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Smith Marketing Professor Co-Authors ‘Social Media Intelligence’

Feb 27, 2014
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Social Media Intelligence

Marketers may feel as though they are drowning in data and metrics when monitoring social media with its complexity of platforms and opinions.

A new book, "Social Media Intelligence” (Cambridge University Press), by Wendy Moe, associate professor of marketing at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, details solving such a conundrum through understanding the behavior driving online consumer opinion data and leveraging such insight into actionable marketing strategy.

The book can benefit any organization, from businesses to political campaigns, whose marketers try to monitor and gauge what’s being said about their brands on such platforms as Facebook, Yelp and Twitter, says Moe. “Success involves investing in, and-or developing, strategy-savvy social media specialists who can intelligently process the data in-depth. "

While most previous books on the topic go straight into strategy implications, Moe and co-author David Schweidel of Emory University's Goizueta Business School lay out a three-part guide to transition from social media monitoring-to-intelligence by:

  • Understanding established behavioral theory
  • Applying those principles to how and why online opinions are created
  • Adapting the new insight into a marketing strategy

The book's first section frames online consumer opinion-sharing with the grounded behavior theory that extreme opinions tend to be loudest and stand out, while relatively quiet people in the middle tend to avoid engaging and debating. Meanwhile, the motivation fueling the commentary ranges from altruism to self-promotion.

Applying such framework to social media monitoring, a snapshot of online commentary is analogous to a naked-eye view of a flock of geese. Just as a collection of interacting, individually-minded birds creates an identifiable flight formation and direction, a consumer opinion dataset is underscored by a diversity of platforms and commentators, who range from low-involved and moderate to those who are activist and extreme in their opinion.

These dynamics collectively “muddy the picture,” says Moe, who directs Smith’s master’s program in marketing analytics.

The activists, such as bandwagoners and self-perceived experts, are motivated to differentiate themselves. They tend to comment on debate-driven platforms like discussion boards.

Moderate, “more thought-out” commentary gravitates to blogs and tends to dissipate over time, leaving the “activists” to dominate the online posting population.

A subsequent, “increasing negative tone wouldn’t mean, as a whole, your brand is doing worse over time,” Moe says. “Instead, the brand is being subject to an online environment more conducive to bias.”

Marketing managers ultimately are susceptible to “focusing on those who either ‘love’ or ‘hate’ their product, while overlooking a large chunk of consumers in the middle,” she adds.

To more effectively address these behavioral factors, organizations should prioritize developing their marketing divisions to gather better intelligence that cuts through the noise and chatter that can contaminate social media monitoring efforts.

"A lot of staffing for social media involves communication specialists skilled at tweeting and blogging," says Moe. “But companies need to go further by targeting specialists who also can contribute in the bigger picture of its strategic planning."

For more information about the book, go to the publisher's site.

View a related presentation here by Wendy Moe about social media intelligence as part of a recent Marketing Science Institute conference.

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The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, MS in business, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.