For decades, marketers have struggled to deliver competitive advantages to their brands with insights into the decisions and actions of consumers. For the vast majority of this time period, surveys and focus groups have been the primary tools used in an attempt to extract buying behavior information from the minds of consumers.
Scaling these tactics on both a widespread and ongoing basis has been a major challenge to organizations that want to see the continuous shifts and trends in their markets.
Companies now have an invaluable, perpetual resource available to them within the big data of “social media,” which is made up of billions of daily comments by hundreds of millions of consumers across tens of millions of sources spanning the open social universe. Innovative Marketing, Insight, Brand and Product teams are leading the charge to extract actionable intelligence and strategic insight from this big social data. They are using this advanced social intelligence, filled with unprecedented consumer insight, to set their marketing strategies, guide their decision-making and drive product innovation.
As the “Age of the Consumer” advances and shoppers become more empowered with product reviews, shopping engines and pricing tools, smart Marketers are gaining a powerful perspective on the paths-to-purchase and customer journeys shoppers experience as well as their demand moments and decision points to influence and ultimately impact purchase behavior.
Surveying the Universe
A major gating factor to social intelligence is the understanding of what the social universe is. A widespread, though diminishing belief is that the open social universe is primarily made up of the major social networks like Facebook, Twitter and possibly YouTube and/or Pinterest.
While these networks collectively account for billions of daily discussions, the bottom line is that the majority of these social comments are irrelevant to any specific business. In other words, while these sources may reveal some valuable insights to a brand, they also produce a tremendous amount of noise and spam that has to be filtered and disposed of.
Conversely, there are millions upon millions of social sources in the form of blogs, microblogs, forums, communities, review sites, open comment sources, etc. that can deliver a wealth of highly specific, actionable insights for specific brands and products.
Focusing solely on the few gargantuan social networks is like defining the Milky Way Galaxy by one or two major solar systems and thus ignoring the estimated 100 million other solar systems that make up the galaxy. It’s a myopic view that Marketers can’t afford to embrace, lest they miss a tremendous amount of relevant, actionable intelligence.
“Buzz” vs. “Big Data”
The issue many marketers are recognizing is the numerous issues with first-generation social “monitoring” tools. In the early days of the Social Media Age — just a few years ago — the open social universe was relatively limited, with a few networks that collectively accounted for maybe a few million posts per day. Companies could find simple mentions of set keywords to serve as a basic barometer to measure “buzz” (high-level sentiment) on their business or brand.
The issue with this “buzz” is that it is not actionable, and in many cases not even accurate, given the myriad of ways different individuals can communicate the same concept or idea. It simply serves as a “thumbs up / thumbs down” estimate, but does not relay the drivers behind this sentiment for Marketers to act upon and ultimately influence.
As the volume of social media continues to explode exponentially, the main goal of social listening has quickly evolved from monitoring “buzz” to extracting insights from “big data.”
Equipped with these limited, first-generation monitoring tools that rely on keyword lists and data samples, many professionals in the realms of Marketing, Insights, Research, Product and Innovation are realizing that they are ill-equipped to filter, classify and analyze the continuous onslaught of billions and billions of daily social comments in real-time. This has pushed Marketers on many fronts to lead the “big data” charge by extracting valuable intelligence with advanced hypercomputing processing technology (upwards of one billion operations per second) and complex concept modeling technology.
An Insightful Impact
The value of social intelligence is multidimensional, delivering deep insight, directly from millions of consumers. What’s more important is that the intelligence can be highly specific, and thus actionable, to help guide decisions, set strategy and drive innovation. Aside from this, the real-time, ongoing nature of the discussion allows brands to immediately identify consumer and market shifts and trends to strategically adjust in real-time.
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