The State of Social Media Listening and Analytics: A NetBase LIVE 2018 Recap

By: Brandon Chesnutt

I recently had the awesome opportunity to attend and present at NetBase LIVE, an event series focused on sharing the latest best practices and case studies related to social media listening and analytics. Presented by NetBase, the U.S. events took place on both coasts, with workshops and presentations in Los Angeles and New York City.

The presenters at this year’s NetBase LIVE events represented some of largest and most progressive brands and agencies in the country. Here is just a sample of the companies and organizations who took the stage:

  • ESPN
  • Western Union
  • IMAX
  • Taco Bell
  • Chili’s
  • BuzzFeed
  • GoDaddy
  • VISA
  • Vanguard

This list doesn’t include the amazing and talented agency representation that was at each event, as well as the incredibly smart practitioners in attendance. The crowd reflected the true definition of diversity in terms of industry focus, age, gender and attendee background.

I had the opportunity to chat with digital marketing and analytics leads from a variety of companies, ranging from the country’s most recognizable restaurant brands to specific niche, quasi-government entities such as healthcare exchanges.

While the attendees were diverse, they had the same goal in mind–wrapping arms around the latest best practices in social media listening and measurement.

I think what impressed me most was the willingness of speakers to pull back the entire curtain and show real examples of their approach to social media listening, reporting and analysis. A new slide would appear with an example of a reporting dashboard or ROI formula, and you would see dozens of attendees raise their phones to capture quick photos. I was one of them, and must have captured more than 100 pictures of slides on the screens.

Key Social Media Listening Takeaways

With more than 60 speakers on the docket across two events, NetBase LIVE was a brain dump of information. If you’re a social media analyst or work in digital marketing, you would have been in heaven.

If you did not attend, you’re in luck. Here are a few of my favorite social media listening and analytics takeaways from NetBase LIVE 2018.

Place Campaigns and Sponsorships Under the Measurement Microscope

Thanks to advances in listening technology, conversations and campaigns taking place across all digital mediums can now be measured and tracked in new and valuable ways. More importantly, the information and conversations collected can be customized to meet the needs of multiple groups inside the enterprise, not just marketing communications.

Evan Escobedo, Global Lead – Social Listening, Analytics and Insight at Western Union, provided a great example of defined social media measurement and listening at work. Outside of normal conversation and brand tracking, Evan’s team uses their social listening efforts to measure the impact of paid sponsorships related to football clubs.

Using NetBase’s image analytics service, Western Union can track when their logo appears in images and other social content without the need of a keyword or hashtag. For example, if a player speaks to the media and the Western Union logo appears on a jersey or on the backdrop, the image is captured and included in reporting. This provides a new lens through which to view the sponsorship investment as it relates to brand exposure and coverage.

Every Piece of Content has a Job

The content you publish should serve a clear purpose and fulfill a specific job for your audience. That was the message delivered to the crowd by Olivia Sohn, Manager, Research Insights & Analytics at BuzzFeed. Olivia shared the processes used by BuzzFeed to produce, target and promote its insanely viral content across its massive channels.

By focusing on helping its audiences with specific goals, such as telling their own stories, settling arguments, teaching them something new, empathizing with someone else’s experience or simply making them laugh or smile, BuzzFeed is able to create a new, fresh approach to content and multimedia.

Social media purists and content marketers have been screaming about “creating content that is helpful” for years now. I’d even go so far as to say it’s a bit of a dated concept. What was unique about Olivia’s presentation was the method deployed by BuzzFeed to categorize and determine how content connects with their audiences. The science behind the art. It was fascinating.

Using Cultural Cartography, BuzzFeed categorizes content by using the perspective of the viewer/reader. This TED presentation below does a great job of presenting the concept:

Complex Queries Lead to Valuable Insights

Social media listening is often built upon the selection of keywords, phrases, hashtags and other trigger elements that filter conversations into a specific data set. It’s like taking Google Alerts and feeding them a lot of steroids. However, one common theme I heard mentioned in several different presentations was the need to scrub keyword queries on a regular basis to ensure accurate data sets.

