(by: Joanna Caldito • MECO 6936 Thursday, 6-9 pm class)
I work for the government. My mission? Find my targets and get my hits using social media analytics. You probably have no idea how much information you give away when you use those free WI-FI spots.
For the uninitiated, social media analytics (SMA) is the collection, analysis and interpretation of structured and unstructured social media data to support insightful decision-making (Chen 2012; Bekmamedova and Shanks 2014 as cited by Khan, 2017).
Social media analytics is such a minefield of information, for example, just using the Insights page of Facebook as a page manager tells me which posts were popular, what my fan engagement is, the media reach of my posts, when my fans are online, the demographics of people near my business and popularity of my competitors that I ‘watch’. Through analytics, I now know who my fans are, what my fans want to see and when is the best time post.
This kind of information is just scratching the surface of SMA. According to Khan (2017), there are seven layers of social media analytics :
- Text – used to understand social media users’ sentiments or identifying emerging themes and topics.
- Actions – used to measure popularity and influence over social media.
- Networks – used to identify digital influencers and their position in the network.
- Hyperlinks – reveal internet traffic patterns.
- Apps (applications) – understanding in-app purchases, customer engagement and mobile user demographics.
- Search Engine – trends analysis
- Location data – mapping location of users.
These layers can be measured using different social media analytics tools. There is a plethora of available tools online, some for free, others with a subscription. Some of the more known ones are Facebook Insight for page owners, Google Analytics and Hootsuite to name a few. During the semester I was able to check out the three mentioned tools and I must say I was just salivating over all the available user information and I found that the best time to post is at night between the hours of 6-8 p.m. when users are often online. Using Hootsuite, I can manage my post to schedule it for that particular time period for maximum exposure.
Back to the free WI-FI spots. You probably frequent certain businesses because they offer free WI-FI connection but what you probably did not know is that, by doing so, you are also giving them free information.
Analytics allow page owners to look at the demographics of certain geographical niches. In the case of Facebook, I can see demographic data of people who used the application within 500 feet from my business address.
However, looking at the current information. It appears that the data is skewed in favour of the neighbour coffee shop offering free Wi-Fi to its customers. In order to make the data more realistic, customers should be able to freely access their Facebook accounts near the business. If analytics will regularly be used, there will be a need to create an access point for them. One suggestion would be to have a public WI-FI connection which directs them to the Facebook page of the business to ensure that their data will be captured.
From a targeting standpoint, this data capture is a boon. It allows us to understand the social media behaviours which can lead to more effective marketing (Boire, 2014). I’m pretty sure that once business owners and government officers realize this, we’ll be seeing more free WI-FI spots.
On a more serious note, another challenge in using analytics is that it is understood that communication will no longer be mass produced. Customisation will be a necessity in order to be relevant to target audiences. Hartley (2002) suggests that customisation can be seen as ‘an empowering development’ by assuming media greater diversity, taking into account marginalised or excluded groups by offering new content. To me, this means framing the information then making use of different tactics to get various target audiences interested. I might need to make a video, generate a meme or do a campaign to encourage user created content (UCC).
This is one of the things I valued during this semester; creating a social media campaign for the #BeTheFilter. We had to study our target audience, get their demographics, find out what platforms would best reach them and create spreadable media which is measured by participation and engagement. It was challenging to create a campaign for an abstract idea. It wasn’t the same as generating hype for an event or marketing a tangible product. It was using social media as a platform to educate.
Using social media to educate is one of its greatest potential. There is great resistance in many schools (Halavais, 2014) but I believe it can still be used as a teaching tool. Yes, I see myself to be an educator of sorts and I agree with Halavais (2014) in his statement that:
“Social media provides students an opportunity to engage in discussions and activities outside the classroom, to learn in public and makes transparent some of the processes of informal learning that otherwise might be too latent to easily observe, so that others may follow along the same path.”
Social media is such a powerful tool that should not just be harnessed to increase profits by businessmen but also by government agencies to touch base with their constituents and create collaborations through online engagement. Hoffman’s (2017) perspective of the future role of social media in government is that, “The better we understand social media, the more it will improve government”, in light of using analytics to create a more participatory form of government.
A more participatory form of government is what I personally want. So in my little way, in my small corner of the world, I am going to use social media to find my target audience and generate more hits with social media analytics. I work for the Philippine Government in a small provincial office and consumer protection through education is my mission.
Oh, and while I am at it, I am going to request free public WI-FI connection at the office.
Boire, R. (2014). Social Media Analytics. In Data Mining for Managers (pp. 181-184). US: Palgrave Macmillan.
Halavais, A. (2014). Teaching and learning with social media. In J. Hunsinger, The Social Media Handbook (p. 99). New York, USA: Routeledge.
Hartley, J. (2002). Communication, Cultural and Media Studies: The Key Concepts (Third Edition ed.). New York, USA: Routledge.
Hoffman, M. (2017). Foreword. In G. Khan, Social Media for Government A Practical Guide to Understanding, Implementing, and Managing Social Media Tools in the Public Sphere (p. v). Singapore: Springer Nature Singapore Pte. Ltd.
Khan, G. (2017). Social Media for Government: A Practical Guide to Understanding, Implementing, and Managing Social Media Tools in the Public Sphere. Singapore: Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd.