Social Media Intelligence (SMI) in Organization Context: What Business Opportunity, Monitoring or Insight does it provide?

Social media usage now moves from our personal to professional lifestyle, organizational culture into business workflows. A robust social media intelligence program generates good value for organizations today. The use of Social media analytics to generate intelligence is a rapidly emerging discipline within organizations to formulate strategies and objectives. A social media intelligence initiative program now helps attain measurement techniques, gain insights of human interactions, share opinion voice, understand sentiments, evaluate critical performance factors to improve businesses towards meeting objectives of any organization.

The social media analytics provides the intelligence and  useful visibility for measurement of promotional campaigns, brand perceptions, insights into customer likes and preferences, get feedbacks of performance, customer relations, capture market trends, public relations etc. Ruhi (2012) also brings out that “social media analytics need to be positioned as a business intelligence, tying with monitoring, discovery and predictive capabilities to the tactical execution of social media initiatives and to high level strategic objectives of the organization” (Ruhi, 2012). Through social intelligence, customer intelligence (CI) and public relations (PR) professionals turn online interactions into actionable insight. Social media provides both teams the information they need to advance targeted communications and measure its effectiveness.

Opinion Formation in a Social Context

Social context plays a significant role in how we perceive and interact. There are a number of factors that affect attitudes, opinions, beliefs, behaviors, which includes those of others in our social environment. For example, witnessing others in social community using a product or service will eventually guide our opinion. Being exposed to social conversations begin to influence our opinion and proclivity to use it. Regardless, many of us end up ordering what others have ordered. It is clear that the social context has a significant effect on our final decisions and behaviors.

We all remember the good apple and bad apple story. Ones behaviors exhibited are a function of the social and virtual environment in which one operates today. Moe & Schweidel (2014) explains peoples behaviour as “if all of those people want it, it must be good, maybe I’m missing something”, often referred as bandwagon behavior (Moe & Schweidel, 2014). In an opinion ecosystem, an exchange of opinions takes place and it is essential for organizations to manage the social context and for social media marketers to integrate social interactions to enhance the experience for consumers. Moe & Schweidel (2014) debates as to whether “social media communities cause the radicalization of opinion” (Moe & Schweidel, 2014). I would argue that social media can influence a moderate individual into one with a radical opinion. However, people with strong opinions express their opinions more with an extreme bias. The moderate usually refrain from participating or sharing opinions in such cases.

Intelligence from Social Media Interactions and Analytics

Social media is often defined as various online channels and platforms that facilitate dissemination, interactions, collaborative formation of content. The interactions occur among individuals and their social networks of friends, followers and fans, represented through social connections graph. The activities at a granular level are used for organization’s social media analytics initiatives to develop measurement models. Lovett (2011) describes social analytics as the discipline that “helps companies measure, assess, and explain the performance of social media initiatives in the context of specific business objectives” (Lovett, 2011). Technology provides solution frameworks, and toolsets to derive actionable information for corresponding decision making, having practical relevance to new areas of inquiry, drawing on other disciplines like artificial intelligence.

Social Media Analytics for Intelligence

Technically, social media analytics and intelligence don’t mean the same thing. Analytics is about discovery of insights from the data.  This leads us to social intelligence. Social media intelligence helps business with key insights for decisions based on social media analysis and data. Social media intelligence are active and transparent, while traditional intelligence is passive and opaque (Treverton & Miles, 2014)

Social media spectrum of applications is an essential part of the information ecosystem, having remarkable impact, unprecedented influence to consumers, voters, businesses, governments etc. For many, it helps organizations with intelligence about customers, products, motivations, preferences, customer perceptions, relations, loyalties, branding and marketing strategy. For Government, political parties, and executives, social media provides an ideal channel to gauge public opinion on political positions, advocacy, policies, employee activity and gather community support. For state security and intelligence agencies, social media offers immense prospects to learn terrorist group behavior, recruitment methodology, schemes and cultural issues.

The online sensor network provide valuable indicators of interactions as well as their political, economic, social, technological, societal interests. It also assists in overcoming cognitive overload difficulties. When we add value to monitoring reports and start thinking about the why, it becomes social media intelligence, transforming into actionable strategic insights on a day-to-day level. Any Organization in the Intelligence stage transforms social media data into actionable insights about customers, competitors and their company strategy.

