Why data alone is never enough – it’s not just a numbers game

Why data alone is never enough – it’s not just a numbers game

In a decade (?) operating as Buzz Radar we’ve seen the role social analytics plays in modern business increase substantially. There was a time when it felt that we were the only ones in on the secret, but a decade on most businesses understand that there’s incites to be gained from social interactions, and that the data that’s out there has real value. The problem we’ve often seen when talking with businesses about their current social listening practices, is that the data they’re pulling in is what we’d think of a “low quality”; data marked by inaccuracies, a lack of comprehensive insight, and sourced from dubious, non-representative origins, often leading to a diluted, somewhat blurred view of the actual scenario. A good social analytics portfolio can’t just accumulate vast quantities of data that can tick boxes … it needs to harvest data that is genuine, significant, and can stand as a robust foundation for crafting informed strategies.

One of our guiding principles, though, is that our hunches alone are never enough – they always need to be backed up by robust numbers. Fortunately, the excellent Social Intelligence Lab’s recent State of Social Listening 2023 report backs up our own thoughts with, yes, robust data.

Breaking Down the 2023 Report

The report highlights how key social listening and thorough analytics has become. Though 71.3% of those surveyed use three or fewer social listening tools, a significant 39.1% are spending over $100k on technology. Brands are happy to invest heavily to get the data quality and breadth they desire, which remain the top sought-after features in tools. When it comes to sourcing data, Instagram, Twitter/X, Facebook, TikTok, and LinkedIn are still the platforms that are most highly valued, according to the 2023 report. About 51.7% choose their data sources based on the specific questions they are trying to answer – a targeted and mature approach to data gathering.

The problem here is with the quality of that data: data quality and coverage are noted as the main drawbacks in current tech stacks. It’s a gap that needs addressing. Different social media platforms provide very different quality of results. LinkedIn, for example, though often a first-port-of-call for brands, is generally a pretty poor source of quality data, while recent changes at Twitter/X mean that analytics from that platform are becoming less reliable.

About half of the respondents are spending the majority of their time analysing and cleansing data, a clear nod to the industry maturing and recognizing the importance of quality over quantity, but also an indication of the quality of data they’re receiving. While it's encouraging to see this shift, it corroborates our stance at Buzz Radar on prioritising data that is both accurate and insightful. It’s more than just a numbers game, or rather it’s a game of the right numbers, not just the biggest numbers.

The Best tool for the job

Looking at the tools professionals lean on, we see that manual analysis still plays a crucial role — 52.8% have to step outside their primary tools to glean insights, though a notable 46% are planning to invest in new data analysis tech in the coming year. It seems there’s a shared understanding that a combination of the right tools and a hands-on approach can pave the way for richer insights. As we’ve learnt ourselves, it’s a combination of smart technology and smart people looking at those results that gives us the best outcome. It’s also encouraging to see that a good percentage of the industry (35%) feels backed by their leadership in their social listening endeavours, although we believe there's room for growth here.

We are on board with nearly half of the professionals using set KPIs and frameworks for analysis, a strategy that aligns perfectly with our mission here at Buzz Radar. Looking forward, we anticipate seeing more application of social science models, currently at 9.9%, to bring a deeper level of understanding to social data analytics.

As Dr. Jillian Ney, founder of The Social Intelligence Lab, says, “social listening is maturing but the majority of use cases currently rely on a measurement-based approach. However, there is even more value to be squeezed from social data than currently is. To really make the most of it, practitioners need to know why they’re using it and what technology and skills are required to get the answers they need.”It’s evidence (which is, after all, the whole point) that we’re on the right track. The technology is getting better, and industries are responding to it. Advancements in AI are making data processing and data gathering a lot more accessible. But we need to stay sharp and stay the course in educating our clients and the business world in general that this isn’t an area they want to just blunder into. Social listening tools like ours are about ensuring that the right data, analysed in the right way gives great results. Social analytics can’t be treated like a box-ticking exercise. Not if you want results that will give you, well, results.

Published on 2023-09-13 10:02:24