Lead Generation from Social Media – getting rid of the Noise within the noise to leave the needles

I read a really good article recently about how important the construction of the search query is when pulling data out of social media platforms such as Twitter. It’s definitely also our experience at Essencient that if you don’t get this right, you will pull back a large amount of noise that is just not relevant to what you are looking for: you would still need to go through this possibly huge haystack to find the needles.  This is particularly important when you are using specific keywords to try and find sales leads. A whole load of people out there use the same words for many things that are not remotely related to your target, but you could still get their posts in your data set…the noise! For example, let’s assume I was looking for people who had engaged on social media with subjects that might indicate interest in fitness products. Using a keyword such as ‘run’  (which according to Dictionary.com has 179 different meanings!) in my search query would return a lot of irrelevant data from people who are not actually of interest to me. Such a query is not constructed well: too generic, too broad, too noisy. Focusing on searching for ‘handles’ or hashtags might seem to be an answer but, as Gartner reports, only 3% of brand mentions are tagged, so using that approach severely limits what you get back.

So getting the query right is key to reducing noise but, and it’s an important but, this is only part of the lead identification challenge because there is noise within the noise. This is in the form of posts that are relevant to your target, and are legitimately returned by the search query, but just don’t say anything actionable you can use as a lead. We have found that this noise can be between 80-90% of even a well-constructed query.

An example related to fitness might be, “Time for another run in the pouring rain.” I am afraid that, as humans, we are quite good at speaking whilst not saying anything that someone can then do anything about, particularly on social media. However you still have to wade through all the non-actionable stuff in the haystack to find the actionable needles you really want. If you consider that Social Media Lead Generation Heaven is being presented with just the posts that you can actually do something with, then being able to identify and engage with those posts quickly and easily has to be your ambrosia.

Most traditional social media tools provide functionality that lets you search your data set using multiple keywords. This works to some extent, but can be quite blunt and typically requires training and practice to overcome the limitations of the search protocols. More importantly, most words have many synonyms and related concepts, which means you probably still get quite a lot of noise.  It’s not then surprising that according to Hootsuite only 15% of marketing executives have been able to demonstrate social media’s quantitative effect on their business. I imagine that the other 85% got fed up with wading through the noise and gave up!

We have found that by taking an alternative approach, using natural language processing technology to surface and combine a number of linguistic markers in the text, we have been able to identify the absence of meaning in posts relative to a target and remove them..the hay! You only have to look at the ones that get sifted out to see that typically there is nothing you can do with them or learn from them. The ones you are left with contain markers for actionability: intent to do something about fitness; some sentiment towards running; questions or opinions about fitness; and more. The presence of such markers can provide a nice stream of posts ready for a team to engage with and sell to. More importantly, they all merit attention, so you don’t end up with a hacked off sales force who have written social media leads off as junk.  I know from my days as a sales foot warrior, when only cold calling or door knocking was out there, that I would have thought I had gone to heaven if I had this source of quality leads.

At the end of the day, who wouldn’t want that steady stream of good quality leads that social media has been promising since it took off?  And with Hootsuite reporting that 60% of social media managers cite ‘measuring ROI’ as one of the top three most challenging aspects of a social media campaign, what CMO wouldn’t want to be able to link it directly to sales ROI, especially as Bain & Co. found that customers who engaged with brands over social media end up spending anywhere between 20 to 40% more money!