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5 questions to ask your social analytics provider

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When you choose a social analytics provider, you have the right to ask questions about the service you’re getting, even when you’re using free services. With that in mind, we wrote up a list of questions to ask when you’re checking out a new social analytics product. Got any we missed? Share ‘em in the comments below, or drop us a line.

Dog peddlers, while adorable, are not a reliable source of social analytics data. [Source: NYPL]

1. Where does your data come from?

Not all social data sources are made equally; what you can get from building a tool on a platform’s open API is vastly different from what you can get if you have access to that company’s full firehose of data. So what do you need? If you’re looking for a quick overview of recent data, then something built on an open API will work for you. If you want something more in-depth, you should consider a provider who works with a licensed data partner like Gnip or DataSift. These data resellers provide commercial, licensed access to the full data streams from platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare and others, giving you the highest quality data possible.

Keep in mind that services built on a licensed data stream are also more reliable than something built on a free API: you don’t have to worry about hitting rate limits or missing important data. Again, if you’re just looking for enough recent information to keep track of general trends or overviews, then you don’t need to pay for extensive, real-time access to full-fidelity data– but remember the difference if your needs change.

To illustrate: if you want an idea of how many people are talking about a documentary the day after it aired and what they’re talking about, then something built on a a free API would be fine. If you made the documentary and want an extensive review of the conversation before, during and after your documentary aired and a deeper dive into the different facets of the conversation around it, you want something built on a stable, more comprehensive data source.

2. What is the firehose and do you have access to it?

A firehose is full access to all the data from a platform – that’s everything. In the case of Twitter, very few analytics providers have direct access to the full Twitter firehose, mostly because it’s unnecessary, but also because it’s quite costly. Gnip and DataSift have full firehose access, as do a very rare few others. If your analytics provider says they use the Twitter firehose, they actually probably do not. Clarify what they mean by that; the word “firehose” is misused a lot.

Instead, most serious analytics providers will have access to a full-coverage stream of data built on the firehose. This is a full-fidelity stream of tweets that matches their needs, based on a set of search queries or other filters. The result is a smaller stream of only the data they need – including all tweets that match their filters – without all the unrelated or irrelevant data.

This is a case of “you get what you pay for”; Twitter doesn’t have the infrastructure or impetus to give you access to all of their data for free, so through agreements with companies like Gnip and DataSift, a third party can gain full access to the social data they need. But this kind of data isn’t free, so be sure to choose the option that meets your needs. And if you’re using a free tool, chances are good that tool is not built on the firehose in any way.

3. What kind of data coverage do you have? Is it a sample, or the full census?

We can use Twitter as example again here, since they have several different forms of data access. Twitter’s Search API, for example, is an index of recent tweets from a window of the past few days and does not include all tweets (say, for example, you wanted an overview of what people have been searching about “overnight oatmeal in a jar” on Twitter for the past month; this wouldn’t cover your needs). You can read a more technical explanation from Twitter about the Search API here.

Other data streams are intentional portions of the full firehose, which are useful for sampling and other use cases. Twitter has a decahose option, for example, that includes a random sample of 10% of all tweets. It’s great for research, but not ideal if your needs require full-fidelity coverage.

The only full-coverage options are through a data provider like Gnip, or from a partnership with the platform itself. This could be through the full firehose (which only a couple companies actually have), or through a full-coverage, keyword-based data stream. Ask your analytics provider if you’ll have full-coverage access to your tweets, or if they use just a sample.

4. Does the data comply with the platform’s terms of service (ToS)?

The great unread novel of our time is the complete terms of service to just about anything. You’ll want to do your homework with your data provider, however, and be sure that their product does indeed comply with the ToS of your platform of choice. An easy way to do this is to check and see if they are a partner with them, or an approved or preferred provider. You can also check with the data resellers like Gnip for this. You’ll also want to be sure it says this on the platform’s website, and isn’t just a wild, false claim on the data provider’s. If both sites say they work together, it’s a safe bet they’re following the ToS, or the platform wouldn’t have partnered with them or given them a title of approval. If it seems unclear, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. If they’re not willing to talk about it, go elsewhere so you won’t run the risk of your provider being shut down and disappearing with all of your analytics.

5. Are the metrics actual counts or just estimates?

Finally, even if your provider has access to high quality data, you want to be sure they’ve built a tool that gives you the best possible measure of the specific data you’re looking for. (You want the best results around “overnight oatmeal in a jar”, not “overnight oatmeal in a crockpot”, after all.) If you test several different providers and get wildly different results, compare those results with how these companies are telling you they generate their results. If they don’t have documentation that tells you how their tool works, or that documentation is vague and confusing, that’s a bad sign.

If in comparing results from two companies that are both built on the Twitter Search API, you notice one is returning wild estimates and the other is giving you the most accurate count they can, definitely go for the latter. Don’t go for the tool that returns estimates just because the numbers are bigger. You don’t want your marketing plan or quarterly report to be based on imaginary numbers.

Bonus: 6. What data access does Union Metrics have?

We are a certified Plugged In To Gnip partner, which means we have commercially licensed, full-coverage access to Twitter and Tumblr data. That’s reliable, reputable data you can count on, both now and in the future. Here’s the breakdown.

  • Our TweetReach Pro Trackers have Gnip PowerTrack access – that’s full coverage of all public tweets in real time for any search terms you enter. That means no missed tweets and no sampling.
  • Our TweetReach snapshot reports use the Twitter Search API, so they’re great for quick estimates of recent activity, but are limited to about 1500 tweets from the past week.
  • Our TweetReach premium historical analytics use Gnip’s Historical PowerTrack. That gives us full access to any public tweet in Twitter’s history, dating back to the very first tweet posted in March 2006.
  • Finally, with Union Metrics for Tumblr, we consume the full Tumblr firehose. That means we process 100% of all public posts, notes and other Tumblr activities.

Have any questions about our data access? Please just ask!

Written by Sarah

October 9th, 2013 at 11:14 am

TweetReach Tip: How to isolate specific dates in a Tracker

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To isolate specific dates in your TweetReach Tracker, simply click on the calendar icon in the upper right hand corner of your screen, and specify the date range that you want.

Tracker Date Range

 

That’s it!

Still got a question? Let us know! Or find us on Twitter

Written by Sarah

October 8th, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Posted in Guides,Help

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TweetReach Tip: How to isolate specific dates in a snapshot report

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If you want tweets from a specific date range in your TweetReach snapshot report, you need to use the since and until operators:

since:YYYY-MM-DD - search only for tweets after a specific date in UTC (e.g. since:2010-03-30)
until:YYYY-MM-DD - search only for tweets before a specific date in UTC (e.g. until:2010-03-30)

Want to see it in action? Go here to see an example. And learn more about everything you can search for, including other operators, here.

Still got a question? Let us know! Or find us on Twitter

Written by Sarah

October 1st, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Posted in Guides,Help

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TweetReach Tip: Searching for tweets from a specific account

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If you set up a TweetReach snapshot report or Tracker to search for @username, that will only return mentions and retweets of that Twitter account. So, that might be what you’re looking for. But if you’d like to see tweets to and from that account, add in the from:username query, like this:

@username OR from:username

This will make sure we pull all mentions, retweets, and replies to your Twitter handle, as well as tweets from your account. That’s the best way to see the full set of interactions with a particular account. Want to see it in action? Here’s an example.

Still got a question? Let us know! Or find us on Twitter

Written by Sarah

September 26th, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Posted in Guides,Help

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How Etsy and other small sellers can take advantage of social media

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Social media can be a double-edged sword for a small business: it’s technically free (unless you choose to pay to advertise on it) and can be a huge boost to your business, but it also requires time that can be hard to come by on a small staff– particularly when you happen to be an army of one.

