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9 steps for your social media data analysis process - By Roxanne Jans

These last few weeks I have spoken a lot about the power of social media data analysis and how it is such an important process for your business to harness it’s data to further understand your customers. Without reviewing your data on a regular basis you are missing out on clearly identifying who your target audience is, where they are, and what their interests are.

The problem I find is that many business owners battle to see the following as they:

  1. Struggled to get usable insight from social data and deem social intelligence too costly to pursue
  2. Do not have a clear process or method to segment and analyse social data
  3. Struggled to generate insight from the data because of the difficulty in interpreting the data.

Instead of thinking through the analysis, taking the necessary steps to perform the analysis correctly and then using the information to make good marketing decisions, business owners are jumping the gun. A vast amount of business owners have a tendency to rush into it to with a ‘Spray and Pray’ approach. The idea of spray – advertising your business everywhere and anywhere, whether is is targeted or measurable doesn’t matter – then just praying it works. Maybe you have done this yourself, I know I have in my earlier career days.

So stop and take notes: here are my 9 steps to social media data analysis.


We start with the question you are trying to answer and what you want to be able to do with the insight once you have it.

By answering these two purpose questions you lay the foundations of how to approach the analysis and what the insight needs to do. You prepare yourself to focus on the data that matters.


With your two answers ready, you’re now all set to deconstruct your question.

Take your question and break it down into smaller segments. This is extremely important because it helps you to break down the data into smaller relevant parts that you can analyse properly.


You are now ready to start getting the keywords, phrases and language.

We all know that social listening is dependent upon you creating a ‘search query’. This is the stage where we get all the information we need to make up our search and segmentation queries.

To do this stage properly, go back and look at how you have deconstructed your question. Spend time looking at the language around each of your areas and get all the keywords, phrases and everything else you need to gather the right data.


It’s now time to construct your search query. Query writing at a high level is complicated, but it is a skill that can be learned.

The biggest pitfall I see at this stage is that the search query is too loose. Go back to your original question and think about the best way you can gather the data to answer that question.

Too much data is confusing and it can easily lead you back down a hopeless path. Too little data won’t help either.


Now that you have the search query written and the data pulling through your tool, you now need to start segmenting the data.

These segments are related to how you deconstructed your question in step 2 and the phrases and keywords you collected at step 3. Go back and start to create your segmentation queries.

If you don’t do this step properly you become reliant on ‘volume automation’ and you’ll never get the insight you are looking for because it’s hidden.


As social intelligence research is driven by naturally occurring social media conversations, you cannot account for every eventuality.

The process I’ve outlined will help to prepare you, but you’ll always find a chunk of data that you’ve collected that doesn’t fit into any of your segmentation criteria. These are our unknown segments, where the magic happens.

They are the segments that you didn’t know about. They are probably where the insight that you hadn’t considered is hiding.

What you are looking for in this data is to find a pattern and create a new segment or change up the segmentation criteria in the segments you had already created.


We’re now finally ready for analysis.

Having segmented the data, it will now be easier to work with and analyze.

The question that you are trying to answer will dictate the analysis. I advise looking for the context of the communication – discourse analysis on all the comments.


Your work doesn’t stop at analysis, you need to interpret what this means.
I often see too many people putting easy to measure metrics in reports and trying to pass that off as insight. It is not insight.

You’ll have an easier job at this step if you have worked through the process that I have set out here. To explain…

You know what you want to answer and what you need to do with the insight – this helps you to identify what is important in the final interpretation and report. You don’t measure the easy to get things, you prepare to answer the question properly.

You’ve deconstructed the question and segmented the data properly – this lets you know the volume of conversation in each segment.

You’ve analysed the data to find out the context driving the conversation – this tells you the specifics.
This step is about putting all of this together and answering the original question.


There are areas that have not been considered during the other eight steps that you can also explore.

For example, who is talking or their location.


Your immediate next step should be to review the searches and dashboards that you already have running, use this process to find out if you could be doing more and amend what you have accordingly.

The reality is: “The odds of hitting your target go up dramatically when you aim at it” – Mal Pancoast

Roxanne Jans is a freelance marking and brand strategist, and one of our talented villagers.


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