What Social Media Analytics Can’t Tell You About Your Customers

Mobile Attitudes
Analytics alone cannot tell you much about your customers. Why? Because the people who participate and post on social media, especially the most active, are not representative of your customers, that's why.

This is the key takeaway in a new report out today by Vision Critical#, a company that offers a cloud-based platform for companies to tap into customer intelligence by building, engaging and secure communities they can access for ongoing, real-time feedback and insight.

It is only:

by combining social profile data with direct customer feedback that companies discovered that almost 90% of what you hear on social comes from slightly less than 30% of the social media audience – a slice that has distinctly different shopping, media and social media habits. That means that social media analytics can’t tell you what you need to know about your customers.

The report was based on customer feedback from three Vision Critical Insight Communities owned by a broadcasting company (n=840), a movie studio (n=960), and an apparel brand (n=840) as well as on Voice Market data.

Reasons to Share Movie Info

Social media cannot tell you

  • who your customers are
  • how to serve them
  • how to market and sell to them
  • how to engage them (wish we could come up with a better term! interest them?)

A couple of thoughts about the research

  • agree with the premise; we live in a both/and world — marketers should consider both quantitative and qualitative data and cross-reference between social audiences and customers
  • social has not changed the fact that only the minority of us are creators and proactive, some of us are occasional communicators and most of us are fairly  passive, unless we get poked with a sharp stick — the famous 90 / 9 / 1 ratio

In my experience most companies are still using social in two major ways:

1. to develop leads/gain new customers – net/net, with a few exceptions companies are (typically) less interested in serving current customers in social, though that is the greater opportunity. Because good customer experience drives sales and membership numbers.

Good Customer Experience Drives Sales

2. to spread news/increase reach – and authorship (see Matt Cutts keynote at Pubcon 2013#) hence why influencer marketing is still top of mind, the media part of social is still very much alive

In my work, we have used social listening to identify:

  • new R&D/product/market opportunities through linguistic analysis and behavioral research
  • to identify pockets of interest-based influence that would help us create a lift in specific opportunities — more programs than campaigns, which means developing relationships, like the one Alexandra Samuel, VP Social Media at Vision Critical and I have, where we are both interested in understanding social behavior through data and analysis

In fact, I met @awsamuel through her blog even before her current work.

I do like the idea of cross-referencing what people say and what they do, both in real time and over time. In fact, I have used such a quadrant to track gaps in performance in my digital work for years.  

Going shopping

Only 14% of lurkers visited a big box store to purchase apparel. The number is only slightly higher for health information at 18%.

Lurkers may shop less, however they are buyers as well, and there are more of them. Social messages and promotions should include information a reluctant shopper would consider valuable — tips, for example.

Apparel ShoppingI would wager we all like to buy, few of us, lurkers, dabblers, or enthusiasts, like to be sold to, targeted, and followed around the net. Plus, we share devices within our families, we jump from one to the other, and are constantly looking for better, more interesting information.

Technology changes constantly, as users we have the luxury of being able to try new things without too much thought. Companies need to move at a different pace when it comes to tools and communities.

However, one great leveler is a brand's desire and commitment to test and iterate on what works — for example using content and experienced human interaction (vs. automation) to understand what resonates, what can be improved.

Insights do not grow on trees; they are gained through being in the arena — both knowing your business, product, and service levels, and understanding how customers (and prospects) see and experience it.

It goes back to the fundamentals of commerce — have something on offer that is of value to someone, bridge that gap to make the connection by discovering what works, likely something that involves emotion and reason.

Find the Vision Critical report here.


Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effect on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.