Exclude marketers for better social media influencer analytics

In social media marketing, we often want to identify social influencers to understand who we need to be interacting with. However, our fellow marketers often obscure the landscape by filling it with marketing and promotion. Do a simple search in the social media monitoring tool of your choice and you’ll likely see 500% more promotion than conversation on public channels.

Here’s an example chart of conversations in social media about Google Analytics, with everything and with marketing messages taken out.

GA with and without marketing.jpg

What a huge difference. Marketing is clogging the airwaves.

Yet when we hear common social media advice, one of the most frequently repeated pieces of advice is to engage, engage, engage with our communities. Top influencers engage often.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know who was actually engaging, versus who was just mindlessly promoting all the time? What if we could dig into just the conversations and exclude the marketers from the party?

This matters more than you think. In a very, very simple word concordance (the counting method that forms the basis for word clouds), take a look at the difference in importance between words marketers use versus words used in non-promotional conversation:

Understanding meaning.jpg

The orange bars are the words that people use in conversation about Google Analytics. The blue bars are what marketers use, most often in promotional content. If you’re trying to reach influencers who engage, but you target your outreach using search terms that are blue bars, who are you going to recruit? Who are you going to reach? You’ll get marketers.

Bad marketing ruins everything.

Luckily, any decent social media monitoring tool should support boolean logic, boolean queries (such as OR, AND, NOT queries) that can help weed out your fellow marketers to identify actual engagement. In the monitoring tool of your choice, build in exclusions for:

  • Links and URLs
  • Sharing requests
  • Shares
  • Appeal language/calls to action

What you’ll be left with are the actual conversations.

For example, the above bar chart was generated with two queries, the first with everything:

(“google analytics” OR “googleanalytics” OR “@googleanalytics”)

and the second, without marketing:

(“google analytics” OR “googleanalytics” OR “@googleanalytics”) NOT (“pls share” OR “RT” OR “http” OR “https” OR “get your” OR “download now” OR “click here” OR “whitepaper” OR “webinar” OR “sign up” OR “subscribe now”)

In short, take all the marketing knowledge you have, all the best practices you’ve collected – and search for the opposite. Remove them. Clean them out. What you’ll be left with is actual conversation.

Apply this to your searches, to your conversational analysis, and most especially to your influencer identification, and you’ll see drastically different results for who is really influential in the industry or topic of your choice.

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Do social shares correlate at all with SEO?

Rand Fishkin of Moz wrote a fascinating Whiteboard Friday article recently, making the claim that except for the top 10% of content producers, social media sharing appears to have no impact on SEO. Go read the article first.

This struck me as a very broad claim. I wanted to see how I might find that out for my site. As with so many things in digital marketing, your mileage may vary, and I felt instinctively certain that my experience is different from the aggregate.

Using one of the many SEO tools at my disposal thanks to SHIFT Communications’ data-driven marketing technology toolkit, I took a look at my website’s inbound links vs. social shares. I did a Spearman regression with Rand’s hypothesis that there should be absolutely no correlation between social shares and inbound links.

What did I find?


Above, we see a modest positive correlation between social shares and referring domains (which are the domains that contain inbound links to my site). While it’s not amazing, it’s also not zero.

I even took a look at Rand’s own site, Moz.com (and Rand, that link with equity is on the house):


Above, an R value of 0.445 with a p value less than 0.001 is far from no correlation. In fact, it’s a moderately strong correlation.

What we’ve proven is that the aggregate statement “social has no bearing on inbound links” is an extremely broad statement. As with anything in metrics, analytics, and statistics, there is no substitute for doing your own work, with your own data, and analyzing for yourself. You can start with a hypothesis derived from a broad, aggregate statement, but do not make the fatal mistake of assuming the aggregate whole also represents your business. You’ll drive your business into the ground.

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Are people using social media during the holidays?

Emilio Murphy asked,

Instinct says yes, of course, but instinct isn’t data. So what might we look at?

First, let’s get a sense of whether people are using social media at all. Using the fantastic resources at data-driven PR firm SHIFT Communications (disclosure: my employer), I first examined the usage of common phrases like “good morning” and “what’s up” using Twitter as a data source. While Twitter has biases, it also has the largest publicly available data stream for analysis:

People saying common phrases on Twitter.jpg

As highlighted above with the arrows, usage on Thanksgiving is in the lowest quartile, while Christmas Day is in the third quartile. New Year’s Day is in the first quartile, indicating high usage. So, the basic answer to Emilio’s question is yes, people are around and using their devices.

Are people engaged with social media with brands? Let’s look at the venerable New York Times:

NY Times Per Post Engagement Average.jpg

Above, we see that Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day are in the lowest quartile for people engaging with their posts (favorites, retweets), while Christmas Day is in the second quartile, near the very top. Note also that while Thanksgiving is low in engagement, most of the fourth quarter of the year is in the lowest quartile. Engagement overall is a problem during this period, not just on specific days.

Finally, let’s ask the money question: is anyone talking about buying anything? To ascertain this, I looked for people saying the exact phrase “go shopping” and did NOT include a URL in their tweet:

People saying the exact phrase Go Shopping, no URL.jpg

Above, while volume is lower, in the thousands rather than the millions, people expressing their shopping activities appears to be quite high.

Should you post on social media during the holidays? As long as you have something relevant and interesting to post, the answer appears to be yes. People are around, people are using their devices. The greater challenge you’ll face is posting something worth reading and discussing, not activating the audience.

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