If you are using an agency that also provides you with data analytics related to how your marketing campaigns performed, this is a must read.
Before discussing anything further, allow me to make it clear that I perceive social analytics as a way of collecting, filtering and analyzing all kinds of data (texts, photos, videos, etc.) from social media platforms to provide an unbiased strategic path for marketing professionals to follow.
Many bigger enterprises tend to outsource their product launches, social media campaigns, and other marketing campaigns to outside agencies such as social media agency, digital agency, communication agency, creative agency, and even consulting companies. These agencies get the brief from you as to what they want to accomplish, and will work with you to make the marketing campaign successful.
Quite often, the ROI of marketing campaigns can be measured by how much sales increase there has been, how much visibility and brand awareness you received, and what kind of social sentiment there is related to your brand in social media. If your agency conducts the campaign, it is natural that they will also deliver you analysis/data on how successful or unsuccessful the campaign was.
However, I want to enlighten you by providing you with a list of 5 reasons why you should not completely rely on the data/analytics that you get from your agency.
1. Fear of losing clientele
You allocated a lot of your marketing budget to an outside agency to manage your company’s social media activities and product launch campaigns. Now you want to see the ROI. How much can you truly trust the results that your agency provides you? Whatever method they use to give you the results of a campaign, there is always a chance that the results provided may be biased and may be more positive than not. This is, in a way, understandable. For sure, your agency wants to keep you happy and keep you as your client for as long as possible.
You might trust your agencies, that they are professional at what they do and would not provide you with false data. But can you be 110% sure about that? Just to be on the safe side, it is recommended that you either have direct access to the monitoring and analysis tool that your agencies are using, or have your own independent analytics service in place to monitor how your agencies and the campaigns are actually performing.
2. The level of enthusiasm and priority
Social analytics is typically not the highest in priority in what your agency does for you.
The goal of your agency is to make your marketing campaign successful and social media can be playing a minor role in the overall bigger picture. Your agency utilizes different social media platforms as an effective way to amplify your brand's message and marketing and focuses more on bigger factors such as conversation rate, sales revenue, number of returned customers, number of leads, etc., and not so much attention is paid to more detailed factors related to social analytics metrics.
Your agency might show you the increase in engagement rate, number of followers or impressions in social media and a bit about your audience's demographic information as part of your campaign results. But if you want to know how your target audience truly feels about your brand and what they are talking about, you should have a professional social analytics service of your own, which is especially specialized in sentiment analysis.
High-quality sentiment analysis service will help you improve your customer service, product quality, and manage crisis in social media better, as well as ensure that the KPI figures provided by your agency are correct.
3. Agencies are outsiders
Yes, your agency is your business partner but they are still an outsider specialized in marketing strategies. Even if they try to acquire knowledge related to your business through multiple briefings, it still won’t be at the same level of expertise and knowledge as someone who is working within the same industry or in your own company.
What happens when crisis happens? In social media, it is relatively easy for negative discussions to go viral, creating an instant negative attack towards your brand. Would an outside agency have enough knowledge about your industry to react to the crisis quickly enough? Would you be notified about the crisis when it happens or only after the cause? If you rely only on information you get from your agency, there will be a time lag and you might get to know about the problem long after it is over.
It is critical that you also have an independent monitoring and alert system internally in case something goes wrong in social media, so that your own experts can react to any crisis with the best of his/her knowledge and skills in a timely-manner.
4. The quality of your agency’s data
Typical agencies either have their own proprietary technology to monitor marketing campaign performance or they use 3rd-party analytics tools. The data you get is only useful if it is accurate.
The question you cannot refrain from asking is, how does your agency collect and analyze performance data. Which tools are they using? How accurate is the data? What type of data is useful to collect?
Because most agencies’ core expertise is not in data analytics but conducting the marketing campaign itself, it is common for them to be using free or cheap analytics tools to save costs. There are tons of free social listening and monitoring tools in the market, but these typically do not provide you with accurate data to which you can base your strategic decisions on. These tools can only peel off the outmost layer of social media data (quantitative metrics such as the number of likes, comments, top mentions, shares or followers) without interpreting the tone or ambiguous meaning of posts via more complicated and qualitative data (photos, videos, sarcasms, irony, etc.).
For example, McDonalds US introduced 3 new types of burgers with ultimate recipes (Pico Guacamole, Maple Bacon Dijon and Sweet BBQ Bacon) and created #SignatureCrafted campaign on Twitter. McDonalds also suggested to their followers to tweet either #PicoGuacamole, #MapleBaconDijon or #SweetBBQBacon to vote which one they love most.
Tracking how many people in social media mentions these new products might be easy because of the special hashtags they created at the beginning instead of using generic ones such as #food, #burger or #McDonalds. However, recently a cooking event happening at Wake Tech Community College used the same hashtag by coincidence, which a free tool might count as a post about McDonalds' #SignatureCrafted campaign. That would clearly be an inaccurate analysis.
How about this one? The post clearly uses #signaturecrafted but has nothing to do with McDonald’s campaign:
Neither this one:
Accurate analysis of social sentiment is extremely important during marketing campaigns but also the capability to rule out noise, such as bots, spam, and irrelevant data from your own company posts that are of course positive in nature, but also such as those data examples I listed above, which has absolutely nothing to do with your own campaign. Strategic decisions for your marketing campaigns in social media should be based on accurate data that excludes irrelevant data, so that you can adjust your strategy correctly.
5. A shallow and biased competitor analysis
Competitor analysis is the assessment of strengths and weaknesses of both your company and your competitor over multiple facets via different information sources such as newspapers, magazines, personal social network, online resources, and market research agency.
Social media platforms are great places to evaluate your position against your competitors. Unlike surveys that are formally done with your customers, social media can be full of unbiased true opinions from your customers related to your and your competitors’ brands. By doing a competitor analysis in social media, you can get true comparison of where you stand within your competitors when it comes to brand image, customer loyalty, and even complaints.
As your company grows bigger, you might outsource competitor analysis to an agency. Agencies will typically look for what priorities your competitors are focusing on, what ad campaign they are doing, what keywords they are using, and which tactics they are utilizing to promote their campaign. Your agency will provide you with a big picture of what is happening amongst your competitors by getting data from multiple sources including social media. As I mentioned earlier, you should also have an internal social analytics service in place if you want to get deeper and accurate knowledge of your competitors’ social media activities, instead of only relying on the data that your agency provides you with.
Also, what if one of your competitor is also your agency's client? Would your agency give you accurate results or will it resort to providing you with meagre or biased result to please both parties? If this happens, you might lose your customers and markets because of misleading information and following inaccurate data to formulate your marketing strategy. What if the agency won’t do any competitor analysis for you by disclosing to you that your competitor is also their client, so they cannot conduct competitor analysis in unbiased way?
A high-quality social analytics service at your own disposal will help you listen directly to how your competitor’s customers react and talk about their brand in social media. Your own analytics service can also check the validity of the competitor analysis provided by your agency.
Different types of agencies are of great help when conducting major marketing campaigns. They have dedicated and skilled teams who know how to conduct digital marketing effectively. The only setback here is how much you can trust the performance data that they provide you.
Having in independent and unbiased social media analytics service at your direct disposal will provide you with accurate and neutral data to re-evaluate not only your marketing campaigns but also your agency’s performance.