I had an interesting conversation on Saturday with Mark Eduljee, who heads social listening intelligence at Microsoft and co-authoring my book on Social Media Analytics, along with Steve Wiideman — SEO Steve. He made explicit a topic near and dear to my heart — the notion of social media INTELLIGENCE to guide the firm toward success. Measuring and analyzing social media (or any other data) has no meaning if it’s not used to help the firm achieve its objectives. He identifies the process whereby firms start with their goals and end with implementation of new strategies and tactics based on their social media intelligence.
Social Media Intelligence
The distinction of social media intelligence with social media analytics (a frequent topic of this blog) is social media intelligence closes the loop between gathering and analyzing information and using this information to guide firm action.
Writers for a McKinsey report define social intelligence as being global in scope, forward thinking (as opposed to simply reporting on past performance), and plays out in real-time.
So, let’s explore this process a little more.
The obvious first step is identifying goals such as increasing sales. But, be careful here as intermediate goals, such as driving awareness, positive sentiment, and informing prospective buyers, also significantly increase ROI. Don’t just create and focus on goals related to sales, but be mindful of driving other attitudes and behaviors that support increased ROI. You can see more about these intermediate behaviors in a recent blog post about content marketing using the framework: See, Think, Do.
According to the McKinsey report, data analysts working in traditional media, spend 80% of their time collecting data. In social media, data collection is ubiquitous, real-time, and contains massive amounts of data. Rather than collecting data, more time is spent on separating signal from noise — as social media data tends to be VERY noisy. This requires effective listening tools that can effectively identify conversations around your brand from the massive data involving pictures of family, what folks ate for lunch, jokes, and memes that have little bearing on your decision-making unless that’s your business.
One of the major differences in social media intelligence is the way it’s analyzed. In traditional market research, analysts controlled how data was analyzed and visualized in their reports to the C-suite. In social media intelligence, often tools allow users to do analysis on the fly and visualize it any way they want.
The advantage of analyzing data on the fly is that decision-makers no longer have to wait weeks or months for a report addressing their questions, they can get reports whenever needed to guide strategic decision-making. And, by allowing users to control the analysis, they can get information targeted at their research questions. For instance, a manager might be interested in how 2 variables relate (correlate) — a relationship that might not occur to the analysts who are experts in intelligence, not managing.
Social media intelligence also alleviates communication issues, as managers have the data and analysis tools at their fingertips.
The McKinsey report provides an example of how distributing information and allowing user analysis benefits the firm.
In an example of this approach at work, Desjardins recently tapped into cutting-edge trials of new electronic currencies being offered in the United States by start-ups such as Bitcoin. In the United Kingdom, to explore new forms of consumer and company finance, Desjardins tracked a community dedicated to crowdsourced funding. In Africa, it sought local experts on mobile-payment practices. The company has found that, particularly in fast-evolving markets, information-gathering approaches like these are more cost-effective and better able to deliver timely data than the traditional alternative of relying on market research firms.
Again, this distinguishes social media intelligence from social media analytics and NO tool can replace the human factor involved in digesting analysis and making decisions based on these metrics.
Mark makes the case that firms should only gather and analyze social media intelligence if they plan to use results to determine a future course of action. Hence, rather than doing social media intelligence on a daily basis, firms should confine these efforts to a schedule allowing decision-making based on their findings.
Social media intelligence and analytics
Hence, you probably need both social media intelligence and social media analytics. Social media intelligence should guide strategic decision-making, while social media analytics track your day-to-day performance and help tweak your strategy, identify influencers, guild your content marketing strategy, and other social media tactics.