The need for businesses and individuals to measure their activity on social media is constantly growing as the industry is becoming more mature. This measurement can be split into two types of data; the much buzzed about big data as well as the relatively invisible small data.
In this case big data means all data companies collect about their activity. The key to big data is maximizing the amount of data points so that deep analysis and conclusions are possible. Data points are like dots on a map that can be connected to draw conclusions about the meaning of different activities. The activities being measured can be, for example, searching, sharing, clicking, liking or commenting on certain online content.
A great example of this is Google collecting data from searches to predict flu outbreaks even before they occur. In this case Google is connecting keywords (flu symptoms) used in the searches with a geographic location based on the IP addresses of the people searching.
So how can businesses who do not own the data on social media still collect and utilize enough data to make well informed decisions? A good start would be to collect and store the data they are already able to get from their company pages such as impressions, clicks, likes, comments, and shares. To get more data points, companies can provide their employees with tools to share content produced by the company. This way they are able to measure activities such as sharing by employees, amount of clicks generated, geographic location of the people clicking, the time, the browser, and the device people are using just to name a few.
After gathering this data the company would be able to tell, for example, the time of day that is the most effective for sharing. By combining two data points, such as time and location, companies can take it a step further and optimize or automate their sharing of content so that it will be shared at the most effective time for a certain location. Combining this data with website analytics obviously leads to an even more in-depth analysis.
So what about small data? Small data is what we measure in our everyday lives. An example of this is the new Nike+ fuelband, which allows you to measure how many calories you are burning throughout your regular day. Its early success shows how people want to measure more and more of their lives to be more effective.
On social media people are constantly posting content but they do not necessarily know if anyone is interested in the content, as there is no way to tell how many people have actually clicked their posts. We can measure likes, shares and comments, but this does not tell us everything as taking these actions is a bigger step than just opening a link. By using online tools to share links instead of sharing directly through a social media site, we can easily measure our social influence to some degree.
For businesses there are tremendous opportunities in combining these two data sets and encouraging employees to share company related updates. Businesses should provide their employees with a way to share company related content to their networks and a way to measure their own social influence by giving them access to the data being gathered. Giving employees this data will also motivate them to participate thus increasing the reach and effectiveness of social media marketing efforts.
This would be a win-win scenario for any business and their employees. Employees would improve their professional brand and get more information about their social influence all while helping their employer. Meanwhile the business would gather important data on the effectiveness of their content marketing and optimize it for maximum efficiency.