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January 14, 2015

Measuring Language on Social Media

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Measuring language on social media is an area that many businesses, large or small, miss out on. Too many businesses focus on the hard numbers – and often the wrong numbers – when it comes to understanding ROI through social media.

Get The Numbers Right

If your internal social media team is focusing on ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ then, chances are, it is failing to use social media in the way it was designed for. When it comes to the numbers, engagement is the key metric you should be following. Failing to get your fans or followers engaged is the equivalent to standing in a room with them and keeping to yourself in the corner.

Listen to the Language

But another important metric is qualitative – listening to the language that people are using when they discuss your brand, either on your social media platforms or on other people’s feeds – often in places you won’t actually be able to access. Quite possibly one of the best examples I’ve seen of this was from a friend’s Facebook feed – Mike Goldman, of Big Brother fame was posting on his wall asking his friends for recommendations of a draftsman or draftswoman who could conjure up some plans for a renovation for his property.

There were two specific comments on this post – one from ‘Ric Wade’ and the first one from ‘Jamie Wright’.

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Straight away Ric has recommended someone he’s used before. Superdraft has hit the jackpot here and potentially found a new client without having to spend any marketing dollars whatsoever, converting based entirely on quality customer service. The downside is that he’s described Superdraft as ‘cheap’, which is normally a pre-cursor to the word ‘nasty,’ although I think on this occasion that’s not where he’s going with that suggestion. Perhaps a recommendation of ‘great value for money’ would be better?

So how about Jamie’s comment? She’s describing Yvette as ‘amazing and affordable.’ Is that better than ‘very good and cheap’? Of course it is. Side by side, Yvette comes out slightly ahead in the positive comments stake. If Mike was to line them both up alongside each other based entirely on those comments alone, I suspect he would choose Yvette’s recommendation.

There is another point to factor into all of this: the strength of the person actually making the recommendation. What if Jamie has recommended someone before and they turned out to be a dud? It’s all well and good getting people to say positive things about you on social media but you also need to get the right people – Malcolm Gladwell famously referred to this group of people as ‘Mavens’ in his book published in 2000, ‘The Tipping Point.’ However, sometimes Mavens can be social influencers, and sometimes not. Mavens are generally first to understand about trends and fashions, but sometimes they work with other people to influence groups of friends and fans.

All in all, it’s a complicated mix. The focus should however be about the language people are using around your brand.

Cheap, Inexpensive, Value-For-Money

Let’s go back to the example above. The change of a single phrase – from cheap to value-for-money – can make all the difference. No one wants to be described as cheap. We’d all much prefer value-for-money. Whilst not as bad as cheap, even ‘inexpensive’ is a bit…nothing. It has no emotion around it. It’s very descriptive and formal language.

To Conclude

There are two simple lessons here: the first is to understand that social media isn’t all likes, shares and fans – the language that is being used to talk about your brand and the people doing the talking, are just as important. The second is that that great customer service that you’ve been delivering, is probably working really hard for you somewhere you can’t see it.


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Simon Dell is a former agency owner and managing director, and is now a freelance consultant under his own brand SimonDell.com. His goal is to help develop and implement strategic digital and creative marketing plans for clients delivering measurable results and fantastic ROI. He also writes for Fairfax Media, MYOB's business portal and frequently speaks at events and conferences around Australia.

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