Etsy sellers in particular face a unique set of challenges, since at its heart Etsy is a marketplace for handmade crafts which can be incredibly time-consuming to produce and have to compete with sellers producing on a mass scale. These kinds of sellers are also more likely to have bigger sales and marketing resources at their disposal. How do you compete when you might not have any online marketing expertise yourself? Having a Twitter account and a Facebook page doesn’t mean you know how to market in those places, and it can be overwhelming to think about the number of social platforms available.

What to do? Plan, plan, plan. The initial setup takes the most time, but once you get the hang of things, the return will be well worth it if you’ve done your homework. And we’re here to help.

Before there was Etsy, there was this.
[Photo courtesy NYPL Digital Gallery]

1. Decide where you need to be.

This should be determined by where your customers are; if they’re all on Pinterest and Instagram and you devote most of your time to Facebook, well, you can see how that’s not optimal. If you’re limited on time, pick one or two platforms to be really active on and set up alerts for any others so you won’t miss anything (try out free tools like Mention). It’s a good idea to at least have a presence on platforms you use less often, just in case potential customers try to reach you there.

You might also consider something like Tumblr: you can set up a queue of content to automatically post when you’re busy working during the day and sleeping during the night, and hop in to join conversations whenever you have the time (it’s recommended to make time at least once a day). A traditional blog also allows you to draft and schedule posts ahead of time, but Tumblr has the added bonus of established communities that are easy to tap into with tags and reblogs. There’s also the social aspect that comes with the concept of reblogging; you can always find new people to follow and new communities to immerse yourself in this way. Design and fashion are closely linked, for example, and reblogs are great ways to find new people to talk to about in both of these areas and their overlap.

2. Plan your content out.

If you use social media to only promote what it is that you’re selling, you’re missing the social aspect of it entirely. Decide how much time you can devote to sharing original content vs curating and sharing the content of others in your community of choice (with credit of course). A good ratio of sharing your own products and design alongside other content is about 70/30, and it holds fast across platforms.

Photos are popular and perform well across platforms too; Etsy advises sellers to have large, clear images of their products available, and one advantage of this is having high-quality images to pin and share on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr with a description. That’s your 30% promotion right there.

What about the other 70%? Here are some specific ideas:

  • Share what inspires you in real life: Photos of a walk you went on, an inspiring quilt pattern you saw at a resale shop or festival, you hanging out with other creative people at a conference or just a happy hour.

  • Related to that last point, share some little things from your personal life that you’re comfortable with, like pictures of your pets or your bookshelf. A lot of customers like to connect with the seller behind the items they’re making; it’s part of the homemade, handcrafted appeal. They’re not just buying a sweater, they’re buying a sweater from you.

  • Share photos of items you’ve made and loved so much, you kept them for yourself, or are planning to give them as gifts to a friend, partner or family member. That shows the deep pride you take in your work.

  • Share items from fellow Etsy crafters’ stores that you love: They’ll appreciate the promotion, and might return the favor.

  • Share funny little mistakes: Miss a stitch? Drop a bucket of paint? Cat and toddler get into your stock of feathers and glue? These moments can be hilarious, and are humanizing.

  • To that end, any kind of behind-the-scenes photos and descriptions of the process you go through can help customers understand the value of what you’re making by seeing the time and effort that go into it.

  • Mood photos: There are entire Tumblrs and Pinterest boards devoted to fall, or to a specific color scheme. You can start and curate one of your own, pinning your own items that fit in appropriately alongside images of crispy autumn leaves on roads and pumpkins, all-white schemes, or beach-themed boards.

Pick an approach that’s an appropriate fit for you and what you’re selling in your store.

