Social Interactions Are The New Form of Business Intelligence

Alan BelniakSocial Media, technology1 Comment

Earlier this week, Alexa Scordato spoke to our class about social media platforms and the rapid rise and adoption of social media. Alexa knows a thing or two about social media: she works at Mzinga, is active in many forms of social networking technology, and even found her current job using Twitter.

She spoke primarily about the rise of social media and how it’s affecting companies’ and consumers’ behaviors and expectations. Below are some key comments on her discussion with us, as well as some of my own thoughts mixed in.

  • There’s a shift happening at the executive level now. We’re starting to see a move from the “What’s in it for me?” generation to a generation of more open executives and a “network-based business model”. Information silos will be abandoned. With this transformation, we’re seeing business become more human. No longer will the traditional broadcast media work. No longer will it be “this is what we say, so this is what the customers will believe.” As it is now, we don’t even own our brand anymore – the customers do.

  • Don’t want to believe the shift is on? Too bad. The thing is, it doesn’t matter if you believe it or not. And it doesn’t shouldn’t matter if your executives don’t get it. Your executives aren’t necessarily your target market, so you need to get them over that hump. The target market, in a few years, will be using this new technology. In fact, according to Don Tapscott’s Grown up Digital, 47% of the workforce will be Millennials by 2015. Pause for a moment and re-read that. In six years from now, 47% of the workforce will be innately familiar with these technologies.

  • Here’s a recent insight that most Americans can readily understand: Barack Obama’s connection to his voter base in the 2008 Presidential elections. By social media standards, he did everything right: he had an active Twitter account (with a good ratio), he was active in Facebook, his videos in YouTube had more than 20m recorded hits, and he even launched his own social networking platform, My.BarackObama.com. Hillary Clinton followed zero people, thus potentially missing out on really connecting with (seemingly) a base of supporters. President Obama successfully raised more than $750m, and more than half of that was reportedly through social media and social networking channels. This paid off. He secured the Presidency of the United States of America, and he and his team earned Fast Company’s honor of “World’s Most Innovative Company”.

  • Tropicana recently goofed with a changeover of their brand image. They moved from their long-lasting image to something ‘more current’. But it’s not the changeover that’s remarkable. It’s the public backlash – and Tropicana listening – that’s remarkable. And in case you’ve been under a rock the past few weeks, Facebook went through something a little similar. The point of these isn’t to point out follies of other businesses – we’re all going to make them. What’s worth pointing out is that companies are listening to the very consumers that give the companies a reason to exist.

  • It’s important to note that social media isn’t a flat-out replacement for traditional marketing. Some pieces of the old machine might need to be retired, while others are re-jiggered. And some new pieces can be added. The point is that this isn’t a static landscape, it’s a dynamic landscape. Social media can augment current marketing plans. Social media can be used to do much faster and cheaper marketing research, and sometimes yield results that a focus group never would (see above re: Tropicana).

  • Great, you say. This is all fantastic stuff. Where do I start? If you’re here, you’ve probably read Groundswell by Josh Bernoff and Christine Li. If not, you ought to consider adding it to your reading list. One of their key take-aways is the POST methodology. Without dragging you through the details, it can be summarized quickly as: what are you trying to do? Why? How? As in, don’t go start Twittering about something inane when you haven’t set up a goal or decided what your end game might be. Define the objective, decide on a metric for measurement (not always easy), and then select the implementation method (and these days, it’s usually a social media/networking technology). Then, start listening and participating. Get people excited. Turn your vocal happy customers into evangelists.

  • Alexa had a great quote in her chat with us: “If you are not on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, and you want to be in social media, then you have no business being in social media.” Facebook is the number one draw for social networking sites; Twitter is organic, because you get out of it what you put in; and LinkedIn is the bearer of legitimacy.

  • Convincing all in the enterprise that social media is ‘worth it’ is not an easy endeavor. However, using words that resonate with purse holders and executives might help. When driving the business case for social media, remember that leveraging social media:
    • Saves money and lowers cost;
    • Drives revenue;
    • Improves employee productivity; and
    • Increases customer retention.

  • Despite having four great reasons to leverage social media, there are still obstacles toward implementation. Knowing these obstacles doesn’t make them go away, but there is some small amount of comfort in knowing that we are not alone in grappling with these issues.
    • The digital divide between generations;
    • Too many platforms, and not enough education;
    • Lack of metrics; and
    • Executive-level buy-in.

  • In these challenging economic times, perhaps the money saved on a marketing campaign can be used as a metric. That is, money that was allocated for a traditional media spend can be diverted toward a social media campaign.

As a parting note, Alexa made one comment that really stuck with me, and I think it’s a very sage comment: Social interactions are the next form of business intelligence.