Social media is the most valuable tool for audience insight and information that we’ve ever had access to in our history. Yet for most, those insights are difficult to uncover.
Sure, we all know that there are billions of tweets and posts and Pins being uploaded every moment of every day, but there’s so much there it largely doesn’t mean anything when viewed in a wider sense. In part, this is because we don’t yet fully understand how to harness this information flood — the vast majority of the world’s data has been created in the last two years, masses of audience-generated content that we’ve simply never had access to at any time before.
A big part of our inability to convert this into actionable insight is that we’re just not able to get our heads around what it all means and what might be possible, and as a result, we default back to what we know and trust.
But this is a major mistake.
The new world is ever-connected, consumers have more access to more information, more of the time. As technology advances, and habits evolve, expectations also increase in-step. Right now, the general expectation is that a business will respond to a query via tweet within an hour of a person posting. That’s not random, that expectation didn’t just crop up through some misguided sense of entitlement — that expectation exists because businesses, more and more, are meeting that level of service. And as more do, the pressure increases for others to follow in-step – failure to meet consumer expectations is failure, straight up. That’s all there is to it.
Paying attention to where and how people are interacting, and using that information to improve your process, is crucial, and there are a heap of ways to rationalise and utilise social platforms and tools for just this purpose —- you just need to know where to look.
To help with this, here are five tools that I use and recommend to help make sense of the fast-moving social media stream and find the signals amidst the noise.
For a long time, I felt like Nuzzel was my secret weapon, in the sense that no one seemed to be talking about it. Nowadays, there’s more chatter about Nuzzel, with some even suggesting it’s the future of Twitter and an app that Twitter should consider buying to expand the platform’s utility. And I don’t disagree.
Nuzzel helps you get more from your Twitter feed — and not only your own feed, but others too. What Nuzzel does, in its most basic sense, is it detects the most popular content shared among your Twitter followers and highlights it. It’s pretty simple – Nuzzel detects the URLs being most shared among your Twitter community and shows you what’s being most shared and discussed. If you’ve spent time refining and cultivating a focussed Twitter community, Nuzzel provides an immediate feed of the biggest topics and stories of relevance to your audience.
Pretty great right?
Not only that, you can also check the Nuzzel feeds of other Twitter users just by searching for their Twitter handle. I regularly check the feeds of Jay Baer, Marc Andreessen, and Robert Scoble to see what’s being discussed amongst their communities of influential and industry-focussed users.
It’s a great tool and really, you need to check it out for yourself — it’s free and definitely worth your time.
Automation is a touchy subject in social media circles, and rightfully so. While some level of automation is highly beneficial (particularly in the case of content scheduling), there are some that take it too far. I share the opinion of Gary Vaynerchuk on this one – automation is wrong when it’s replacing something that could, and should, be done by a human.
“If you're trying to "trick" someone into thinking they're interacting with another human, that’s where things get awkward.”
Automated DMs on Twitter fall into this category for me. Automated responses directing someone to your latest ebook or whatever else. These types of interactions where there’s an implication that we’re actually communicating with each other, when we’re actually not, those are the ones that turn people off.
But automation can save you a heap of time, and there are a heap of things you’re likely not even aware you can do via automation in this regard.
Like what, you ask? How about posting your Instagram photos to Twitter as embedded photos, not links? How about tracking prices on eBay or getting an update when Amazon adds free Kindle books? These are just a few examples of the ridiculous array of automation possibilities available via the app ‘If This, Then That’ - or IFTTT for short.
The process for using IFTTT is exactly as it sounds — it’s an interconnecting app that can translate multiple inputs into an actionable ‘recipe’ to make things happen, i.e. if you do ‘this’ in one app or platform, then it will do ‘that’ in another.
IFTTT connects with more than 240 different services and there’s a raft of pre-made recipes available — you can even make it e-mail you a GIF of Colin Farrell looking really disappointed, triggered if you take a selfie (yes, this is really a thing).
Don’t... just don’t tell me you haven’t heard of or used BuzzSumo. Just don’t. It’s too good, it’s probably the app I use most regularly and have found myself using more and more over time.
