Social media analytics that make sense of the conversations happening across social platforms is an essential tool of modern PR. Tracking discussions about specific products, campaigns, and companies using social media analytics tools can provide PR teams with valuable insights into their company’s and competitors’ reputations. However, broader social topics, like ESG, have become increasingly important to stakeholders and are a significant factor in business success.

Communications teams must keep a finger on the pulse of the broad social issues, like sustainability, that impact their industries and align with their target audience’s values. With 500 million tweets sent per day, social media has presented an opportunity for companies by providing an open-source of audience perspectives and attitudes on every topic imaginable, with updates every second.

On the flip side, digesting the sheer amount of social data available while extracting reliable insights is easier said than done. That’s where sampling comes in.

What is sampling in social media analytics?

Sampling in social media analytics is the process of collecting a subset of social media coverage of a specific topic for analysis to infer what the general population is saying about it. Rather than collecting and analyzing every mention, sampling reduces the amount of data to a manageable volume while maintaining the integrity and accuracy of the findings.

For example, let’s say your team wants to know what aspects of ESG people care about most to refine an upcoming campaign. Social media sampling will gather selections of social coverage mentioning ESG topics using a sampling method that accounts for variation across the larger population. That sample of social content will then be analyzed and yield insights that can be applied to the total population.

Why is sampling in social media analytics important?

Sampling in social media analytics is important because it enables communications teams to distill massive amounts of data on a broad topic spanning social media into actionable insights relevant to your industry.

As broader social topics, including ESG and CSR, become more significant facets of companies’ reputations, understanding public discourse and sentiment surrounding these themes is equally as important as tracking your company mentions to managing your brand.

While standard automated social media monitoring tools can track your and your competitors’ social presences, they aren’t designed to accurately analyze mentions of concepts or complex topics. Human analysis, on the other hand, can more accurately capture this kind of content but struggles with the volume of data across social platforms. However, sampling is a statistically validated method for extracting insights from enormous data sets, like the one made available by social media.

How does social media sampling work?

Essentially, sampling is the process of taking and analyzing small (representative) samples of a dataset to draw conclusions about the total population without having to analyze each data point.

Social media sampling uses a statistical method often used in accounting that arranges large quantities of data into groups based on similarities, then draws subsets of data from each group reflective of the general population. The subset of data is then cleaned and analyzed to generate insights that can be extrapolated to larger populations.

How can you apply insights from social media sampling to your communications strategy?

Social values and priorities can change from one viral Tweet to the next. Understanding the topics and subtopics receiving the most positive coverage and engagement across social media in near-real time can guide your campaigns and help you to capitalize on opportunities to promote your key messages at exactly the right moment.

Here are a few considerations for making the most of social media sampling:

Determine the topics that are relevant to your industry

Consider your range of stakeholders and their priorities. Generally, sampling for social media analysis is best applied to broad topics related to corporate reputation (e.g., CSR, workplace environment, etc.) or timely social issues (e.g., ESG, DEI, gender equity, data protection, sustainability, etc.).

Each of your stakeholder groups will have differing and, at times, competing interests. Outlining the issues relevant to your industry stakeholders (e.g., consumers may care about sustainability and data protection, while employees value compensation and DEI, and local communities are concerned with CSR) will help you define the topics you’ll benefit from tracking.

Measure subtopics

Analyzing the right subtopics will provide your team with a more nuanced understanding of the conversations surrounding each tracked topic and enable you to finely-tune your messaging.

For instance, when measuring social media discussions around workplace environment, breaking coverage down according to subtopics can tell you whether people currently care most about DEI, compensation, or gender pay equity.

Develop a responsive strategy

Communications guided by insights from sampling social media require a PR team prepared to react quickly to changing social values and adjust messaging accordingly.

The insights made available by sampling social media can highlight what people care about most, when they are talking about it, and how to best frame your campaigns surrounding each topic and subtopic to resonate with your audience.

By having a strategy primed to adapt to abruptly changing views on significant topics, your team can take advantage of the nuanced understanding of social media discourse enabled by sampling.

Inform Your Communications Using Sampling in Social Media Analytics

Effective communications require a nuanced understanding of more than your company’s reputation. Tracking the social topics that span social media platforms can change how you deliver your key messages by capitalizing on the trends and nuances of the conversations surrounding them.

Though social media analytics tools that rely exclusively on technology can’t extract reliable insights on broad social topics, employing a statistically proven sampling method supported by human analysis can.

Not to mention, analyzing text for concepts, sentiment, and linguistic devices (like irony, sarcasm, and slang), often used in social media conversations, requires a human understanding that technology alone can’t match.

At PublicRelay, we apply our human-augmented AI method of media measurement to sampling social media content. By combining advanced technology with human intelligence, our team analyzes each social media topic according to the subtopics, sentiment, and concepts relevant to your industry and company. Click here to amplify your social media analysis using sampling now!

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