Benchmarking Social Data: The Key to Social Insights

Remember, you’re not analyzing data in a vacuum--it always needs context, and benchmarks provide the inflection point on which to build your insight stories over time.

Typically, when companies express an interest in brand health benchmarking, the discussion revolves around measuring a change in sentiment or share of voice over time. As they progress along the social maturity curve, their access to historical social data allows them to compare these metrics in subsets.

A retailer, for example, might want to benchmark key performance indicators from the last quarter of 2015 to compare them to the metrics generated by the coming holiday season. However, there is so much more to benchmarking social data, as it can be valuable beyond comparing your data against your competitors or your own historical performance.

Benchmarking and tracking the health of sub-brands is integral to gaining visibility into the volume and emotional impact properties are having on the overall enterprise.

It’s probably an oversimplification to say something like, “Every brand health benchmarking analysis is focused on three primary measurements: volume, time and sentiment.” However, at its core, it’s the truth. These three measurements can be sliced together to create dozens of useful and strategic KPIs.

A huge enterprise business like Amazon might not have worries about overall sentiment metrics or share of voice performance against competitors. However, Amazon’s reach extends beyond the core business of its namesake e-commerce website.

Amazon is the parent company of more than 20 internet brands. Some are niche e-commerce sites (, some are e-retail giants (Zappos) and some generate revenue through content and advertising (IMDB).

Benchmarking sub-brand share of voice and sentiment can provide insight into which properties are pulling their weight in driving consumer word of mouth and which might be having a negative impact on the enterprise as a whole.

What can benchmarking teach us? In looking at the charts below, it’s clear that there is cause for concern over the drastic drop of volume in mentions of Zappos. The final three months of 2015 generated 85 percent of the mentions about the brand in the nine months tracked.

Zappos is a significant revenue contributor, and a drop in word of mouth can translate into a drop in sales. Our benchmarking insight here is that perhaps it’s time to raise the ante on marketing and communications for Zappos–a company that built its reputation on innovative ways of reaching consumers.

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The benchmarking of sentiment data at the end of 2015 allows us to generate insights from how sentiment trends over time. In the charts below, notice that despite the large drop in volume, Zappos’ sentiment remains constant.

However, the real story here is the shift in negative sentiment for both comiXology (12.8 percent) and Woot (10.5 percent). Without an initial measurement, the decline might not have been noticed, as it slowly creeped downward over time. Thanks to benchmarking, there is a baseline to return to for context around shifts in KPIs.

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Another example of the power of benchmarking your social data can be seen with brands looking to leverage social data to assist in supply chain and inventory management, where a market research benchmarking study on a specific line of products can uncover a wealth of information that could send ripples across the organization.

A company like The Home Depot, for example, supports hundreds of thousands of SKUs (stock keeping units) of merchandise. The company’s e-commerce experience is a sophisticated study in best practices, as it provides a wealth of information designed to get the products consumers need into their hands, whether it’s in stores or online.

Ultimately, Home Depot would rather make a sale in a brick-and-mortar location, because there is a much higher chance that the consumer will consider and purchase additional items in their path through the store. So the website features on-site inventory, actual aisle and bin location and pre-purchase pickup options.

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