Every year, analytics companies sell millions of dollars of their products and services to companies looking to better understand their stakeholders—consumers, employees, potential customers, etc.. Companies, in turn, present these reports to their executive team to better understand how their stakeholders perceive the company as well as their likelihood to engage in pro-company behaviors, such as recommending or purchasing products and services. 

Based on these analytics, companies can create a “net promoter score” or NPS, based on customer or stakeholder perception of the company or its products or services. Qualtrics, a leading media research company, defines net promoter score as measuring customer perception based on the question, “How likely is it that you would recommend [Organization X/Product Y/Service Z] to a friend or colleague?”  In some cases, the NPS is based primarily on posts from their stakeholders culled from social media analytics collected from access to publicly available Twitter or Facebook pages.

However, there are four issues that skew the accuracy of this data:

  1. Not everyone is on social media. While this may seem hard to believe, seven-in-10 Americans, according to a Pew Research Center in June 2019, use social media to connect with others, which means three-in-10 Americans are not on social media.
  2. Public vs. private profiles are different. Social media users with public profiles may have different demographics and psychographics than people with private profiles. According to a Morning Consult survey published on Statista, 45% of social media users in the U.S. say all of their social media accounts are set to private. Only 19% said none of their social media accounts are private.
  3. Age influences social media use. Younger generations are more likely to use social media than older generations. According to Pew Research Center in 2019, while 90% of 18- to 29-year-olds say they use at least one social media platform, only 40% of social media users are over the age of 65. Therefore, social media analytics may be skewed to a younger generation.
  4. Technographics play a role. Some people may not post at all on social media but play the role of an “inactive” or “spectator.” In 2008, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff  of Forrester Research published a groundbreaking book, “Groundswell.” In this book, they outlined a ladder of social participation that offered six types of social media users: creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators, and inactives. While current data does not indicate what percentages fall into which category, it’s important to note that note everyone is an active poster or user. Companies can’t forget about the inactives nor the spectators—those who don’t use social media even if they join a platform or those who just view others posts without posting themselves. Additionally, not everyone who has a positive or negative experience with a company is going to post about it on social media. 

Overall, social media analytics can be extremely valuable. When people take to social media to talk about a company, they often do so in the moment or close to the time when they had an experience. Other methods, such as recall surveys, may not achieve that “in the moment” insight. However, some considerations need to be made when gathering social media analytics and using it as the basis for decision-making. This is not to say that social media analytics aren’t valuable; they are extremely valuable. 

Companies just need to find the best way to collect and strategically select the data they are most interested in, while considering factors that play a role in the accuracy of the data including user age, technology use, private vs. public profiles, and social media use. Technographics – data integrity and validity is critical in the analytics and insights process so companies must be aware of.

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