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A "Dark" Future Ahead for Social Analytics

Today's post comes from guest contributor Vivek Sonkhla, Principal Product Manager for Oracle Social, who highlights the latest social analytics trends and predictions for what's next. 

Social media listening tools have come a long way since stepping on the scene in 2006. Social media analytics as a discipline is now a teenager - and boy is it behaving like one! In early years, it was a closed system, and access to data and analytical tools was highly controlled and limited to the high and mighty. Current generation tools have truly democratized social data to the point that more than 90% of marketers now use social media as a part of their marketing strategy.

Just as social media has gone through a series of transformations, social media analysis solutions have changed thanks to rigorous developments in technology fueled by startup funding, mergers and acquisitions. The last decade has seen business intelligence giants taking over, acquiring or developing niche capabilities and integrating them into their core platform. Now, we are sitting at an inflection point where the focus is shifting from just listening, to listening and more importantly, utilizing social data.

Looking forward, I expect the following social analysis trends will become increasingly important:

Visuals will continue to kill it on social.

Nearly 75% of the content floating around social media consists of videos and photographs. Over the last two years, that spike in visually driven interactions has become a marketer's goldmine. While social analytics providers continue to build visual listening capabilities into their platforms, users are becoming more and more confident with using visual social as a part of their social strategy. A quick look at the stats gives you a clear indication of where we are heading:

  • 60% of marketers used videos in their social marketing in 2016
  • 14% of marketers used live videos in their social marketing in 2016
  • 2016 was Instagram's best year in advertising, raking in nearly $600M in ad revenue
  • 73% of marketers plan on increasing their use of videos

In the upcoming year, social analytics providers will strive to integrate visual listening capabilities into their solution, from planning stage and publishing to analysis and reporting. While these capabilities already exist, the key to success will be to make marked improvements in data actionability. 

Dark Social is the next big elephant in the room.

Dark social is characterized as anything that is not on the major social platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. It stands for the social traffic that is hard to measure and mostly happens outside the frame of reference of a social media watcher. Dark social mostly includes messaging apps like WhatsApp, Viber or Snapchat. According to recent research*, 82% of content shared on mobile is shared through dark social – via messaging apps, email, or text. That’s up from less than 50% in 2014.  By contrast, 90% of social marketing investment is on public platforms.

Dark social not only erodes social ROI, but also takes a lot of social activity under the radar. It frustrates SEO experts and poses a big challenge to social marketers and strategists, as it becomes harder for them to understand what’s happening inside these closed systems.

But dark social has the potential to become the most reliable source of product/brand specific sentiments. These conversations, happening in the safety of a walled social space, invite expressions that are honest and free from public bias. Though tools that help discover and analyze dark social data have emerged, they are still in their infancy. Until these tools mature, marketers will have to find ways to avoid being left out of the conversation altogether.

How can brands achieve success with social data analysis?

Social media will continue to play a role in most consumer’s lives in some aspect.  And as the amount of social interactions continues to grow, so does the quantity of data companies have to wade through.

In the next couple of years, those who learn how to capitalize on visual listening and unveil dark social content, will be the most successful at utilizing social data.  

*June 2016 report from RadiumOne

 

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