How Your Organization Can Leverage Social Media for Business Intelligence

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Facebook and Twitter and ‘Gram — Oh my! In the modern era, it’s almost unheard of for businesses not to have a social media presence. Typically this presence is used to bring awareness to your organization, service or product, but social media can do a lot more than just spread the word. Social media business intelligence is rising to a place of power alongside other business intelligence tools that could change your business for the better. Read on to find out how you can put your social media to work!

What Is Social Media Business Intelligence?

What is the definition of social intelligence? Despite the connotations, it doesn’t mean the intelligence to behave properly in social situations — although if you’re anything like me, you could use a little more of that too.

Social intelligence (not to be confused with social BI, which involves the sharing of reports and other visualizations generated by business intelligence platforms) involves collecting data from people who view or interact with your business on social media. This data can consist of demographics, location, number of times visitors view the page before making a purchase, etc.

By collecting this data, users can glean insights, interpret trends and make predictions based on said data in order to make data-driven decisions about their business practices. This can be anything from marketing changes in order to cater to key demographics, brand alignment with certain causes, price changes, etc.

According to the most recent studies, we generate 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day, and that number is expected to be closer to 463 exabytes by 2025 — that’s 463 with 20 zeros behind it. There are 3.48 billion unique social media users worldwide contributing to that data creation, and Youtube, Facebook and Instagram all hold positions in the top 10 most-visited sites on the Internet. Social media data is rich and there for the taking, so any organization that isn’t using it is behind the times.

How to Collect Social Media Data

Now that you have a general understanding of what social media intelligence entails, you may be wondering how to collect this information-rich resource. Social media platforms make up a staggering 33 percent of all internet usage, so capturing the data generated by all that time is no small feat. There are a few different ways you can do it, and these vary based on the size of your organization and your budget.

First, you can go into the insights or analytics tabs of your social media page and manually explore stats. This is time-consuming and can have a learning curve since every social media platform has a very different interface. Unless you have an intern designated to your social media, this probably isn’t a good use of your time.

Business intelligence software has the ability to directly integrate your social media data into your other BI dashboards. With this method, you can view social media engagement stats alongside regional sales numbers, employee performance, leads generated, etc. Many BI platforms offer a point-and-click interface that allows users to interact with all their data in one place rather than transporting or transforming it for use.

Most business intelligence tools offer a tool to integrate directly with your social media, negating the hassle for you, but it’s not a pervasive feature yet. If social media data is important to you (and let’s be honest, if you are a B2C business it definitely should be and even B2B businesses have a lot to gain from using it), you should keep it in mind when choosing a BI solution.

Key Metrics

Like panning for gold, not everything that falls into your funnel is going to be useful. To ensure you collect the right kind of data, you should identify which key performance indicators (KPIs) are relevant to your needs and interests. Some key metrics for social media data collection are:

  • Number of followers or page likes
  • Response rate
  • Demographics and location
  • Post reach
  • Post engagement
  • Comments
  • Mentions
  • Retweets
  • Shares
  • Likes
  • Active followers
  • Traffic

Using these metrics, you can generate a range of insights from the most basic data before you even delve into the kind of information that BI can uncover.

How to Use Social Media Business Intelligence

Social media is a goldmine of data — its five defining characteristics make it multidimensionally useful. The data warehousing institute defines these as heterogeneity, scale, duplicability, immediacy and semistructure. Heterogeneity refers to the diversity of the data: it contains a mix of data types like text, links, images, videos, hashtags, etc.

Scale is fairly self-evident, referring to the mind-boggling scale of the data contained on social media platforms. In one minute, users generate 79,740 Tumblr posts, 49,380 Instagram posts, 473,400 tweets and 4 million Facebook likes. Duplicability is basically the virility of the platform — how easy is it for viral content to spread like wildfire through it? This feature makes it easy to track trends and influencers.

Immediacy refers to the instantaneous access to data and connection. Data scientists know that the accessibility of data is precious! Semistructure helps out data analysts as well — it refers to the way that some information from the source can be easily organized into tables (metrics like clicks, follows, retweets, etc.), while some is free-form and has to be broken down (customer reviews, interactions, etc.)