3. Measure and adjust.

Measurement doesn’t have to mean expensive tools and confusing spreadsheets. There are a lot of free tools that can give you an idea of what’s working and what’s not. Run a free TweetReach snapshot report on your Twitter account, for example, to see which tweets have performed the best and which other accounts talk to and retweet you the most. These are people you want to make sure you’re following and engaging with in return as much as possible.

Additionally if you have a blog or a Tumblr, see which posts have performed the best and why. Was it because of the time of day you posted? The content itself? Did someone popular in the community give you a signal boost by repinning it or tweeting about it? Was it a combination of those things? Keeping track of these factors will help you make the best content plan possible moving forward: you’ll know what to do about the ones you can control, like timing and content.

Want more? Check out the Etsy community on Tumblr, as an example; they also have specific advice for Etsy sellers using Tumblr to promote themselves on their blog, along with some handy Twitter advice. Even if you’re not on Etsy specifically, it should give you a good idea of where to start.

Got a question for us about this? Drop us a line.

Written by Sarah

September 24th, 2013 at 9:46 am

Twitter Tip: User Widgets

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A Twitter Quick Tip. 

Love seeing Twitter streams on other people’s websites (very handy for finding and following new accounts at a glance!) and wondering how to get your own? Twitter makes it easy for you. Just go to Settings –> Widgets –> Create new.

Having trouble or curious about the details? Here’s more information from Twitter, and some handy screenshots below.

Twitter User Widget 1

Twitter User Widget 2

Written by Sarah

September 17th, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Posted in Guides

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How to identify brand influencers and advocates

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It may only be September, but the holidays are quickly approaching (the first holiday ad of the season has already aired!). If you work in retail, e-commerce, travel or any of the myriad industries that get busy this time of year, it’s time to be thinking about your fall and holiday social media campaigns.

In particular, understanding who your fans and customers are – and establishing specific strategies for communicating with them through social media – can help you maximize the results of these campaigns. Who are you talking to on social channels? How can you find out who they are? And how you can more effectively reach and help them? Here are a few steps to help guide the way.

No need to look quite this far back at campaigns. [Image courtesy NYPL Digital Gallery.]

1. Plan before you begin.

Plan different messages to reach out to your audience at different points in the purchase cycle: You want to get their attention in order to attract them to buy, then keep it afterward so they aren’t just a customer, but poised to become an advocate.

How do I this? Put yourself in the customer’s shoes: when was a time a company communicated with you in a way that made you a repeat customer? What made you recommend them to someone else? Use that perspective to build your communication. Remember that communication is a two-way thing; social media in particular shouldn’t be used as a megaphone from which to shout your marketing messages. You’ll do much better by talking, listening, and responding. (More on the how for that in the next section.)

2. Anticipate needs.

What can you do for your customers? What has worked in the past? If you haven’t already taken a comprehensive look at what was successful and was not successful in past campaigns and planned based on both of those factors, you need to do that now.

How do I do this? There are several options for the how: If you have the data somewhere you can get to it and the time to go through it yourself, do so. If you don’t have the data, consider something like our historical reports to get it. Send a survey to targeted groups. Ask them on your social networks. Listen to what customers and potential customers are already saying: set up alerts for key terms associated with your brand and products. Try a combination of Google Alerts, Mention, or columns in something like TweetDeck (see more free tool suggestions from Social Media Examiner) and running something like a TweetReach snapshot report to capture a portion of the conversation. Listen to what it is that your customers want from you.

3. Tailor your message.

Tailor your message for each platform you’re on. Blasting out the exact same message to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Tumblr followed by a longer version on your blog is just going to cause potential customers to tune you out. Pull out a different, salient tidbit to feature in each place.

How do I do this? Think about what approach works best in each place too: short, pithy messages do well on Twitter, with links to more information. Images perform well on Tumblr and Pinterest; images and excerpts do well on Facebook. Link everything back to your blog or website, where you should have a landing page with details about your campaign. Stagger your messages (Try out scheduling on platforms like TweetDeck, learn how to schedule posts on Facebook, or look into a tool like Buffer). If you haven’t already looked at which times of day produce the best results, experiment during this campaign and track it all so you can plan it better next time.

