Having worked on numerous digital/social organizational strategies for the better part of the last decade, I find that I still occasionally run into organizational leaders that haven’t yet integrated social data into their decision making.
At most of today’s marketing conferences and events, and in modern business literature, the bulk of attention is given to reaching and engaging with your audience on social media. This is great, but it often misses the low-hanging fruit and far less resource intensive element of the social channel, which is the act of researching and analyzing your audience using public data generated by these social tools.
Let me give you some context by starting off with a few recent statistics:
- World Population: 7.2 Billion
- Active Internet Users: 3.o Billion
- Active Social Media Accounts: 2.1 Billion
- Number of Data Bytes Created Every Day : 2.5 Quintillion (that’s 18 zeros)
Out of those 2.1 Billion active social media accounts, it can be safely assumed that somewhere between 20% and 25% are regular content creators, not just lurkers or spectators. Therefore in effect, we’re looking at about 500 Million people regularly creating new data and metadata to feed the massive global social dataset. And while admittedly most of actual complex data mining is happening behind the firewalls of Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon, there are numerous free tools available that allow you to access a good chunk of this data, since much of it is in the public domain.
To keep this post practical as opposed to theoretical, I am providing you with a list of 5 free basic online tools that you can use right away. As in all research, the secret to obtaining useful information lies not in the tools themselves, but in asking the right question(s) and having a clear research goal in mind. Therefore in the tool examples below, I have only provided a single use-case for each tool as it applies to the goal of “finding potential new volunteers”. These tools can be used in much more complex manners, however I will keep things basic for the purpose of this post.
Tool #1 – Facebook Graph Search (Facebook account required)
Main use: Slicing and dicing public Facebook user data
- Go to your Facebook settings and ensure that your language is set to “US English”
- Go to the search bar and type in: “People Who Live In [your city] And Like [volunteering] (or any other relevant qualifier)”.
- Press Enter
- Now click on the “people” tab just below the search bar
Results: You will be provided with a list of all the people in your city who have proactively and publicly stated on their Facebook profiles that they “Like” to volunteer.
What you can do with this information: Create shortlists, estimate potential market size in a particular area, and build target audience personas by examining behaviour.
Example: Write down other interests that these people tend to have and populate a target audience persona based on this information. See if there are any patterns emerge as you cross-tabulate and/or sort by age. If there are lots of results, copy the data into a spreadsheet for easier workflow.
Tool # 2 – Manage Flitter Account Search
Main use: Searching for keywords within Twitter bio’s
- Go to the search bar and click on refine
- In the “bio” field, type in: “volunteer”
- In the location field, type in: [your location] (e.g. Vancouver)
- Press Enter
Results: You will be provided with a list of all the people in your city who proactively and publicly stated on their Twitter bios that they are volunteers. You can click on their name to see their full bio.
What you can do with this information: Create micro-targeted Twitter lists to follow, stay on top of the latest local trends/ hashtags, and build target audience personas.
Example: Create a Twitter list of the top 10 volunteers in your city based on their Klout score (not ideal but a start) and spend 5 minutes each morning for a week sifting through their tweets. A Twitter list allows you to do this all in one stream rather than tracking all 10 accounts separately. Write down anything that catches your interest. You will be pleasantly surprised just how much more valuable audience insight you can get out of this than through a typical survey.
Tool # 3 – MentionMapp (Twitter account required)
Main use: Instant visualization of a specific user’s recent Twitter interactions
- Click on “sign in with Twitter” to connect to your Twitter account (you can revoke access at any time by selecting “apps” in your Twitter account settings)
- Type in the Twitter handle of one of the users your found using the tool above (i.e. ManageFlitter)
- Press Enter
Results: You will be provided with see an interactive map of key people this person/account interacts with and the key hashtags they tend to use
What you can do with this information: Find niche networks, new communities, key influencers, memes, etc…
Example: You may discover that many of your local volunteers belong to a local community beautification club, in which the members also interact online under the hashtag “#cleanSOHO” (this is fictional) . You may then decide to attend their next in-person event to interact with like-minded folks first hand.
Tool #4 – Hashtagify
Main use: Useful for finding key influencers of a hashtag as well as related hashtags
- Go to the search bar in the top right corner
- Type in a hashtag that you came across using the tool above (or just type “#volunteer” for the purpose of this example)
Results: You will now see an interactive visualization of all the related hashtags. You can place your mouse cursor over a related hashtag to see its correlation level. Additionally, if you click on “top influencers” at the top of the page you will see the top influencers using this hashtag based on influence vs. specialization
What you can do with this information: Find out if there is a specific online content positioning strategy that you can take by filling a conversation gap.
Example: If you find out that the #volunteer hashtag has very few specialized users, it could be a good opportunity to consistently tweet a daily volunteering related tip to the #volunteer hashtag to extend reach.
Tool #5 – Google Trends Explore
Main use: Search trend identification and seasonality analysis
- At the top centre of your page select your country (Canada in my case)
- Right underneath that dropdown menu find the word “Compare” along with another dropdown list immediately to the right of it
- Select “Time Ranges”
- Click on “+add term” and type in “volunteer”
- Click on “+add time range” and select 2012, then do the same for 2013, 2014 and 2015
Results: You should now see something similar to the screenshot image I posted at the beginning of this blog post. This is a seasonality visualization telling you (based on one of the world’s largest datasets) when people in your country/area are searching for information relating to volunteers.
What you can do with this information: Ensure proper timing for your promotional/advertising activities, set benchmarks, etc…
Example: The weeks of Feb 12, March 11, and Aug 19th consistently show a surge in search volume for volunteer” every year for the last three years. If you’re looking for volunteers, a good question to ask would be how will you be boosting your online activity during this time to ensure your digital footprint is visible?
What about privacy?
In the examples above, only PUBLIC data is used. It is my firm belief that the responsibility is now on the user to understand what the trade of is in using any form of social media (i.e. their data in exchange for a service). That being said, I realize that there is still a massive knowledge gap in this area and we have a long way to go before internet users become aware of the extent to which their data is being used. Rather than going on a privacy rant/tangent here, I’d like to point you to two presentations I uploaded to SlideShare on this topic as well as two related blog posts.
- Managing Your Personal Digital Footprint
- Trends in Social Media Governance and HR
- A long overdue call to action on cyber-bullying
- Downsides to the global democratisation and sharing of content
And there you have it, five quick tools and specific instructions for you to get started with. For those interested in more complex social network analysis/visualization using raw data (but still free), give a tool such as Netlytic a try. Alternatively, if you are ready for something a bit more comprehensive, try out Nexamaster.
For those interested, I’ll also be holding a hands-on Social Media Monitoring and Network Analysis Workshop in Ottawa on May 26th.