Teaching Students to Analyze social data with Microsoft Social Engagement: Social Media Analytics Assignment (Post 3 of 4)

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This is post #3 in a four part series about a new assignment that I’m using this semester in my Communication research class (all posts on that class).

That assignment is a 3-part social media analytics project. Each part is related but unique, allowing students to pick up a new skill set. In this post we’ll discuss part 2 of the assignment. If you haven’t read the assignment overview post, and the post about pivot tables in Excel, I encourage you to do so before proceeding. In the first post, you will see a copy of the assignment that is discussed below.

Part 2 of the assignment asks student teams to analyze their client and its competitors using Microsoft Social Engagement (sometimes called Microsoft Social Listening).  You can learn more about how our communication department is participating in the Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance program program in my initial post on Microsoft Social Engagement.

Microsoft Social Engagement in the classroom

Setting Up The Assignment

As I wrote in my prior post, Microsoft Social Engagement” is a social listening tool that enables users to track metrics for public social media accounts or posts (e.g., keywords or hashtags) such as posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  You can also track mentions forums and blog.”

Keep in mind that you have to program what you want the software to track ahead of time.  It isn’t like a Twitter search where you can go in and look into past 2,500 posts on a topic after the fact. So, we have to program the student team’s clients and 1-3 competitors into Microsoft Social Engagement several weeks before the students sit down to work on the assignment. That way, there is some data for students to analyze.

I required students to turn into me the Twitter, and if available Instagram account, for their client and their competitors. I programmed them about a month before we worked on the assignment. To make my life simple, students had to turn all of this in at the same time they turned into me the Excel file of their client’s Twitter data (discussed in the pivot table blog post).

In my social media class, students were introduced to Microsoft Social Engagement and were given some guidance on how to use it to complete a metrics tracking spreadsheet. The purpose there was for them to track data week by week. In this class, we went a bit deeper. My purpose here was for students to look at the sum of data over a given period and extract specific insights. I added geolocation (q 3), a look at top engagement across time (q 4), parsing top positive and negative keywords (q 6 & 7), and exploring critics of the brand (q. 8).

Taken together, my goal was for students to learn the software in my social media class by throwing them into it. In this class, I wanted them to gain more experience, think a bit deeper and dig a bit deeper into the software.

The Assignment

For this part of the assignment, I created specific questions I wanted students to answer (below). To guide them through the steps needed to answer the below questions, I created this lab guide. Students worked through the lab guide in class and I was on hand to assist them.

This lab guide is similar to the lab guide I provide my social media class (and which I shared in the original blog post on Microsoft Social Engagement). However, this lab guide is appropriately more thorough.

Sentiment view of Microsoft Social Engagement

For the client and each competitor, the students were to answer the below questions.

  1. For CLIENT’S NAME what is the total number of a) shares, b) replies, and c) posts on Twitter during TIME PERIOD?
  2. For each keyword, what is the share of voice for the client and its competitors?
    1. (repeat this for however many keywords you have – up to 3)
  3. In what STATE/COUNTRY were the top posts posted that mention CLIENT?
  4. What day(s) of the month was CLIENT talked about the most on each social media platform?
    1. Note: if we only have data from Twitter, then just use Twitter.
  5. What is the sentiment percentages (positive, negative, neutral) for CLIENT?
  6. What are the top positive keywords associated with CLIENT on each social media platform?
    1. Note: if we only have data from Twitter, then just use Twitter.
  7. What are the top negative keywords associated with CLIENT on each social media platform?
    1. Note: if we only have data from Twitter, then just use Twitter.
  8. Who are the top fans and critics for CLIENT on each platform?

Of course, the above 8 questions are just a sampling of what you could do with the software.

In Summary

The software can be a bit challenging to use. And I found that students struggled at times to navigate it. It is important to make yourself available in class to help students.

Also, because the students had to answer these questions for their client and then for their competitors, it was rather time consuming. Teams that tackled this project in a smart manner, divided up the work and then put their answers together and reviewed them.

Some students may feel that this part is somewhat redundant to what they do in Microsoft Excel pivot tables. Questions 1 and 2 from the pivot exercise are similar to questions 1 and 4 from Microsoft Social Engagement, respectively. But, in my point of view, it is different enough and, importantly, it is a different way of analyzing things. Still, because this project overall requires a good deal of work when you consider the pivot tables and the social network mapping ,which we’ll discuss in the next post, you may find it useful to remove some of the above questions.

Projects like these can be intimidating and challenging for students. But I truly believe the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. The opportunity for students to learn industry software in the classroom is highly valuable. And it is better for students to dive in while in school than have their first exposure be overwhelming on the job.

In the next post, we will discuss part 4 of this assignment which gets students using Netlytic.org to do some basic network mapping of their client’s online network.  I will be publishing that post in 2 weeks.

Update: You can now read Post #4 on Netlytic.

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