You also want to tailor how you’re talking to customers and potential customers at each point in the purchase cycle. As you search for and find brand mentions- as discussed in the previous section- pay attention to what kind they are. Is someone asking for a recommendation in a certain area and listing out possibilities, one of which is you? Did someone else recommend you to someone who asked for a recommendation? Don’t respond to every mention of your brand if it’s high volume, but do thank people who have recommended you, and answer questions from potential or new customers asking about things like how your product works. If they express a preference for another brand, don’t try to prove that yours is better. Wish them luck with their purchase. If you always err on the side of polite and respectful, your brand will become known for it and could be recommended in the future because of it.

And those people recommending you? Those are your brand advocates. Another reason to say thank you– and to pay attention to what space they’re influential in. Follow them if you don’t already. Engage in conversations where it’s appropriate. Don’t stalk them; engage them.

4. Provide support.

Be ready to take questions- plan answers and make sure staff knows features upside down and backwards- and have a policy in place about how soon you’ll respond to customer queries. Research shows that 42% of customers who have reached out to a company about a problem on social media expect a response within an hour. This doesn’t change much for nights and weekends either.

How do I do this? The research doesn’t qualify if this is for big brand companies, or holds the same for smaller folks who have fewer resources and staff, but the reality of it remains the same: if you really want your campaign to go off well, you’ve got to put in the work and time. If you’re small and taking care of support yourself, draw boundaries (you’ll take time for dinner at night, the phone goes off while you’re asleep etc) but for the rest of the day the technology exists to be alerted when someone contacts you and for you to respond promptly. If you commit to that level of support during your campaign, you might just do well enough to hire someone else to help you with it the next time around.

How do I respond? If you don’t already, have an FAQ page set up that you can direct common queries to. If you do have one, take some time to go over it and revise it if necessary.  If it’s campaign-specific, direct them to the landing page for it. Have a support email address ready to give out when lengthy or difficult queries pop up on social media.

5. Repeat.

More support. Follow-up. Engage. You’ve established that you’re there for your customers with a high level of support, so don’t drop the ball on that now. In addition to responding to any problems customers have down the line from their purchase, maintain a social presence that will engage them.

How do I do this? There are many different ways to accomplish these things: Follow up with anyone who’s had a problem to be sure they’re still happy; they’ll be impressed that you did. It’s as simple as sending a quick tweet their way. Reward customer loyalty; if you know someone made their 5th or 10th purchase during your campaign, send them a little thank-you gift. One Kings Lane sends customers Thank You stationery with their first purchase, as a way of saying thank you for being a customer and letting the customer send out thank yous of their own. Birchbox sends customers who are with them for a year a small branded gift in the mail, such as a leather keychain. Do whatever makes sense for your brand. Just a thank you message alone can mean a lot if done in sincerity. This kind of behavior turns customers into brand advocates.

As for ongoing customer engagement, ask yourself this when you’re planning content: is it interesting? Does it address a question or problem customers have; is it useful? Is it entertaining? If your content doesn’t fit one or more of these categories, consider revising it. If you’re bored while you’re working on it, nobody is going to want to read it– let alone share it and champion you to their network. (This is similar to the content strategy Chris Penn of SHIFT discussed in our TakeFive with him.)

And if someone is sharing your content? Say thank you. Is someone publicly thanking you for excellent customer service? Say thank you again. Favorite the tweet. Simply paying attention to what customers are saying and letting them know that you appreciate it can mean a lot, and makes a difference in having you come to mind before a competitor when they’re asked to recommend a company.

Written by Sarah

September 12th, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Use favorite tweets to find new resources

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A Twitter Quick Tip. 

