Researchers at Accenture Technology Labs have developed a software tool that they claim allows companies to gain much deeper insight into customers' use of social networking.
The Social Media Engagement Manager maps out social networking interactions and breaks them down by type of customer, engagement with specific sites and how and when they respond to messages from companies.
"Businesses have been 'listening' to social media for a couple of years. The next frontier is effective engagement - knowing exactly how to reach and resonate with your target audience," said Kelly Dempski, director of Accenture Technology Labs and leader of Accenture's social media R&D division.
"Specifically, today's social media channels provide data that will allow brands to measure engagement and use analytics to predict the impact of future interactions with the customer."
In early testing the team found considerable variation in different nationalities and genders. One retailer found that its male customers responded best on Sunday mornings, while female customers reacted most to messages on Wednesday evenings.
"This kind of information can be very revealing for a brand in telling them how to shape their engagement and when to post different messages," said Dempski.
"We also found similar differences among Spanish speaking and English speaking consumers, revealing patterns that the business was unaware of."
The tool has been tested on Facebook initially, but the company said that the same model should apply to other forms of social media.
"The advent of better predictive tools and capabilities can take the guesswork out of posting, and help the brand understand when and what to post to get the maximum amount of engagement," said Dempski.
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