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Social Intelligence – sexy or not?

Posted by John Horniblow on Apr 4, 2011 in General, marketing 2.0, Social Media Marketing

About 18 months ago I read an article about the new types of jobs the world of digital communications and transactional services had created. What stood out to me was something it named as possibly the newest, and quote, “sexiest” job in the near future and that was the role of a digital communications data analyst.  I made mention of this in a presentation I was doing to a group of fledgling digital agency people on the importance, understanding and application of analytics. Not just the platform or tools, but the action of analysis and turning raw data into decisional data for planning and execution of digital marketing and communications activities. The audience seemed surprised that I insisted that job could be called “sexy”.

So how “sexy” can data be? As a digital marketer working before and through the advent of social media I had learnt that web analytics dashboards were my decisional instruments in triangulating metrics data and measuring the effects of digital media and CRM campaigns, search optimizations, tweaking website performance. I was adjusting and actioning responses to the communications and pushing for maximum campaign successes. The dashboards were also my tools for reporting the successes, holding my agencies to account and justifying increases in digital spends and re allocation of media budgets to activities of deeper audience engagement. I was, in fact, an iterative and precision driven campaign driver, watching and measuring the actions and responses of our digital communication activities day by day and adjusting them to get the best results. If I had an end goal in mind it was not only to maximize the efficiency of our spend in digital channels or prove the ROI of digital activities but more overtly to track and digitally prove a sales conversion in the “Path to Purchase” through digital channels.

I wouldn’t call myself a “digital communications data analyst” and I don’t necessarily believe the role of the data analyst is all that “sexy “ unless it’s clearly defined as, or, contributes as a decisional role. Frankly the “platform jockeys” get boring with their “ it does this, how cool is that”; the excited bells and whistles talk. Let’s face it, collating data for the sake of collating data, is boring and makes no sense at all unless it can be turned in actionable insights. Mapping it and graphing it only collates it into readable forms. While we are also beginning to see more creative interpretations of data, like information flight paths, and geo mapping the real foundation to the role is that intelligence is “sexy”. Intelligence gained through interpretation and, sometimes, the extrapolation of data points can be very “sexy”.

The opening up of the internet through the enabling tools of web 2.0 or the social web means consumers talk about, associate with, and can experience your brands and their communications across a whole range of touch points that have you as a brand have limited or no control over  (and be careful they can interact with you). Through a shifting of digital behaviours the consumer in this environment seems to be in an ever moving target of new social media communities and technologies. The sphere of analytics in recent years has widened to accommodate the shifts and began to include  “Listening” platforms or aggregators of the conversational consumer generated content and news sources. What interesting to me is that while the technographic behaviours change, the language the consumer uses and the way they converse remains consistent. If I was just doing Listening I would have to look hard into the mirror as ask myself is the action of just Listening enough to remain “sexy”?

Social Intelligence is superseding the thinking behind the practice of Listening. Today it’s the new realm of text analysis, semantic understanding and sentiment analysis of the actual data itself. I believe in the next step, which is to really harness the intelligence in this data not only for brands but also for companies, as a whole, and taking the “Voice of the Consumer” to the next level. It will be not only informing marketing and brand business decisions with insights but applying it to innovation, business investment decisions and strategy, PR and company image in crisis and reputation management and even market management by undertaking competitive intelligence reviews. As we know in today’s world digital communication is not only effecting marketing and communication but also touching many aspects of a company’s operations. Social Intelligence and its insights might cross the entire enterprise. Now that’s what I call “sexy”.

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