These aspects of social data make it useful for a range of analysis, but many organizations aren’t even collecting it, much less analyzing it. In order to get an accurate picture of your business’s interactions and perception, it’s crucial to use the data from social media. It can help generate overall snapshots of the business, get an idea of the direction of the market, identify trends and much more.

The difference between raw data and social intelligence is application: in an interview with CIO magazine, VP of Gartner Jenny Sussin said social intelligence is “making use of the analysis social analytics tools give you. It could be basic, or it could be complex, but it needs to be applied to become intelligence.” Here are a few ways to apply business intelligence for social media:

Data Documentation Without Storage

One of the biggest issues with collecting all this data is storing it. Social media is a great way to circumvent this problem — you get valuable insights without needing to store the data in a data warehouse or database. This saves you money by reducing your data storage (and by extension data security) needs. It also frees you from many of the limitations of databases by creating a timeline of data that is already easily defined by the social media’s platform.

Insight Into Competition

Social media is a good place to keep an eye on the competition. What they’re doing (or not doing) with their social media presence can be a good indicator of how your business should present itself. Following your competitors on social media will give you insight into their business practices in order to better your business from the inside out. You can also potentially avoid pitfalls they’ve stumbled into, predict industry shifts and develop best practices based on what you find.

Insight Into Customers

By creating a community of followers, you are not only fostering a loyal customer base, but you’re also creating the business equivalent of a domestic herd whose habits you can study. Where a scientist might use this scenario to study the effect of a different food type on their subjects, you can run A/B tests, offer rewards for product trials and get feedback from the source.

You’ll also gain priceless insight into your customer base this way. Are most of your customers under 30, senior citizens, teens? Are they in Europe, Asia, the Americas? What kind of content do they want to see? What income bracket do most of them belong to? These kinds of insights that many social media platforms offer insight into can help you target your marketing, improve your service and get to know your customers better than ever before.

Analyze Patterns

The cornerstones of business intelligence are pattern recognition, analysis and visualization. Social media BI will structure the raw data coming in from the KPIs you designated and search it for patterns and trends using pattern recognition algorithms. Then it presents these patterns in intuitive visualizations that make it easy for the user to interpret.

Some examples: do changing fads impact how your followers interact with your product or service? Did a new meme hurt your business? Do you get more business during busier times on certain social networks? Does taking a stand on a social issue benefit or hurt your presence on social media? These questions and more can be answered by discovering and analyzing data trends collected from your social media.

Content Marketing Like a Boss

Once you know what kind of content your users respond best to, you can shift your content production in that direction in order to be more relevant and more attractive to your followers. Content marketing is no joke — according to a survey, the most successful marketing teams spend 40 percent of their total budget on content marketing, and the average budget expenditure was 26 percent.

This includes advertisements — targeted ads are twice as effective as general ads. Social media BI allows users to collect the necessary data to create highly targeted ads in order to deliver their product or service to customers who want them.

Make Forecasts and Plan Smarter

So what’s the point of all this data? Ideally, it will help your business make more accurate assessments of its customer base, sales potential and other crucial KPIs. By developing a more detailed understanding, you will be more equipped to make plans based on past trends and present data.

For example, BI for social media helps develop something called “what if sensitivity analysis.” Users can create a personalized dashboard that integrates data from a range of sources — for example, twitter, your CRM and your internal sales metrics — and organizes them into visualizations that are easy to interpret by even the least-experienced employee in your organization. This makes it even easier to respond quickly to changes, as well as understand the impact of changes on the bottom line and profit margin.

Final Thoughts

The automation and insight offered by social media business intelligence are driving a smarter, more comprehensive marketing strategy for businesses all over the world. The data collected from social media platforms can give you insight into your customer base as well as your rivals’ direction and interactions with fans. You can also use the data to make predictions and improve your content marketing strategy. What are you waiting for? Start putting your social data to work today!

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