Social networking sites—like Facebook and Twitter—now account for 22% of all time spent online in the U.S, according to Nielsen.com. As of last month, Facebook had 750 million users, while Twitter has more than 300 million registered users who last year fired off an average of 65 million tweets each day.
No wonder the huge amounts of data emanating from these sites that is being gathered, managed, and analyzed—known collectively as “social intelligence”—and the insight it creates into markets and customers has become one of the most important technology and business trends today, says Todd Watson, IBM Software’s e-relationship manager, who regularly blogs on the topic.
“There are now billions of people online worldwide, and those people represent a huge diversity of opinions, preferences, sentiments, and related expressions of interest across an even more diverse set of topics and issues,” he explains. “That includes expressions that impact brands and organizations around the globe.”
Companies wishing to adapt, learn, and benefit from those expressions are well advised to “listen” to those conversations, says Watson, and work to glean useful information and insights from those expressions.
Actual examples run the gamut of business functions. For example, PR and communications may listen in order to understand the impact of a recent PR initiative. Marketing may want to understand the awareness of a new product or service—or how the competition is faring. The support function at a service business may want to understand how happy customers are or aren’t with a new initiative.
The partner vendors or tools available to help gather and analyze social intelligence come in three flavors, according to Forrester Research. They are:
• Social dashboards, which allow a business to monitor the landscape but require a certain amount of self-sufficiency.
• Listening service partners (LSPs), which provide more handholding from a partner who can help you gather, analyze, and summarize your social intelligence.
• Multi-channel analytics providers, which are useful for businesses looking to gather data both in and outside the social media realm, structured and unstructured.
There are scores of social media monitoring solutions with the more notable listed in this wiki.
With tools in hand, analysis of the social intelligence as it applies to social networking sites—and not to be confused with the psychological term—can proceed utilizing what Watson calls “the four O’s”: organization, opportunity, outcomes, and operations.
• Organization. You need to determine where in your company the social intelligence gathering and analysis function should reside. This will help determine the type of insight and analysis you are to gather.
• Opportunity. This helps determine what you’ll eventually come to analyze. If you’re an organization that markets products, your social intelligence analysis could well center around gathering product feature insights or competitive insights.
• Outcomes. They help put the analysis to practical use. Too often, companies don’t listen with an end in mind. Establish a hypothesis and outline what it is you’re looking to ultimately do with the intelligence you gather. That will help focus and bring clarity to how your organization will use its social intelligence.
• Operations. Build an operational framework for taking action on your social intelligence. Establish an organizational workflow and identify the constituents with whom you will share and ask to act on the social intelligence you distribute.
Finally, says Watson, be sure to hold those in your operational framework accountable for the actions emerging from those insights.
“Otherwise,” he says, “you may soon find you’re just gathering intelligence for its own sake instead of actively leveraging the insights you gather from it to the betterment of your business.”
“For Customer Intelligence Professionals” blog by Zach Hofer-Shall, analyst, Forrester Research
Paul Hyman was editor-in-chief of several hi-tech publications at CMP Media, including Electronic Buyers’ News.
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