Social Media Intelligence (SMI) in Organization Context

Many marketers struggle to optimally utilize insights from social media data sources available. These interactions and actions provide a continuous stream of useful qualitative and quantitative data. Organization must turn to social media intelligence for turning these data into actionable strategy. Some organizations embrace social channels internally to find efficient ways to work through communities and collaboration tools. Many consumer brands, including Dell and PepsiCo, focus on social tools such as organization’s Facebook page, corporate blogs, Twitter accounts to connect with customers externally (Forrester, 2014).

Today, platforms help organizations automate and scale social monitoring, response management, analytics and intelligence. Monitoring the social universe is the basis of any social intelligence strategy. They can collect a limited amount of intelligence manually on individual social channels. A few use cases in organizations context for social media intelligence include (Forrester, 2014):

  • Reputation Management. Personal Relations and marketing teams track reputations, brands, products, employee behavior, within social media channels to measure perception, preference, performance, including generating alerts of potential misuse.
  • Brand Protection. Online discussions intelligence can help organizations from potential legal threats, copyright infringement, product knockoffs, logo abuse.
  • Competitive Research. Marketing professionals track social media interactions of theirs and competitors’ products to benchmark their offerings.
  • Market research. Listening platforms and tools like NetBase assist conduct on-demand research through social media monitoring dashboards or offer consulting teams to conduct customized social media research projects. Many companies use social media intelligence to validate their findings from traditional market research surveys (Forrester, 2014).
  • Informed Messaging. Marketers analyze massive amounts of social media data to pick-up new languages customers use, thereafter, drive product campaigns in the same language.
  • Advertisement Targeting.  Interactive marketers find and target their potential customers where they spend their time on such social applications.
  • Campaign Measurement. Competitive Intelligence marketers use metrics from social channels to test campaign's performance. For example, MTV uses Radian6 to track marketing campaigns about sentiments, mentions and discussions (Forrester, 2014).
  • Customer Segmentation. Targeting audiences based on what they talk about in their brands online are used by marketers. For example, evolve-24 gives marketers the ability to target consumer bases.
  • Customer Support. Customer support teams reach out and engage troubled customers.
  • Influencing Marketing.  Marketing and Customer insights professionals use social metrics to target, influence and measure marketing campaigns. For example, Converseon's social media monitoring tool influenced parenting bloggers about Graco’s baby products using intelligence gathered from social channels (Forrester, 2014).
  • Product Innovation. Marketers and research and development (R&D) teams can learn how to improve products from customers' online discussions. Organizations also use social media for idea generation process to solicit ideas for new product and improvements from social media community.
  • Lead generation. Leads can be generated based on their online conversations. Platforms like Tracx assist organizations in lead management capabilities helping consumer through the buying process integrated into the company's customer relationship management (CRM) software.

Today, organizations, without drowning in data and metrics, must integrate social media intelligence in creating multi-channel strategies that interpret social media data into their strategic decision making process. It is essential to differentiate between the just social media conversations and the relevant conversations of interest to derive social media intelligence. The salient metrics is not purely volume measurement, capturing sentiment or valence metrics is essential.


Organizations should leverage the “social intelligence” facet of social media. While messages, announcements by organizations on social media are shared across ecosystem, customers also interact with each other. This dynamics present both opportunities and challenges, as campaigns can be easily hijacked and turned against. While Organizations want to respond to every criticisms, but over-reacting to many who don’t represent the majority of the customers can have disastrous outcomes. Having an integrated strategy is extremely essential in leveraging social media intelligence for multichannel, rapid response, CRMs and seeding objectives (Treverton & Miles, 2014). At some stage, marketing strategy and social media strategy should be one integral component as the ability to monitor social intelligence influence matures.

Today, there is intensified interest and research around social media intelligence platforms in organization context to extract useful patterns, context based on user profiling and intelligence from dialogues, interactions. With time, social media landscape is shifting and organizations are undoubtedly maturing from listening, engaging to intelligence. It becomes imperative to understand the underlying science of opinions and known biases in expressed social opinions. We need to integrate knowledge into our metrics, intelligence efforts, and marketing strategy. Today, organizations are in a better position to integrate and leverage social media intelligence for meeting business objectives. Organizations need to use social media intelligence, converge various social initiatives, while respecting user’s privacy and regulatory issues imposed.


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Authored by Kinshuk De

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