Impact of Data and Analytics on Social Media in 2018

With the advent and popularity of free internet access, social media has become part of nearly everyone’s daily routine. We’re all connected, all the time, whether we’re texting each other on Whatsapp, checking out videos of cute animals on Facebook, posting updates on Twitter, uploading a new picture of us to Instagram, etc.

There is so much information on the internet about everything and anything, from the thousands of articles on Wikipedia to How-to videos on Youtube, but the most valuable information by far is social media data.

All the status updates, pictures, and videos posted by people on their social media contains information — information about their demographics, their likes, their dislikes, etc. This information, ie. user data, can be analysed, and its applications are numerous. For example, social media data can be analysed to reveal the proportion of social media users that enjoy a particular flavour of ice cream at a particular ice cream parlour at any given time of the day. The ice cream parlour can then identify which of his ice creams are best-sellers, and at which times of the day. This technique is known as data analytics, and it is one of the biggest trends of 2018.

In this article, we’ll go over the current and future applications of data and analytics on social media, and examine the impact it has created. We’ll also learn about how data analytics works!

Current Application #1: Influencing marketing strategies

One of the biggest applications of analysing user data is seen in the techniques businesses use for social media marketing. By analysing the demographic of their reach on multiple social media platforms, they can identify the most effective platform, time, and format for their advertisements.

For example, let’s say a family-friendly restaurant wants to place an advertisement on social media. By analysing user data, they may realize that on Facebook, there are many middle aged women who have marked their status as “Married” and listed their children on their profile online from 10AM-11AM on weekdays. As this is their target demographic, they can choose to play their advertisement only from 10AM-11AM on weekdays, and reach a greater proportion of viewers who are more likely to become customers.

This is also known as “targeted advertising”, and it definitely happens to you too! If you don’t believe us, try searching the internet for something you have never searched for before. Then, log into Facebook and look at the advertisements that pop up for you. Are they similar to what you searched for? The answer is probably yes.

Current Application #2: SEO marketing

SEO marketing refers to “Search Engine Optimized” marketing, and is a technique used to boost webpages to the top search results returned whenever a user searches for certain keywords. Webpages in the first page of a search result will be much more likely to be clicked on (after all, few people bother going to the second page of a search result) and therefore, SEO marketing can help increase viewership to a certain website.

For example, let’s say you are searching for an online tutorial to help you install a shelf in your room. You might search “how to install shelf”, and search engines will pick up the keyword “install shelf”. Articles with that keyword, as well as pictures and videos tagged with that keyword, will show up on your search results page, and you’ll be able to quickly find a helpful result.

Basically, if you use SEO marketing techniques, search engines will be able to boost your webpage to the front page of search results whenever users search for anything relevant to your brand. Keep in mind that it is not as simple as incorporating keywords into your article — if the article does not make sense, it will not rank highly on search engines. Also, if a keyword is overused, your webpage likely will not rank highly on search engines. Remember, you want to communicate a message to the public, so make sure that message makes sense. Search engine algorithms consider links from more authoritative websites as strong ranking signals and this increases your PageRank metrics.

Future Application #1: Predictive analytics

So, we’ve looked at what data analytics was like in 2017. Now, let’s look at what it’s going to be like in 2018.

Predictive analytics is going to become increasingly popular — by analysing the big data from social media, companies will be able to identify the hallmarks of a customer who is about to cease business with said company, and take efforts to correct it. They can also identify common behaviours between different customers to see what makes them more likely to become a power user or be completely on board with the company’s ideals. They can then use this information to convert social media users into customers of their business — this is known as influencer marketing.

Future Application #2: Personalized marketing communication

Targeted advertisements are already pretty commonplace; when you sign into Facebook, you see advertisements about things you’ve searched for in the past and enjoy looking at on the internet. They are actually a product of data analytics, however, this trend will only blow up in 2018 and become even more widespread and normalized.

Due to the sophisticated Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology we have at our fingertips today, creating personalized marketing strategies is an absolute must for any company. Nowadays, customers must feel as if the company is reaching out to them and personally asking for their business, otherwise, they will just move on to the next company which does. Twenty years ago, this would have been a ridiculous idea; today this is commonplace.

Personalized marketing communication basically means that you will only see advertisements for things that interest you. The relevance of advertisements to you will be determined by what you post online, what you watch, what you share, etc, and only the most relevant advertisements for you will pop up. For example, if you watch plenty of makeup tutorials on Youtube, the next time you log into Facebook, you may just see a makeup ad.

Personalized marketing communication allows companies to engage personally with a user and create a more intimate relationship with them, making them much more likely to become a customer.

