Infographic: How to Get More From Social Intelligence in 8 Steps Commentary

By Jillian Ney on January 28th 2018

Social media intelligence is emerging as an innovative approach to understand customers, markets and competitors to inform business decision-making, but social intelligence is not easy to achieve.

I’ve recently been posting a lot about how to gain better insights from social media conversations by analyzing behavior instead of reporting analytics (see here and here for a flavor).

It’s time to demand more from social analysis

We are currently in an important time of transition in social intelligence, a time where insights need to be actionable to business objectives, not just report marketing outcomes.

The question is, how do you get to social intelligence?

I’ve developed eight steps to achieve better social intelligence. These steps bust the myths of social media analysis, and they follow the new business model of understanding and leveraging behavior for competitive advantage.


Demand more from your social analysis initiatives by analyzing behaviors. Here’s how.

The 8 Steps to Better Social Intelligence

1. Qualitative NOT Quantitative

Social media is driven by people posting their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, people showcasing their creativity and knowledge, and people connecting around shared interests and values. We cannot accurately measure all of these words and behaviors with numbers – social media isn’t quantitative data. Don’t be fooled by pretty visualizations – question the intent behind the numbers.

abstract computer graphics business financial statistics.

2. Insight NOT Analytics

Social media tools have changed the perception of what an insight is, generally reducing insight to a simple data point or fact. Social media intelligence is not a series of analytics that can be sought at the click of a button. Remember that the value of social media data lies in the thoughts, behavior and intent that it contains. Demand more from the data – manipulate and question it to generate actionable intelligence.

3. Data Manipulation NOT Macro Metrics

So, social media intelligence is not about simply measuring vanity metrics – we’re talking about finding business insight amongst all that noise. You can only find this insight by manipulating and segmenting the data to answer specific business questions. Don’t rely on pre-set metrics; seek to understand why specific thoughts and behaviors are happening.

4. They Why NOT The What

If you really want to reap the benefits of using social data in business decision-making, then you can’t just focus on the what, you need to understand the why. Social media is driven by behavior, and if you understand why this behavior is occurring you can harness it to your advantage. The why comes from understanding context and behavior, not from simply reporting what happened.

5. Context NOT Buzz

Buzz charts are useful for understanding volumes of conversations, but they miss the context of these conversations. Word clouds are useful for understanding high-level conversation topics, but they miss the context of the conversation surrounding the keyword. To generate business intelligence, the context of what people are doing and saying online matters more than the volume of conversation.

Blank interior with window and man.

6. Behavior NOT Engagement

Engagement is only part of the story. There are many, many tools on the market that will report engagement, but they won’t tell you the full story. Awareness of engagement in itself won’t help you make business decisions. Social media is driven by behavior; digital disruption is caused by changes in behavior. Social media intelligence seeks to understand the why of behaviors – don’t get stuck with merely measuring engagement.

7. Human Vision NOT Algorithms

Good insight will not come from an algorithm – an algorithm only provides outputs and metrics. You need human vision to blend social media analysis with behavioral theories in order to properly interpret the data and create valuable, actionable intelligence.

8. Actions NOT Outputs

What good is a report with lots of outputs? What good is simply knowing that you have 100 new followers, or that one post got more engagement than another, or that you have 50,000 new mentions? You need to understand why it happened and how to better capitalize on it next time. Don’t settle for reports that only give you outputs – demand a report that tells you why they happened and how to har



* Sources:

Sashi, C.M. (2012). Customer engagement in buyer-seller relationships, and social media, Management Decision, Vol. 50, No. 2, pp 253-272. Online Access:

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Jillian Ney


Dr Jillian Ney is the UK’s first Dr of Social Media and Digital Behavioural Scientist; helping businesses understand what is driving customer behavior to win more customers.