We have long been fascinated by the wealth of data we could collect, analyze and put to use via digital media. It’s taken us years to get beyond the intention and excitement of doing that to actually using data in constructive ways.
Now along comes all this social data spread between platforms like Facebook and Twitter and conversation search tools like Radian6 and Sysomos. The promise of knowing what your fans and detractors are saying about your brand is irresistible. The chance to put these social "signals" to use cannot be passed up.
Well, as more brands finally commit to infrastructure to collect social data, the pressure is on in 2012 to lead with social insights derived from this data vs. data for data’s sake. To many first-time efforts in social listening end with phone book-sized reports with pages of pie charts and bar graphs that portray data in an academic way. That means it’s not functional and at best information for information’s sake (just as useless in the here-today as raw data)
We Need Marketing Scientists (on the lookout for insights)
Some marketers emphasize the need for “marketing scientists” to sort through “Big Data” to find meaning. That is spot-on and certainly where we at Ogilvy see the present never mind the future.
McKinsey summarized the challenge,
“The amount of data in our world has been exploding, and analyzing large data sets—so-called big data—will become a key basis of competition, underpinning new waves of productivity growth, innovation, and consumer surplus…Leaders in every sector will have to grapple with the implications of big data, not just a few data-oriented managers. The increasing volume and detail of information captured by enterprises, the rise of multimedia, social media, and the Internet of Things will fuel exponential growth in data for the foreseeable future.”
So while big brains wrestle with big data in 2012, most business leaders must convert their ambiguous desire for more data and the irresistible hunger to add social data to the mix into daily efforts to derive actionable insights from whatever data they have today. There is a big difference between data and the actionable output of that data.
Kara Martens calls out social data as big area for growth n 2012 on the Shoutlet blog. She may very well assume that data and insights go hand-in-hand but it takes special effort to actually boil insights. Doug Palmer, Vikram Mahidhar and Dan Elbert on the Deloitte Review identify the challenge:
“Simply put, with so much data available, especially on social networks, the ability to know the people you sell to and to monetize that knowledge has never been greater….That said, most companies are only beginning to scratch the surface of what’s possible with social data. Many are still operating in the pre-social media age, simply trying to make sense of the data they have—rather than the variety of sources that exist.”
Demand Social Network Insights
Many big brands are doing big deals with Facebook. One of the payouts of that type of deal is insights from the platform and Facebook team. More than what any social media strategist can wring from the DIY Facebook Insights screens, the promise of this deal is that Facebook – keeper of more social data than the gods – will share relevant insights with their best, paying customers. That’s likely a good deal. And it’s the type of deal point that LinkedIn, Google and others should deliver on as well. Next time you consider a big deal with the social networks, make sure you are getting a good slice of insights (not just data and not just what anyone can derive from the platform).
Listening Tech Only Part of the Answer
Too many social listening efforts focus on the technology. Firms like Radian6, Visible Technologies, and Sysomos provide a tech layer to search and sort. What they don’t do is provide any true capacity to seed those engines with the right queries or dig into and discover insights that and help business decision makers today. We need people with aptitude and experience to do that. Analysts who understand the business and the customer and who know the difference between usable insights and info porn.
Do:It’s not enough to hire out a bunch of great researchers. We need to build capacity within the organization to understand and recognize good insights. That means training, identifying best and worst practices, and building a system that rewards insights.
- Find a “bright spot” in your organization. This is some group who has gotten good at extracting and applying useful insightsMake their work the archetype for others to follow.
- If useful, draft a playbook or other instructional for how to actually do listening well.
- Train marketers to recognize insights. Even if they are likely to delegate or outsource to a research team, they are stronger if they can quickly recognize great insights (and imposters)
- Create an award for “top insights.” C’mon, we all have internal award systems. Time to elevate great insights that drive business and in the process tell everyone that leadership cares about them.
McKinsey Global Initiative Report on Big Data – a good read that takes the macro approach to putting big data to work
Deloitte Making Sense of Social Data: Digital exhaust and the next frontier in social data analytics – also more on the macro side of things but a sober, business view of social data and how it can drive business advantage
Timeline: This one’s overdue. More and more companies are embracing a operational approach to social listening (doing deals with technology and insisting/recommending that brand managers use social listening). Any effort to do this without insisting on distributing actionable insight and information throughout the enterprise is wasting time and money.