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What value can the data on social media provide?

Social media provides a new opportunity for data collection about customers, including not only their demographics, but also who else they are connected to within the community, and their interactions with the brand.

Previously conversations would happen offline and would never be accessible to a company; now more and more conversations occur on social media, allowing the company to see exactly what people are saying about them.

Here are some additional examples of the value of social media data to companies:

  • The feedback gained from customers is invaluable; now there is less emphasis on going out and trying to elicit feedback from users – they already do it passively in conversations on social media and businesses can observe these happening and receive invaluable insight on the performance of their organisation.

  • With this data, a business can track and measure communities online: the size of their audience, the frequency by which people interact with them, or relating to them etc., and the general opinion that the online community holds of them.

  • This also allows them to see how information they release propagates through the network, as when each of their supports interacts with it, there is the potential for that user’s friends and contacts to become aware of the message. For marketing, this is ideal for helping a message spread virally.

  • Combining these points, a marketer can see who the influential supporters in their network are, which can be invaluable when ‘seeding’ (sending out the first instances of a message) the campaign to the public, as these will be the users who share the content and interact with it frequently, creating the exposure a brand desires.

  • With all this data, complex models about how campaigns spread can be developed. Once these are in place, companies can simulate campaigns and get an idea of how much exposure they can create by varying the number of seed users, based on the way in which information has previously flowed around their community.


How the real-time nature of the data facilitates rapid responses

The availability of this data provides specific value to an organisation that wasn’t possible before social media. The real-time nature of the data facilitates rapid responses to on-going situations, that far outpace the traditional time to create a marketing campaign.

Alternatively, it can be used to quickly respond to negative comments, and to prevent that negative sentiment spreading rapidly around the world through social media.

As a community develops around a brand, it can help to sustain that presence even when a brand representative may not be on hand to respond to something, for example defending them against a negative review, or even being responsible for the majority of customer service questions in a community like the British mobile phone operator Giffgaff.


You may be interested in reading our recent paper ‘Assessing the value of social media for organisations: the case for charitable use’ which takes some of the themes introduced in this article and covers them in greater depth. It is available from a link at the bottom of this page.


Can you think of other examples from your own experience of social media communities working on behalf of a specific brand?

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This article is from the free online course:

The Power of Social Media

University of Southampton

Course highlights Get a taste of this course before you join:

  • Welcome to the course
    Welcome to the course
    video

    This course explains how by understanding networks better we can exploit social media. Watch Dr David Millard & Dr Lisa Harris tell you more.

  • What are networks?
    What are networks?
    video

    Watch Dr David Millard explore what we mean by a network, and look at some of the examples of networks around us and their characteristics.

  • Recruitment in a digital world
    Recruitment in a digital world
    video

    Watch Dr Lisa Harris, Nic Fair & Sarah Hewitt discuss the role of social media in recruitment from the perspective of employers & potential employees