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Social Media Audits: How to understand online communities

By June 7, 2011One Comment

A growing part of our work over the last few months at Public-i has concentrated on our Social Media Audit process. The audits are, in essence, the way we help our clients to understand who the significant voices in their online communities are. It’s a fairly involved business and we’ve spent quite a lot of time recently thinking about how we carry out the audits, as Catherine explains – in detail – on her blog here.

We’re now at the stage where the audit process is fairly well fixed and we’re confident that we can share our learning. There are quite a few things that we’ve learned, not least that if you’re looking to start talking online you have to have a fairly good understanding of who you are talking to before you open your mouth. Most importantly you have to know who to listen to.

As the social web is a fairly open place – where, with the right research and thinking, it’s possible to get that understanding – we think it’s only right, fair (and polite) to do so. It’s also only right, fair and polite (in this increasingly open world) to share what we do, not least because we might learn more.

A few points:-

I won’t go on – we’ll be blogging soon in proper detail about this and if you need to find out more immediately read Catherine’s blog – but here are the basics of what an audit consists of:-

  • We work with the client to develop a really in-depth understanding of their existing communities and concerns – both about social media and the wider world.
  • We use this understanding to create a detailed data set from searches tailored specifically to our client’s needs and geography.
  • We turn this raw data into something the client can use – by analysing it (with statistical and social network analysis).
  • We then deliver these findings, with recommendations on how to respond to them in a report and a research briefing.

Of course, all this is really about trying to help people to get a fix on what the social web means to them -whether they be a council or another public body – but it can and should be about a great deal more, too. At Public-i we think that learning about your online communities and developing a way to talk and engage them can lead to a more productive and valuable relationship, which will (as the social web becomes more pervasive and greater in size and influence) will become increasingly relevant to councils and government in general.

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