When It Comes to Social Data, Tell a Story

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If you’ve been paying attention to trends in measurement and analytics, you’ve likely heard the phrase big data, which is this utopian concept that describes the extraordinary amount of data that exists in our hyperconnected world. This amount of data also presents organizations with the opportunity to translate it into actionable insight. It’s a great concept, but it often challenges public relations professionals that are already trying to mine the seemingly unlimited social data and present it in a meaningful way.

One of the biggest mistakes PR professionals make is overthinking social data. With the often unmanageable amount of data we now have from Facebook Insights, Twitter analytics, social monitoring tools like Radian6 and Sysomos and more, it becomes easier to have a lack of focus.

So, where do you start? When it comes to telling a story with the data, adopt the principles established by journalism: tell a story by answering who, what, where, when and why. Using this framework can help you tell a story that will help make a more meaningful impact with your clients and bosses. You can apply the five Ws framework to social media monitoring reports, social channel reports (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), trends and industry reports and other vehicles for delivering social data.

Below are the key components for each section when telling a story with data:

Who

In every good story, there is a cast of characters that you follow. In social data, these characters comprise your target audience. Reports should answer who is talking about your brand and what their character traits are. Knowing the audience and understanding different demographic information can help you and your clients be more informed about who your social audience is.

What

What is your audience saying? What are the topics of conversation? Providing context and more qualitative analysis can add a sort of plot line to the story you’re trying to tell with the data. The answers to “what” can be social metrics around brand sentiment, the level of penetration when it comes to key messages or a breakdown of what the topics include.

Where

One of the most important questions your data can answer is from where the data is coming. Understanding which platforms are hosting social conversations about your clients can help inform where future marketing dollars should go. For instance, if you’re spending your entire budget on Facebook, but your social monitoring reveals a large amount of conversation occurring on discussion forums, it would be reevaluating where your marketing dollars are going.

When

In a story, timing is often a key element that impacts how the story plays out. This is also true with social data – cadence and scheduling can help drive more impact for your clients. For instance, if you have a food brand and your social data reveals that the majority of social conversations are happening late at night, consider adjusting your content and social community management to reflect this.

Why

This question is perhaps the most difficult to answer. Who, what, where and when are mostly observations that can be made, but answering why requires higher level of analysis. When building out your story, always ask why for each observation you make. Having a clear understanding of the psychology behind the data can help you pull more meaningful insight.

Working in PR, you probably never thought you would be leveraging similar traits to authors and storytellers. However, translating all of the data that goes across your computer screen into an easily digestible story can help you demonstrate value for your clients.

 

Nick Lucido

Nick Lucido joined Edelman as an intern in May 2009 and is currently an account executive within Edelman Digital. Lucido is a member of the firm’s digital strategy team, providing online conversation research, measurement analysis and strategic insights for clients in a variety of industries. He is the PRSA New Professionals Section PRSSA liaison.

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