The internet did a fine job of changing the way people communicate. Social media took it to an all new level. Countless conversations are taking place across multiple social platforms, where consumers are making comments and sharing content ranging from blog posts to videos.
This dynamic media channel has resulted in droves of data companies can use to learn more about their industries, audiences, and competitors as well. That is, if they can convert that information into intelligence.
Enter Social Media Intelligence
Intelligence enables marketers to learn from the data generated in social channels – the discussions, the activities, and everything in between. For example, an organization can discover new trends that have yet to pick up steam, as well as what the members of their audience want in the way of content. The better you understand what’s going on in the social arena, the better you can leverage it to build relationships, boost engagement, and drive sales. When used correctly, intelligence truly does result in a win-win for all parties involved.
While it is a safe to say that strategic use of social media intelligence is the key to success in this channel, using it effectively is a classic case of easier said than done. Business leaders in companies of all sizes face numerous challenges in gathering the information needed to piece that intel together. In essence, these challenges are making it difficult for organizations to realize their true potential.
We have already established the fact that massive volumes of data exist in the social arena. The first challenge in converting it into actionable intelligence is actually putting it together. This isn’t so much the case with interactions such as likes, shares, and retweets, which represent structured information that is relatively easy to capture in a database. It mainly pertains to the unstructured data – the comments, the feedback, the praise, the complaints.
Tracking it is fairly simple, but getting it some where it can be structured and made sense of its where the real challenge lies.
From Facebook to Twitter to Google+ and beyond, droves of information flows across the social landscape in fast and ferocious fashion. This channel never sleeps, so important bits of information can easily come in when you least expect. The speed at which this data moves can be detrimental to your presence if you don’t react in a timely manner.
Negative feedback can literally destroy a brand’s presence in the blink of an eye. Companies are not only tasked with understanding where this information is coming from and how to collect it, but learning how to promptly respond to it as well.
Reliability of Data
There is a a lot of information circulating through the social space, and while some is valuable, the reliability of that data is questionable. Like the internet itself, there is no official body that regulates social media. Therefore, the individual networks, no matter how popular they may be, are essentially unvalidated sources. These platforms are full of rumors and hype with little to no substance to show.
What appears to be the truth on first glance could be information that is twisted or purposely misrepresented. Needless to say, separating fact from fiction has become a huge challenge for leaders trying to make sense of social media intelligence.
For every challenge, there’s a resolution, and the hurdles of social media intelligence are no different. Business leader can overcome the aforementioned challenges and others by simply learning the finer aspect of listening. Here are some examples.
- Collect the Right Data. The social sphere will throw plenty of information your way, but what’s important is knowing what data you need to be collecting. Different companies will have different needs, but if you want the complete picture, you must find out what data matters most to your business.
- Invest in the Right Tools. There is software available to make handling these mountains of data much easier. The best of these applications structure, process sort, and analyze information in a comprehensive format that allows you to visualize your data. Keep in mind, however that there is a huge difference in basic analytics and business intelligence solutions.
- Create Protocol for Analysis and Action. How you analyze data is going to be dependent on your needs and culture. The same is true for how you respond to it. There really is no right or wrong. Just make sure you lay out some ground rules so your data experts know how to proceed.
Thanks to social media, intelligence is more accessible than ever. What business leaders need to do is find a way to get their hands on it. Of course it helps to have the right tools, but understanding the challenges and how to deal with them goes a long in putting it all together.
“Social Media” image courtesy of Shutterstock.