BuzzSumo is, in essence, a content discovery tool — you enter in any keyword/s and hit search and BuzzSumo will return a list of the most shared content relating to that search term — for example, ‘fish and chips’.
And that’s pretty good, but over time, BuzzSumo has evolved into so much more.
For instance, not only can you search for the most shared content, but you can also filter those results down to specific languages and regions, enabling you to find the most discussed content in your area around your chosen topic/s. You can filter the list by content type to find the most popular infographic or giveaway in that niche. You can look at who, specifically, has shared each article in order to identify influencers and amplifiers who’ve helped expand the reach of each post.
But wait, there’s even more. No, not steak knives, but there’s also a ‘Trending Content’ element in BuzzSumo that tracks the most popular content related to your chosen keywords in real-time to help you stay on top of trends. There’s a website comparison tool that stacks site content performance side-by-side, along with performance by day, there’s a Facebook Page analysis tool that shows you the most shared and engaged with content on any Facebook Page.
If you’re looking to do any competitive content research, or even if you’re just trying to find the best content sources and people to follow, BuzzSumo is the tool to use.
Klear is an emerging social media analysis tool that more people should be talking about. Formerly called Twtrland, signifying its focus on Twitter content, Klear re-branded in mid-2015, putting more effort into becoming an all-in-one social media analytics solution. And Klear provides some great insights, presented in an eye catching and easy to navigate format.
And while insights like this about your own presence are great, where Klear really comes in handy is that you can get the same insights on any profile — you just enter the relevant Twitter handle or name into the search field and Klear will give you their stats on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram; how many times a day they post, how many Likes per post they get, how many comments per photo.
This is a great way to get a real sense of social media performance and identify relevant benchmarks and activity comparisons. If you want to know whether someone’s worth a follow, this data can help. At the same time, if you’re not sure someone’s social media following is 100% legit, the engagement and response data will show whether they’re actually as influential as they might seem.
One of the greatest benefits of Twitter is that it’s (virtually) all publicly accessible. There are more than 350,000 tweets sent every minute, adding to the mass of consumer data and insights that flows through the Twitter network 24/7. If you want to get an immediate sense of what’s happening — anytime — Twitter’s the place to go. But it can be hard to understand, particularly for non-users.
One of the best tools for analysing the ins and outs of a specific Twitter profile is Followerwonk. Created by the team at Moz, Followerwonk will analyse any Twitter profile and provide a range of in-depth stats, including when that profile’s followers are most active online, the most common words used in the bios of their Twitter audience, and the geographic locations of their follower base.
This data can be significantly beneficial when trying to identify relevant influencers, working out best times to post to reach your audience and where to focus your blogging and outreach efforts to maximise performance. For instance, as you can see from the chart above, the majority of my followers are in the US — if I wanted to reach the highest number of people, I’d be better off tweeting at optimal US times, rather than Australian.
In a competitive insights sense, this is great info and can help you get a better understanding of where and how others in your industry have built their followings and where they’re seeing response.
And it’s definitely worth paying attention to Twitter data — scientists can use it to predict earthquakes and financial analysts use it to predict the stock market. There’s a good chance there’s some major value in those tweet streams for your business, if you go looking in the right place.
These are some of the tools I use to rationalise my social media streams and locate the signals amidst the noise of social networks. There’s a heap of others, a wide range of apps and analytical programs that measure all types of different elements, and all of them have strengths and can be used to great effect, if you know what you’re looking for.
And this is the key element — tools and apps are all helpful, but you have to understand what it is you want to know before you go looking.
If you know, for instance, that you want to get more insight into what your customers are thinking before they go looking for your products, you can use social analytics for that. If you want to know the key terms, hashtags and even emojis people are using when discussing your business or industry, you can do that. But if you come to analytics with no aim in mind, it’ll be hard to uncover any meaningful insight – you can’t expect an answer without a providing a relevant question.
Social is a great data source, for almost anything, but you need to think through what you want to know, what information would be of most benefit to your planning and business. Once you have an idea on that front, social data can provide great insight and help steer your planning towards your ultimate goal.