Listening to, monitoring and otherwise analysing social media discussions has a wide variety of ‘levels’ that tend to deliver very different results. These different levels can offer several different viewpoints of a subject and be extremely valuable to an organisation in terms of insight.
What determines the value of this insight? The timeliness of the intelligence, in its delivery and assessment and, importantly, how actionable that intelligence is determines its value.
While there are many that espouse the importance of social listening, the very idea that there are different approaches to this has become a little lost. The terms ‘social monitoring’ and ‘social intelligence’ have become almost interchangeable, but they are not the same thing.
This was the original social ‘listening’ weapon of choice, and tends to provide an insight into the social ‘status’ of a brand – essentially a ‘thumbs up or down’ gauge of how the consumer regards the brand in the general; otherwise known as ‘buzz’.
How this is done is by making use of keyword based tools, which allow the user to input a set number of search terms to match against a range of social media conversations, normally within larger social networks in order to increase the chances of coming across the ‘right kind’ of conversation.
This basic level of social monitoring can be helpful for brands that have very specific topics and or products that they are looking to gauge opinion on, by using quickly defined keywords. The trouble with this kind of monitoring is that the data received can be very vague, not to mention unactionable.
Accuracy is also an issue here, with many tools using different methods to gauge and quantify. When humans are used a ‘control group’, and the machine disagree with the findings… Which is more accurate, which one do you trust – the machine tools, which you have undoubtedly invested a lot of time and money on, or the human aspect which has instinct and personal experience of the human condition on its side?
Wikipedia has this to say of social intelligence:
“Social intelligence is the capacity to effectively negotiate complex social relationships and environments. Psychologist Nicholas Humphrey believes that it is social intelligence, rather than quantitative intelligence, that defines humans. Social scientist Ross Honeywill believes social intelligence is an aggregated measure of self and social-awareness, evolved social beliefs and attitudes, and a capacity and appetite to manage complex social change.”
The term ‘social intelligence’, not to be confused with ‘human social intelligence’, refers to the knowledge, or insights, that are gained from analysing the data gathered from social media. The things that you could be listening out for on social platforms may involve your products, services, comments about your ability to engage with customers and clients… Or you could be listening out for the same regarding your competition.
Insights like these are highly actionable, because if you come across a comment thread, for example, that is focused on how bad a particular product of yours is then you can take this information back to your product development team.
Perhaps you learn that your target audience is really loving a particular actor or pop star right now – this kind of intelligence can be used in your marketing campaigns.
Ultimately, social intelligence has one job: Helping business make informed, intelligent decisions based on the data collected through social media channels. It is not hard to see why ‘Social monitoring’ and ‘Social intelligence’ are used interchangeably, but only one goes to the kinds of depths that businesses need in order drive their interests forward.
Sorting through the wheat and chaff
Right now, globally, there are something in the region of 1.5 billion conversations being carried out across social media channels, sharing around 30 billion pieces of content (comments, videos, photographs… product recommendations) each and every month.
How much of this was going on less than 2 decades ago? None. How fast has business latched on to this potential goldmine? Slowly. Glacier pace, in fact.
This means there is still a huge amount to learn, tap into and take advantage of. The hard part, for any organisation, is to turn these conversations into meaningful data, intelligence, that they can extract invaluable insights from.
Done properly, this kind of social intelligence gathering can predict future trends and not just what your target audience is into now.
Identifying trending topics
Creating social intelligence that can identify trends, even future trends, means sifting through the collected data in order to pick out the diamonds from the rough. These packets of data, stripped of the emotion that comes with any conversation, are can prove invaluable to a company or organisation.
The way that this data is used is complex, but in a nutshell it can be used for cross referencing across the web. Links, networks, keywords and phrases and even the locality of the conversations can be tracked and cross referenced with other mentions, conversations and posts that may be laying around the world wide web.
Browsing habits, links, telephone numbers, email addresses even online aliases that we sometimes use believing that it affords us a degree of anonymity.
This the way that organisations can measure the value of a current trend for their business interests, and if particular data pieces escalate in numbers, location or even among demographics, then perhaps this is a signal that something is about to go viral? From here future interests can be gauged, and with a high degree of accuracy.
Discerning what is genuine interest, a ‘flash in the pan’ or just plain old-fashioned hot air is vital before an organisation invests in that particular direction – especially if their market has not previously expressed an interest.
Concern has been shown in the past with this kind of ‘data mining’, but the process and technologies behind it are still relatively new and boundaries are still being mapped out. No doubt there will be some unethical use of the collected data but, on the whole, social intelligence gathering is an important marketing tool and other aspects of modern life just wouldn’t be the same without it either – think Siri, Google Now and Cortana for instance.
Marketing strategies rely on many tools and data sources, and social intelligence gathering, done en masse like this, is just one of them.