Since the dawn of the internet age, nothing has shifted the course of user activity more than social networks. Early websites like MySpace blazed a trail for the wildly successful Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, just to name a few. Now, there are spaces for people to share their thoughts, musings, photos, videos and a range of other media with their friends, family, acquaintances and the rest of the followers that make up their audience.

Now that more individuals utilize social media than ever, businesses are catching on to the value that these platforms can provide. While connecting and building relationships with existing and potential customers is important, corporations are now leveraging social media for new purposes – namely, big data.

Social media users make a wealth of information about themselves and others available online, and all of this data is simply ripe for the picking when it comes to big data analytics.

Social media: How extensive are these networks?

Before getting into best practices and use cases, many companies begin their social media big data efforts by investigating just how large these communities of users are. This can help gauge the impact that analyzing details from these sources can have on the organization, as well as its consumer base.

Statista has gathered a few key numbers pertaining to the social media landscape:

  • There are 2.22 billion social media users across the globe, including 78 percent of the U.S. population.
  • Facebook currently has nearly 1.6 billion active users. Twitter, which becomes more popular every day, has 310 million monthly users.
  • Facebook remains the king of social media. Overall, more than 38 percent of the global population uses the website, and 68 percent of these visits come from mobile devices. As of mid-2016, Facebook has 43.2 percent of the U.S. social media market share.

What’s more, as innovative networks like Facebook and Twitter continue to offer new and advanced features and capabilities for users, the number of active profiles will only increase. This, in turn, will create an even larger big data repository that businesses can leverage for a nearly endless number of insights pertaining to customer habits, brand reputation, client preferences and other important information.

“If big data is the water pouring out of your faucet, then social media is the reservoir that stream comes from,” TechCo contributor Dennis Hung wrote. “It could be argued, therefore, that the unending influx of content from social media is indeed what has allowed the data analytics of the past to balloon into big data.”

Social media as a big data tool: Brand statistics

“Businesses are discovering new and exciting uses for social media big data analysis nearly every day.”

Social Media Sharing

Now that more individuals utilize social media than ever, businesses are catching on to the value that these platforms can provide.

One of the first steps companies can take toward leveraging big data to their advantage is to simply set up a branded profile across the networks that they believe will have the most impact. Thanks to its popularity, Facebook is usually a safe bet here, as is Twitter. Businesses that have more graphical or video-centered offers can also utilize websites like Pinterest and Instagram to showcase these items.

With a profile in place, your business can start gathering data pertaining to its own posts and followers, which can help provide insights into the success of marketing campaigns and the overall brand presence.

However, this is only step one. In order to reap the best benefits from social media, your company must do more than simply create profiles and count likes. Other, more impactful strategies are needed.

Historical trends to predict future success

By gathering and analyzing historical, trending information, your business will be in a better position to not only identify and capitalize on meaningful patterns, but predict the most successful upcoming strategies as well. For instance, if analysis shows that customers frequently engage with and share video content, this could point your organization in this direction for a future marketing campaign. Best of all, your analytics will back up your efforts and help prove ROI.

“This means marketers can now see with increasing clarity into the future to gauge the likely effectiveness of a strategy, rather than relying exclusively on past performance,” Hung wrote. “This will foster the development of new approaches geared at predicting customer behavior, and can help limit the amount of costly and timely A/B testing a marketer would have to perform.”

Addressing customer pain points

One of the most advantageous things about social media is that it provides a direct avenue from the customer to the brand. In this way, your clients can reach out to you to offer feedback, advice on needed improvements or compliments about products and services.

Social media can also help shine a light on certain problems that a portion of your customers are experiencing. Without a place to provide open, honest feedback, these issues might have gone unnoticed in the past. But with social media and data analysis, your company can better recognize the challenges that customers are having, and work proactively to fix these. In this way, customers can have the best experience with your business possible.

“Analyzing consumers’ posts or interacting with them on social media can help brands detect and solve their problems on a real-time basis,” retail writer Daniel Newman wrote for IBM. “The resolution time is shorter because the data is right in front of the customer service representative. The individual attention helps increase the level of customer satisfaction and loyalty.”

Peering into the future: Customized algorithms

Businesses are discovering new and exciting uses for social media big data analysis nearly every day. As these sectors continue to advance, new possibilities for leveraging social media alongside data analysis will offer even more impactful insights for today’s enterprises.

Just one example of this is the introduction of customized algorithms created by companies to highlight the findings their businesses are after. Hung noted that this is a “hyper-refined” approach, and can ensure that analysis results are completely unique to the individual organization leveraging the custom algorithm. This strategy prevents enterprises from having to constantly chase the competition, as your company isn’t “playing by the exact same playbook, vying for the exact same stats” as others in your industry, Hung pointed out.

Partnering for success

Social media will continue to provide a compelling source of big data now and into the future. And as this landscape changes, your business will need an expert partner that can not only help you keep up, but set your own pace in your market.

Aunalytics has all the tools your business needs to successfully mine and utilize the insights that social media can teach. To find out more, contact us for a consultation today.