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Published October 20th 2015

CMO View: Cross-pollinating Social Intelligence Means Richer Insights

How do we get richer insights from social intelligence? By simply blending data. Will McInnes explains.

One of most enjoyable talks I ever heard was given in a big teepee in West Wales – the very far left hand side of the British mainland.

I was sat on a straw bale, listening to a wise guy who’d spent his life studying agriculture talk about sustainable agriculture.

And one of the foremost things I remember was his strong suggestion that what Earth most needs is a return to rich, productive small holdings using an intense mixture of crops.

That this was the most efficient approach, the most productive, the most natural.

He painted an image in my mind of pigs snuffling around the base of fruit trees, around them rows of other crops intermingled – the whole setup somewhere in the fine balance between order and chaos.

It was essentially an argument against monoculture, against miles and miles of the same corn.

Cross-pollinating social intelligence

In the early days of social analytics, we have allowed our own produce to exist as a monoculture. ‘Here’s the social report.’

I think that’s OK – in fact, it was probably inevitable. But it lacked so much context.

As my colleague Joel puts it, in the early days of telephones you had a department whose job was to answer the phones. Now that seems ridiculous. And we believe the same is true of social intelligence – that it happens best when it is distributed, and even more so when it has cross-pollinated.

As our world has matured, I am seeing more and more that the most exciting things being done by our clients is with blended data.

What kinds of other data, you ask?

Just a few that come to mind:

  • Weather
  • Point of sale
  • CRM
  • Location/geographical
  • Government/public data e.g. Liquor Licensing Bureau
  • Customer survey
  • Demographic
  • Product
  • Inventory

With weather, we have clients unlocking really interesting (and sometimes strongly counter-intuitive) insights into the relationship between consumer behavior and the weather, informing product strategy, sparking creative campaign ideas, prompting smarter distribution strategies.


With CRM, we have clients able to genuinely understand marketing and business ROI in exciting new ways, because they’ve been able to understand actual buying behavior alongside social behavior. This is seriously cool and completely changes the conversation around ROI.

With inventory, we have clients putting together robust demand models based on their own evidence from investigating the relationship between intent-to-purchase ‘buzz’ and actual sales, which is allowing them to manage inventory much more intelligently (and for bonus points, to estimate competitor successes and failures).

Real dollars saved. Real decisions informed. Real insights gained.

Blending data for the bigger picture

Interestingly to me, none of these are about ‘social media marketing ROI’.

This is about business. Blended data takes a hop and skip over that old chestnut and instead takes us into the domain of real decision making.


This is informing our thinking at Brandwatch.

Our new JSON Tile on Vizia is just one recent example – this allows our clients to pair social Brandwatch data with ‘external’ data to visualize and share inter-relationships quickly and easily across their organization.

I’m watching this with excitement as a marketer myself because our clients are where the action happens.

Our job is just to give them the best platform – the magic happens when they get creative with the data sources they have elsewhere in the business and start putting two and two together, and hopefully getting five.

Read Will’s other opinion columns here.

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