[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="280" caption="Image courtesy of Daniel "LWS" Nimmervoll"]
As social media is diversifying, new areas are emerging that businesses need to focus on, not only to ensure they stay relevant to their consumers, but so they make the most use of social technologies that can benefit their business from the inside out. As companies have now spent months or years building up social communities, there needs to be a well thought out strategy, one that is capable of collating and analysing the huge bank of social data that's being circulated within these communities.
This is for the most part, an entirely new business practice, and one that many organisations are yet to catch onto. It requires a different approach to traditional customer analysis, where you may look at purchasing trends, transaction history or demographic data. It needs to be developed with social media/technologies at the centre, combining hard 'data mining' with a more organic approach.
Research shows that companies are largely ignoring the need for a social data strategy. A new study, sponsored by IBM, shows that just 23 per cent of companies are actively collecting and analysing data from social channels, while 53 per cent claim they are monitoring social networks.
The discrepancy between using social media for marketing, and actually using the data as a result of that activity, is dangerous for brands. It also leaves them on the backfoot with their customers. We are handing over our data to organisations and social platforms in return (largely) for a better, more personalised experience. If you don't have a strategy in place for analysisng the data that you can access on these social platforms, you risk giving your customers an irrelevant or outdated experience, and not benefiting from all that social technologies have to offer.
The Big Data Economy
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To understand the importance of a social data strategy on an individual basis for businesses, it's worth looking at the wider context of this new data economy and what it means on a larger scale. A report from the UK, focused on the potential of 'Big Data' (that is, the huge amounts of data circulating online) claims that the Big Data movement will create up to 58,000 new jobs, with new roles such as data scientists emerging. Over a five year period it will also generate £216 billionn to the UK economy, through employment and spending on data firms and technologies. Last year alone, Big Data contributed £25.1 billion to the economy.
This demonstrates the strong market within social data, and emphasises the need for businesses to embed social data within the organisation, allowing it to influence core business decisions and strategies. This is an area that's growing rapidly, both out of a need to offer consumers what they want, and pacemakers in the industry who are setting the standards for smart use of social data.
Every business, no matter how small you are or how niche your industry may be, needs to have a social data strategy in place to be able to effectively handle the social community you've built around your brand. Direct benefits include offering a targeted and personalised experience to your consumers, analysing social data to influence your future marketing or communications and to fully utilise the benefits available within social technologies. It means building up social profiles of your customers both individually and on a larger scale to gain wider insights into group trends.
The benefits of smart data analysis will only be a reflection of the time and money invested into this. This is an emerging specialty for brands that needs dedicated resource to effectively filter through the trove of data and make smart analysis. The smart brands will be creating social data divisions and making key hires in the space to stay ahead of the game. For smaller companies, it may mean reallocating time from more traditional marketing/research areas to be able to focus on this new social data.
The need for a social data strategy stands for brands and organisations across the board, from b2c, b2b, charity, political and media. Social data can influence and benefit companies outside of pure marketing, and smart brands will allow this data to flow throughout the organisation, in a fluid structure that can enable you to react quickly to key findings from data analysis and be reactive to your consumers wants and needs.