shreeAre you seeing a return on your investment in social media? When the question about whether such returns exist was put to the audience at the recent Sentiment Analytics Symposium by Shree Dandekar, Dell Software’s chief strategist and senior director of BI and analytics, only a few hands went up. But Dandekar explained that it’s more possible to realize returns than many people may believe.

Dell’s Social Net Advocacy Pulse, or SNAP, tool and program is designed to help drive those returns. “Social ROI is not a myth but a reality,” Dandekar said. “It starts with a social media strategy and text analytics is a crucial underpinning of that journey,” which takes a company from social media listening and monitoring, to capturing and aggregating data from that, to engaging on and deriving insights from social media, to bringing that information into context with enterprise data for better lead- and opportunities-tracking. Dell is an in-house user of SNAP, bringing in 25,000 to 30,000 conversations a day for dell, he noted, and it runs a Social Media Command Center for facilitating listening to those conversations.  (It also helps customers implement their own Command Centers.)

“Anywhere anyone on the ’Nnet says the word “Dell,” we aggregate [the data], enrich it with NLP, then collate and convert it into a metric, which is IP that Dell has developed and delivers through a realtime tracking tool to view actionable insights,” he said. The metric considers factors including ranking sentiment based on the influence of persons making comments, and that ranking isn’t based solely on things like the number of followers someone has but also weights how often they are favorited, for example. The use of SNAP at Dell has paid off in ways including keeping the company from making decisions that could have hurt revenue, such as lowering the price of a notebook it had launched during the winter holiday timeframe.

After a strong launch, the system’s sales began to lag, Dandekar related, but its SNAP scores were still through the roof. In addition, internal data revealed that the vendor wasn’t receiving support calls or complaints about the product. “So we said hold off, and it turned out [that the sales decline] was more cyclical,” he said, relating to the post-Christmas trend of sales going down as people recover from their holiday splurges. “We use social media analytics to make decisions on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

SNAP, he noted, serves as a way to get realtime Net Promoter insight rather than wait on surveys that have to be sent out, aggregated and converted to NPS. “We can predict what is actually happening with a product, and if we have to change a notebook price we can do it quickly rather than lose sales by waiting for the Net Promoter scores to come in,” he said. “We’ve looked at historical Net Promoter Scores and our own readings and they are pretty much hand-in hand.”

Dandekar wasn’t alone in expressing the view that the idea of social media paying off is a solid one. “Social media works,” said Amit Phansalkar, chief data scientist at MassMutual Financial Group. “But it’s very, very important to understand the context under which it works….When brands try to make important decisions based on signals it is extremely important to understand the context under which they observe those signals.”