that it can provide you with real value.
Those are just a few questions to before you start a social media analysis program. There are of course many more.
What is holding you back from starting a program for your organization?
Mackenzie Eaglen, the well-respected defense analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, recently expressed concern to The Hill newspaper that defense companies aren’t making a bigger push with Members of Congress to protect their products and services from potential cuts under sequestration. Eaglen stated, “The groundwork has to be laid now for any decisions made and votes taken in a lame-duck session.”
She’s right. After the President announced his budget recommendations in February I was amazed that many defense contractors whose programs were not on the list took a passive “wait-and-see” attitude to Congressional action on defense spending. They failed to recognize that competition for limited funding increases the likelihood that Congress may have its own plans for how money is allocated. The recent resurrection of Global Hawk by the House Armed Services Committee is an example.
Defense contractors should be working to educate Members of Congress of the value of their products and services. Here are some cost-effective ways to do this:
Illustrate Value through Real Life Examples: Monitor the media to collect news stories, photographs and third-party observations that illustrate the value of the product or service. Send these directly to key Members of Congress and staff. Create or use existing Facebook fan page or websites to promote the stories.
Create Compelling Shareable Content: Develop short compelling videos or infographics that explain the benefits of a program and that can be easily shared and used by supplier partners, Members of Congress, and your customer through social media platforms.
Engage the Media: Implement a coordinated and sustained campaign to explain the benefits of the program to defense, Congressional and regional media. The strategic, tactical, political and economic benefits messages of the program and the consequences of its eliminations should be developed for each set of media based on their interests.
Support the Customer: While an industry’s military customer can make the case for the benefits of the program to the warfighter, they are often limited to contact with Members with specific oversight authority. Companies can provide support by using multiple communications and media channels to explain to a wide group of influential Members of Congress the technological, strategic and tactical advantages of the products and services.
Active Grassroots: Remind Members of Congress that the economic benefits of the program reach far beyond the manufacturing plant. Manufacturing and supply partners around the country who contribute parts and services to the program may be detrimentally impacted by its elimination. Activate – through channels locally and in Washington – those manufacturing and supply partners to educate their Members of Congress on the importance of the program to the economy of their district.
Greg McCarthy served as communications advisor to U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Appropriations Committees. He leads Powell Tate’s Defense and Military Affairs practice in Washington, and oversees the agency’s work with some of the nation’s top prime contractors and suppliers. Follow defense industry news from Powell Tate on Twitter: @ptdefense
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