We’ve talked before about why brands should favorite tweets, but here’s another way to use that little gold star feature on Twitter: whenever you’ve got a second, go check out the favorites from an account you enjoy following that you find really useful. Chances are they’ve favorited some articles and resources they’ve meant to go back to later.

Favorites as Resources Screenshot

This also gives you a way to find other accounts to follow; just click through on the avatars of insightful tweets you run across (maybe in a new tab so you don’t lose your place if you’re finding a lot of good tweets in someone’s favorites). This is a great trick for building up the most useful Twitter stream possible, no matter your industry or topic of choice.

Written by Sarah

September 4th, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Guides

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Twitter Tip: Authorized apps

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A quick Twitter Tip that serves as a reminder to periodically check on and purge which apps you’ve authorized on Twitter, and make any necessary changes.

Twitter Settings
 To check, go to your Twitter Settings from the drop down menu you can access by clicking on the gear icon.

Authorized Apps

By selecting Apps on the menu on the lefthand side of your screen, you’ll see a list of all the apps you’ve authorized to have some degree of access to your Twitter account. Check to see if there are any that look suspicious, or that you’d just like to revoke access to because you no longer use it. You can also check on the level of access any apps have- read only, read and write, etc- and change it if necessary, by revoking access and reinstating it, being careful in the level of access you allow (most apps allow you to check boxes saying they can or cannot post on your behalf, etc).

You might want to set a calendar reminder to periodically check on which apps have been authorized and do a little cleaning.

Like this tip? Check out the rest we’ve shared. Or share your own in the comments below. 

Written by Sarah

August 22nd, 2013 at 10:48 am

What to do when your campaign hashtag gets hijacked on Twitter

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Be thankful that at least you are not this train conductor. (Image credit: NYPL Digital Gallery)

You’ve planned a Twitter campaign, and you’ve launched it. Now you’re monitoring the conversation. People are using the hashtag! But wait, they are not using it to talk about what you were hoping they would; they have run wild and taken your hashtag with them! We’ve seen it happen before.

So what can you do? Abandoning Twitter isn’t really an option.

Obviously it’s a social media best practice to have an emergency policy in place, but every situation is unique and entirely impossible to predict. So take a deep breath, and bookmark these tips for how to deal with this kind of situation on the Twitter battlegrounds:

1. Monitor the ongoing incident: ideally you will already have this set up to track how your campaign is doing, but it’s possible users will have altered your hashtag into something else that you should also be tracking. Check out this post we wrote on Using TweetReach to monitor a social media crisis.

2. To respond, or not to respond? This is tricky. If you have a corporate policy in place you’re expected to follow, obviously it’s in your best interest to do that. Call in everyone in your company who can help you, but start thinking about and answering these questions on your own:

- Will responding do any good? There is a big difference between someone reaching out with a genuine complaint that you’re able to help with, and people en masse trolling your account. In the first case you obviously want to respond and make it right as quickly as possible. In the second case it might be better not to respond at all. Individually replying to every hashtag joke skewering and mocking your campaign might only serve to keep the incident fresh in the eyes of the public and tech news. Sometimes silence is the best policy to let it blow over quickly. Other times approaching the situation with a good sense of humor can win over some (but never all) of the haters.

- Should we consider a Twitter sabbatical? It might be best to lay low for several days to a week or so.

- Should we apologize? This depends on the context of the highjacking of your hashtag: are people just trying to be funny, or are they using it as an opportunity to point out a practice about your company that they don’t like? Address it accordingly.

3. Learn from it: If you’ve set everything up to monitor it beforehand, plus made the necessary adjustments once the incident took off, you should have everything you need to learn from the situation. Did a bad sentiment toward your brand already exist that your PR team should have been aware of? Was it just a complete fluke? Use the experience to craft a more in-depth social media crisis policy.

Overall? Don’t panic too much. It will be yesterday’s news soon enough, and chances are a little controversy won’t be enough to shake your most loyal brand advocates.

Written by Sarah

August 6th, 2013 at 9:29 am