The phenomenal rise of social media has created a huge opportunity from a Business Intelligence perspective on two accounts. One, due to the sheer volume of content being generated on social media platforms. Second, due to the potential that this data holds for getting transformed into business critical insights.

Social media has proliferated at an electric speed. In a matter of less than a decade, social media platforms have touched millions across the world. Eight percent of the world’s population is now on Facebook and more than 40 million tweets are made every day on Twitter. Thanks to social media, internet is now a much more collaborative place, empowering millions to become active contributors of content on the web space.

Before we answer the question raised in the title of this article, let us look at answering a few basic questions, first:

  • How can organizations leverage social media data?
  • How is social media data transformed into business insights?
  • What are the key functionalities offered by social media intelligence tools?

How Can Organizations Leverage Social Media Data?

Understanding a customer's mind has been at the top of the agenda for businesses around the world. Social media data in the form of tweets, comments and discussion forum reviews is a rich source of data pointing to people's perceptions, reactions, sentiments and feedback about organizations and their products. This can provide organizations a peep into their customers' minds thus giving them a chance to understand and serve them better. Eventually, better customer understanding and service will lead to better customer acquisition and retention. Superior revenues and ROI will be a logical consequence.

Also, social media data is superior to other data sources in more ways than one. This data is enormous yet inexpensive. This data comes in real time from real people. And finally, this data is perhaps the most authentic reflection of a customer's mind since it comes out voluntarily. Nobody is forced to write a product review, it's always voluntary. Neither are comments on a product's page on Facebook or Twitter out of compulsion. These factors overcome the limitations of traditional data collection methods like questionnaires and interviews which suffer from drawbacks of reach, cost and receptivity.

How is Social Media Data Transformed into Business Insights?

Sophisticated Social Media Intelligence (SMI) tools are required to carry out this transformation. Any SMI tool will crawl the entire social media space, collect relevant data and use techniques like Textual Analytics to analyze data. Valuable business insights around customer perceptions, brand reputations, latest market trends, key influencers and opinion leaders emerge out of this analysis.

Since all SMI tools have Textual Analytics as their underlying technology, the ride hasn’t been easy for them. Owing to the ambiguous and highly contextual nature of human conversations, Textual Analytics has always been an inexact science. To illustrate, a statement like 'Ford was the greatest thing that has happened to the US' can have various interpretations -- it can refer to people, organizations or even something else. It has been a challenge for technology to understand these subtleties of human conversation and consequently, the effectiveness of SMI tools hasn't been more than 60%.

What are the Key Functionalities Offered by Social Media Intelligence Tools?

Among a repertoire of features that SMI tools offer, three of them stand out:

  • Geographic and Demographic Bucketing: An insight like “half the people liked this new launch and half didn't” is far less useful than an insight like “most of the teens liked it and most of the middle aged didn't.” These kind of bucketed insights empower companies to prepare segment specific strategies.
  • Knowing the Influencers: Among millions of participants on the social space, there are a few who drive conversations and play a critical role in shaping opinions. For instance, a few social activists can frantically post all over the social space about environmental unfriendliness of a new product and thus influence opinions of many. Several SMI tools provide this feature of identifying such opinion leaders giving companies a chance to foster relationships with them.
  • Red Flag Alerts: Several SMI tools provide red flag alerts when a situation demands an immediate action. For instance, a company comes up with a new version of its free-to-download music player software having a critical bug. An SMI tool, by analyzing comments over Social Media space will raise a red flag thus alerting the company. This insight gives the company an option to immediately fix the bug and put it back thus preventing a widespread loss of face.

Thus, despite its challenges, it is time for companies to start integrating Social Media into their BI strategy and leverage its immense potential. And our answer to the question raised in the title of this article is, well, a resounding Yes!

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