So how do social media marketing teams work?

Social media marketing teams typically have a few strategies. First, they identify their influencers. Influencers are users of social media who have a lot of followers they can “influence” — ie. if they recommend a product, sales for that product will increase.

To do this, they will typically use a tool with a good social listening ability. This is so that it can scan the internet and identify any mentions, conversations, hashtags, or general chatter, about your company. It will then compile and analyse it, and return with the names and profiles of those who have both high follower counts and talk about your company in a positive manner.

Once these influencers have been identified, companies will typically reach out to the individual and ask them to play a short advertisement/give their brand a good name on their profile so as to increase brand awareness, and maybe even convert some of their users into customers.

When it comes to analysing the data obtained from social media, marketing teams typically look at geographic location, demographic, gender, and age statistics. Some higher end data analytic tools can provide deeper analysis, and even calculate return on investment (ROI) metrics. However, these are much more expensive and smaller businesses tend to opt for cheaper and simpler data analytic tools.

What does data analytics mean for businesses?

A study conducted in 2017 revealed that the marketing department of many companies struggle with adapting to the technologies, especially with the high rate of innovation. However, an equal proportion of companies also said that data analytics will have the highest impact on the world in 2018, with marketing automation as a close second.

Digital marketing requires an entirely different skill set from regular marketing, and it is an industry that is currently thriving. In 2018, many companies are going to invest in hiring digital marketers and data analysts, so they can take advantage of all that data lying out there on the internet and create better and more efficient marketing strategies.

However, it is essential that companies consider whether they have spent too much money on data analytics. The budget for digital marketing that most companies have for 2018 is said to have expanded more than any other budget — almost at a disproportionate rate! With so many companies investing in digital marketing, the internet might get oversaturated with personalized marketing strategies and consumers may get bored as day after day, they see the same things pop up on their dashboards.

Is this ethical — what about data protection?

This is a growing concern amongst social media users — are businesses exploiting their data for profit? Is their personal information truly secure on the internet? The answer is a mixed yes and no.

All social media platforms have a set of Terms and Conditions that detail their data protection regulations. While some social media platforms do have some form of open access user data (for example, Twitter and Facebook), and others sell their data to companies (for example, Instagram), some platforms keep their user data entirely confidential (for example, Snapchat).

Most of the platforms that do distribute user data typically do still keep the actual identity of the users anonymous. The only data that companies or the public can access is big data, ie. just numbers and statistics, but no names.

In 2016, however, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was passed. This regulation essentially requires companies to protect the personal data and privacy of all EU citizens for transactions that occur within EU member states. This regulation intends to to restore control of personal information back to the citizens by introducing immediate pseudonymization of received data among several other measures like stronger implementation of data protection through design.

In 2018, this regulation will likely become a bigger and more pressing reality. As social media becomes more and more widespread, and the technologies behind data analytics advances further, companies will be struggling to navigate the tricky and confusing world of data analytics, while still following the laws about data use and protection.

What role will GDPR play in 2018?

It is predicted that cookies will be affected by GDPR — especially if they have a user based ID. While cookies were not originally intended to be used for data collection, they have since evolved into being used for mostly that, and some websites may be collecting as much personal information about you as possible. With GDPR becoming more stringent, we can look forward to cookies being unable to collect your data, or at the very least, inform you of what data they are collecting.

Since GDPR is being enforced on the 25th of May, all website owners must be transparent about the data they collect and store, as well as the way they obtain all this user information. Some websites may even have the choice of opting in for your data to be collected, so you get to choose how much you want to share, and how relevant you want the advertisements you see to be.

So, in 2018, any company who does not offer GDPR compliance with their data analytics will likely run into some problems with their customers when they realize that their personal, private data is still being collected and analysed without their explicit consent.

So, to wrap it up…

Basically, data collection and analytics is probably going to be around for as long as we users are still giving out our data on the internet. However, thanks to regulations such as GDPR, we can hope for some semblance of data protection and privacy. This doesn’t mean that we should openly publish all our personal information on our social media accounts however. It’s best to follow this rule: if it’s not something you’re comfortable with the entire world knowing, don’t post it on the internet.

Another reason why enforcing the GDPR is so important is because it currently has no parallels today outside of the EU. It basically sets the standard for how privacy policies should be effectively implemented. Existing privacy policies for a lot of countries need an overhaul because they are shoddily implemented. The success of GDPR would set off a critical paradigm shift towards implementation of better policies globally.

Overall, in 2018, we are likely to see a huge surge in data analytic technologies. Predictive analytics and personalized marketing is just a start — the implications of data analytics for the future are endless.