Larger brands that filter through high volumes of conversations need to frequently refine their keyword strings and search parameters to ensure proper signal-to-noise ratio. There is also the need to continually add negative keywords to queries, removing them from the results scraped from the Internet.

Basically, there is a lot of clutter that can easily make its way through a social media listening program. I once had a client that asked to monitor a competitor. The brand name of the competitor is shared by one of the largest cities in the country and also is the last name of a famous TV actress. As a result, we have to constantly tweak search queries to remove the unwanted content results.

Assigning a dedicated analyst, or working with a great platform partner, makes the process much easier and simpler to manage.

Social Listening Can Help Predict Box Office Success

My first real job was working at a movie theatre. It was fun, and I loved being able to see movies for free. At the time, when I was threading film and popping popcorn, social media was truly in its infancy. Now, companies like IMAX can partially predict the success of a film based on the volume of online conversation leading up to release.

Sarah Davison, Senior Manager of Marketing Strategy at IMAX, shared how the organization uses social listening to analyze conversations leading up to a movie’s release to determine the purchase intent of film lovers. In her presentation, she showed how IMAX tracks mentions of movies, and then uses a cross tab analysis of specific actions and phrases (I want to see, I will go, etc.) to gauge interest.

Additionally, they mined the data to identify influencers and other content creators who expressed interest in a particular film as part of their contest and influencer outreach strategy. We’ve used NetBase on several occasions to search for popular authors and content creators within a defined subject matter. It’s been particularly helpful, especially on the B2B side of influencer management.

One Score to Rule Them All

One of the most surprising and unexpected takeaways from NetBase LIVE was from Shannon Truax, VP, Brand Social at GoDaddy. When reporting on social media performance to her leadership team and the company board, she was asked to create one simple score that would help decision makers determine if her programs were on the right track. So, she did.

Sounds simple, right? Not exactly. Most people in digital marketing and social media would tell you that the volume of data available via social is a double-edged sword. We can measure everything. But we can also measure everything. And in a world where attribution isn’t always black and white, it can be tough to assign a clear value to social media conversations and content performance. I think Shannon presented a very interesting way of cracking the code.

Using a formula that combined mentions, impressions, engagement rate and sentiment with weighted year-over-year averages, she was able to create a Social Buzz Score that defined GoDaddy’s overall social performance.

This score also utilized a combination of native platform analytics and data collected via NetBase as it relates to customer and brand conversations. It was pretty insightful, and I walked away trying to develop a similar formula in my head for our agency clients.

Planning for the Unplannable

I guess I should include a few important takeaways from my own talk in this roundup. It goes without saying that we have entered a new arena in terms of crisis management. From Acts of God and logistical interruptions to managing political scandals and even terrorism, organizations big and small are actively navigating new territory.

For the role of social media managers and strategists, the individuals often on the front lines dealing with unhappy customers and unruly digital crowds en masse, we’re often tasked with planning for the unplannable.

Effective social media crisis management requires companies to establish their own approach to monitoring and responding to issues, creating their own processes and steps for dealing with crises based on their impact, and investing in the appropriate technology stack in order to review, analyze and interpret high volumes of conversations quickly and at scale.

Moreover, the information collected by digital professionals is often the first “intake” of the consumer voice in moments of crisis, meaning that it is typically the first reporting seen by stakeholders across every function across the enterprise. Sound analysis of the findings collected is a non-negotiable.

Simply put, the role of social media in crisis management has never been more important.

NetBase also asked me to talk a little bit about my experience using their platform. You can watch the video below.

Are You Listening?

Social listening has moved from out of the geek seat and into the role of a necessary enterprise communications function. Cross-departmental teams, including legal, HR, risk, sales and more, are looking for quick data dumps on how conversations and campaigns are performing.

And, in many cases, social analysts and strategists empowered with the right tools act as the tip of the spear in both good times and bad. NetBase LIVE echoed this sentiment, stressing the importance of investing in strong social listening programs in order to understand what is being said about brands and how to formulate a plan to join or change the discussion when necessary.

I want to thank the team at NetBase for inviting me to speak to their current prospective customers, and I truly look forward to NetBase LIVE 2019.