Driving Social Maturity: Proving the Value of Social Intelligence

A few weeks ago, Jessie Liu from Forrester joined me in a webinar about the importance of a sophisticated social intelligence strategy.

The webinar was fascinating (I’m not just saying that, watch for yourself on demand here), but what was more interesting were how many great questions we received during it.

We discussed as many questions as we had time for in the webinar, but there were too many good questions we didn’t get to.

Some questions were about how to prove the value of social intelligence and get buy-in from clients, executives, and one’s own team. I’ll start with these questions in this post to lay a foundation for the case for social intelligence.

Other questions were specifically related to our social intelligence maturity model and how to implement the model internally. Look out for me taking on these questions next week.

So without further ado, here are my thoughts on five audience questions about social maturity, and what social intelligence can mean to your business (answers are entirely Brandwatch’s).

1. How do I get a buy in to this from clients who do not consider digital or social as an important piece of their business outcomes?

Present social data as just that – data. Ask them if getting direct, unfiltered feedback from their customer and market would be an important data set for them to help guide them in their decision making. I think it is important for people to stop looking at social media as mere venues for communicating, but a new data source that can be tapped effectively in many ways.

To help hammer this home, make it real for them. Bring to the life the value and potential brand reputation or customer experience issues that arise from a lack of a mature social intelligence strategy. We’re not perpetrating being fear-mongers, yet we can’t deny that social media is the stage on which a brand is judged, revered and eviscerated, and where they have the most direct contact with the public.

2. How do you handle private conversations or channels with stricter API settings and still be confident in using social intelligence to make important business decisions?

Online platforms do not allow access to private conversations for data analysis as that would be a significant breach of privacy. However, channels with stricter API settings often provide anonymized data that is still useful for analysis, especially as part of the broader data picture.

However, no data source is completely unbiased. As with any data your company collects, online and social media data should be used with their unique benefits and potential biases in mind.

[S]ocial data is just simply the world’s best ethnography… if you refer to it just as another data source that’s linguistic, just like an open-ended question or a focus group transcript that is liable to the same set of rules, I find the objections disappear.

Misia Tramp, VP Customer Experience Strategy and Insight at Metia

The culmination of unfiltered data from various sources – social, news, review sites, forums – and the sheer scale of data points are where the power of social intelligence comes from.

3. If the world of marketing is evolving into a social spectrum, why does it take a CMO to convince the board or other management that they should allocate resources toward the social side of business?

Large enterprises can be quite process-driven and have hierarchies in place that deter speedy change. So like implementing any other change to a process in a business, the biggest impediment to collecting and utilizing social intelligence typically isn’t skepticism, but lack of time and lack of knowledge.

CEOs and executive boards are inundated with meetings, reports, calls, and emails, but are typically open to well-crafted and data-driven proposals that can help their business work more efficiently and effectively.

Emphasize that there is no “social side of business”. Social strategy is just brand strategy. Social consumer insights are just consumer insights. Product research using social data is just product research.

Social intelligence is simply another data source that should be used to improve your business. What that looks like will be unique to your company. Present relevant, tangible and real-world examples of why it’s important to you and your team and why the business will ultimately benefit.

Social intelligence isn’t a one-off, “easy button” solution. It’s an ongoing investment of resources, analysis and time and smart business executives should see the value in that investment.

4. How can I use Brandwatch to better determine ROI when dealing with influencers and advocates to amplify one’s brand image?

Sometimes industry influencers are your brand’s biggest advocates. More likely than not, however, your most important and vocal advocates are your employees and customers. Employees are inherently invested in your brand’s reputation and success – their livelihood depends on it after all.

Influencers are typically unaffiliated entities that are trusted in your respective industry or in the general public. Their affirmative and positive views on your brand or products or executives can go a long way to cultivating strong direct leads and increasing your brand’s awareness and reputation.

Both Brandwatch and BuzzSumo can show you the hard numbers and visibility of influencer and advocate content to help you discover not only which influencers or advocates are helping you send your message the farthest and the widest, but also to tap into trending topics and find important new influencers and potential prospects joining the conversation.

5. How can you “prove” social listening “works” if it is contingent upon resources?

The first step to answering this requires stepping away from thinking of social listening as a use case, and rather as a source of intelligence and data.

If you use it to help determine messaging, measure the results of the campaigns used and see if there is an uptick. If you are using it for social selling, measure your conversion rates. Using it for customer success? Track the NPS score, or other customer satisfaction KPIs. Product innovation? Compare your net sales and overall spend in R&D.

What “success” looks like varies heavily unit to unit, and working backwards from one’s resources or tools doesn’t produce an efficient strategy, as it will always be limited by what you are currently doing and not the problems you’re trying to solve.

Stay tuned next week as I dive into our social intelligence maturity model. And if you didn’t get a chance, listen to the Forrester+Brandwatch webinar now.