The New Business Intelligence of Social Media

As one who runs a social media agency, I’m often addressing questions around the topic of social media research, monitoring, and analytics. The questions vary, but are typically consistent in nature:

  1. How is research valuable to social media?
  2. What do all these tracking tools provide to guide strategy and tactics?
  3. What should we really be doing with social media?

Answers to these questions may be unique to any given effort, but a common best practice for entering and maintaining a wide range of social media initiatives begins with business intelligence (BI), a term first coined over 50 years ago to describe computer-based approaches for analyzing data to support decision making.

The Tools and Top 5 Measurable Attributes

Having worked with lead offerings developed by companies that include Crimson Hexagon, Buzz Metrics, Collective Intellect, Radian6, Sysomos, Filtrbox, and Umbria, here’s a quick summary of function and value:

  1. Volume of Conversation and Share of Voice: Find and track a significant amount of content within online “conversations” that matter to you most. For benchmarking purposes, conversations are often segmented by subject matter (competitive/industry brands, products, services) and source (Twitter, Facebook, blogs, forums, etc).
  2. Identification of Key Themes, Opinions and Trending Topics: The tag cloud is a basic representation of this. If the volume of data warrants, filtering conversations by theme and topic is a way to obtain deeper meaning and value.
  3. Sentiment Analysis: The main function is indexing the tone of conversations (positive, negative or neutral), with more sophisticated insights gained through content matched to varying degrees of sentiment (satisfied vs. very satisfied).
  4. Influencer Identification: This is about growing a database of relevant individuals, organizations, and web properties with a history or potential of influencing conversations about your subject matter. Beyond traditional influencer identification, companies like Linkfluence focus on identifying how content spreads through and across communities (lifestyle, gossip, political, etc.).
  5. Social Graphing and Viral Tracking: Tools from companies like Rapleaf give insights into where your customers (and potential customers) frequent online by linking e-mail addresses to user accounts within social networking properties (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, etc.).

    Beyond web analytics, tools like Meteor enable you to track what goes viral and, importantly, where it goes viral. It’s easy to assume a well-known influencer or community will spread your content like wild fire, but the reality is it may better propagate through several lesser-known communities.

The Big Question: How is this Data Actionable?

The gap between data and actionable strategy is a common frustration. If the data doesn’t inspire strategy, then no action will occur. If there’s no action, there’s no ROI.

Here are a few examples of social BI in action.

  • Content Development: If you had to boil down the ingredients of social media marketing, the two elements would be content and context. Social BI gives insight to where you should be engaging in social media, and with what kind of content. Knowledge gained can be applied from a branding (brand vs. products/services), sales, development, and customer service perspective. Note: because of social media, we’re all in the customer service business!
  • Influencer Monitoring and Outreach: I once worked with a company that said they wanted to know every time Adobe was mentioned online. That’s like boiling the ocean. How about filtering sources that influence conversation about Adobe, being aware of what they are discussing, and applying that knowledge to any number of applicable strategies?
  • Prioritization: You may want to launch an effort on Facebook, but discover your target audience is busy digesting Slideshare presentations in LinkedIn. Social BI can help prioritize your efforts from both a platform and tactical perspective.

Considering the numerous choices associated with social strategy and execution, it might just be safe to say companies not taking advantage of business intelligence are being… um, unintelligent.

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