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Q&A: How to Use BI to Measure Social Media Activity

Customers who are active users of social media pose a number of BI challenges for organizations, including using real-time analysis of customer interactions to deliver personalized, targeted content. Innovative BI tools and techniques can help, explains HP's Dennison DeGregor.

Consumers who fall in the 18- to 34-year-old age group are sometimes referred to as "digital natives." HP assigns a broader term to those who are comfortable with technology and social media, regardless of age, calling them "Generation C," for connected. Using business intelligence, HP's Dennison DeGregor explains, companies can measure and analyze Gen C activities across social media to deliver personalized, targeted content in real time.

As worldwide customer executive for HP Enterprise Services, DeGregor oversees global multi-channel operations, including 114 contact centers in 34 countries. DeGregor's expertise in customer strategy and operations includes customer analytics, social media integration, mobile integration, and big data. He is the recipient of the Smithsonian Institute Time Capsule Award for customer-centric innovation at the start of the 21st century, and is the author of the book The Customer-Transparent Enterprise (2010, Motivational Press, Inc.).

BI This Week: What does "Gen C" mean, and how do Gen C consumers differ from previous groupings and generations?

Dennison DeGregor: "Generation C," or the connected generation, transcends age groups. It's a psychographic and attitudinal segmentation versus an age-based demographic segmentation. Even though Generation C eclipses age, members are most commonly found in the 18- to 34-year-old age group, and are also known as digital natives, indicating those who grew up with technology. These digital natives typically are characterized by several attributes; they:

  • Have a love of content creation and mashing
  • Tend to form active communities rather than remain passive
  • Gravitate toward social media sites to participate in discussions about different ideas and involve themselves in cultural conversations
  • Desire to be in control of their lives and be content with complexity
  • Desire to work in more creative industries and be less restricted by rigid social structures

In terms of BI, what is different about business intelligence needs and opportunities with this group of consumers?

Generation C poses a number of BI challenges for organizations, including how to use analytics to take advantage of every customer interaction in real time and how to gather real-time intelligence across channels and deliver highly personalized, targeted content.

However, companies can combat these challenges by developing innovative BI techniques for managing the massive volume of cross-channel data. Specifically, companies should focus on the new buying process, in which the Generation C consumer conducts price comparisons and peer discussions, then makes a purchase after their information-gathering process is complete.

In addition, a newer BI challenge that has emerged with this generation is quantifying the return on investment of analyzing social media.

Given that challenge, how can companies quantify the ROI of tracking, measuring, and analyzing social media activities?

Here's a "ten top" list of where and how companies can begin measuring social media in a useful and actionable way:

  • Social media leads: Track Web traffic from all social media sources and chart the top few sources over time.

  • Engagement duration: Companies with a Facebook application should measure how much time members ("friends") are spending on it. Additionally, it can be useful to evaluate how long visitors are staying on the company pages and if that increases over time.

  • Bounce rate: Measure where your visitors are coming from and how long they are staying.

  • Membership increase and active network size: Measure and track the portion of your company's social networks (for example, feeds on Twitter and pages on Facebook) that actively engages with your customers or potential customers.

  • Activity ratio: Again, looking at applications such as Facebook and Twitter, compare the ratio of active members versus the total number of members and chart this over time. Are active members increasing? Why not? Are members being converted into customers? Why not?

  • Conversions: The goal for any company should be to convert social media "followers" and "friends" to customers. Keep that rate in mind, whether it's done via subscriptions, sales, Facebook application use, or other offerings companies have in the overall sales funnel.

  • Brand mentions in social media: Measure and track both positive and negative mentions of the brand and the quantities of those mentions.

  • Loyalty: Use social media interactions to measure the rate and frequency of customer interaction.

  • Virality: Evaluate if and how often customers are sharing Twitter tweets or Facebook updates.

  • Blog interaction: Encourage responses, either directly in the comments section of blog posts or via Twitter. If the blog's content is suitable for social voting or social bookmarking sites, install a blog tool that displays the necessary sharing buttons, then track referrals back from those sites.

Do most company's current business strategies support using BI on Gen C data specifically? What needs to be done to make that happen?

No, the great majority of companies have not organized business processes around Generation C. A quantification of the business opportunity is required (also known as making a business case). That often means redefining the business processes needed to service, sell, and market to Generation C. One emerging idea is setting up a Generation C "team" to focus on just that.

Can you give some use-case examples of how companies are drawing usable conclusions from Gen C data or how they will in the future?

As one example, a major consulting company has completed a study showing that members of a company's social community buy three to four times more of the company's products than the average customer that is not a member of the brand's social community. This represents the foundation of a business case for investing in proactive engagement with social community members, with targeted treatments based on the analysis of Big Data.

If this is a group that makes heavy use of mobile devices, social media, location-based and geo-spatial apps, and creates rich media such as videos -- are we at the point yet where usable information can be drawn from that sort of data?

Yes. For example, the HP Autonomy technology organizes and mines unstructured data from social media, videos, blogs -- everywhere that Generation C visits and plays. It also provides "meaning-based context" for humans in call centers, along with self-service touch points to develop new, contextualized content for servicing, marketing, and selling to Generation C. This proprietary HP technology is being used in companies across the globe to get an edge in service and sales to Generation C.

In short, HP brings a fully integrated end-to-end solution for engaging Generation C prospects and customers to the market, including the people, processes, analytics, and HP technology required to differentiate the customer experience in the eyes of the Generation C consumer. We call this service CEaaS, or Customer Engagement as a Service and it was launched on April 30.

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