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2018 Report

Benchmarking Social Intelligence

Which companies, industries and regions are getting the most value from social?

See how you compare with a 5-minute assessment
2018 ReportBenchmarking Social Intelligence

How are hundreds of companies powering their entire businesses using social listening?

We surveyed them to find out. Learn who's leading the way, and which social listening use cases are most popular in each industry.


Brandwatch built 10+ years of experience with the most innovative brands into a one-of-a-kind tool to measure the value of social intelligence.

By creating a global model of social intelligence, we sought to outline what makes a social strategy intelligent, and how the smartest companies are finding business value from social media.

After getting responses from hundreds of companies of all sizes and industries, one thing became obvious—social media strategy is extremely diverse.

This diversity begged further questions like, what made a company sophisticated vs other companies? Which social listening use cases are most important within different industries? And which companies are getting the most value from social?

Analyzing the results from over 380 brands and agencies, we tried to answer these questions. We’ve benchmarked 15 industries and gathered expert advice based on those benchmarks by exploring trends on topics including:

  • The most common social media use-cases in each industry,
  • How sophistication changes across companies of different sizes,
  • Which companies are the most mature with their social listening.

Who is most mature?

To identify trends in the social intelligence across industries and company size, we conducted some analyses to learn what companies were most sophisticated.

Overall, the food and beverage industry had on average, the most sophisticated companies of all the companies we analyzed.

And unsurprisingly, larger companies (those with 10,000 or more employees) were more sophisticated than smaller companies, likely due to having more resources to grow, expand, and deepen their programs from a personnel and data perspective.

In the next section, we analyze five different aspects of a company’s social program that could make or break the value it gets from its investment.

Five dimensions of social intelligence

To understand the results a bit deeper, we measured five key dimensions of social intelligence sophistication:

  • Intelligence Strategy, or how effective a business’s analysis of social data is at truly driving decisions,
  • Applications, or how many unique ways a business applies social data,
  • Scale of Data, or how much data a business examines and integrates,
  • Program Governance, or how the social intelligence program is structured and managed, and
  • Program Scope, or the size and reach of the social media intelligence program.

By comparing overall maturity to each of these five dimensions, we found that focusing on your intelligence strategy, then exploring different applications of social listening were the most beneficial to maximizing your social intelligence programs.

Intelligence Strategy: Moving social out of marketing to drive business decisions

The most important dimension predicting overall maturity was intelligence strategy.

These questions measured whether companies have the parts in place for social data to effectively drive business decisions.

For example, we considered factors like whether the program got appropriate sponsorship and support from executives and whether the social strategy revealed insights that drove new research questions or inspired business decisions outside of social media marketing.

This is key in moving the value from social out of just marketing departments, and going from counting likes and hashtags to shaping your business with consumer insights.

According to those we analyzed, the food and beverage industry led all industries in their strategy.

Interestingly, fewer than one in three companies were using social listening to help answer new or unexpected business questions, showcasing a huge missed opportunity.

Most companies seem to be stuck in a basic monitoring loop, so we were interested to see what factors made companies more strategic with their social intelligence programs.

Since overall social maturity increased as company size increased, we expected to see that as companies got bigger, their social programs received more executive buy-in than smaller companies

Surprisingly, the relationship of executive sponsorship and size of the company was not as intuitive.

Smaller companies were actually the most likely to have senior-level employees heavily involved in and influenced by social intelligence.

Larger companies (over 1,000 employees) saw more instances of executives vaguely aware of the program or slightly informed by the program, but fewer instances of regular involvement with social intelligence.

Applications: Having diverse, advanced use cases

According to the assessment, the second biggest driver of overall social intelligence success was the specific use cases companies had.

Again, the food and beverage industry came out on top, with on average more and more advanced applications than the other industries.

The most common applications for social listening were community management (62% of companies), competitor and market research (56%), and influencer marketing (56%).

The average company employed 4.76 social media applications.

However, when broken down by industry, differences began to emerge.

Social listening applications within different industries

Industry Average number of different use cases Most common use case
Airlines 4.3 Competitor and Market Research
Alcohol 4.5 Consumer Research
Automotive 4.1 Product Strategy
CPG / FMCG 4.7 Competitor and Market Research
Energy 5.5 Employee Recruitment
Financial Services 4.2 Competitor and Market Research
Food & Beverage 6.4 Content and SEO Strategy
Healthcare 4.4 Crisis Detection
Media & Entertainment 4.8 Content and SEO Strategy
Public Sector or Non-Profit 4.5 Community Management
Retail 4.8 Community Management
Sports 3.7 Community Management
Technology 5.1 Competitor and Market Research
Telecommunications 5.3 Community Management
Travel & Hospitality 2.6 Social Selling

The automotive industry most commonly uses social media data for product strategy, while food & beverage companies primarily use social listening for content & SEO purposes.

Data: Which companies use and integrate the most data?

When it comes to data, the volume of information a company has access to, and how often data is blended, greatly affects the power of the research companies use to understand their market.

Are you looking at historical data, comparing your campaign to previous years? Are you analyzing social listening data alongside your revenue data, to spot trends that can impact sales?

This section, we looked at how well companies collected and integrated social data.

Energy companies were the most advanced with regards to the social data collected and integrated.

When it comes to which data sources companies typically analyze alongside social listening data, understandably, the most common were data from website analytics and social media engagement platforms.

Website success, community management, and social media analytic responsibilities regularly fall to the same digital marketing teams.

Yet less than 36% of companies said they blend social data with data from traditional customer research sources like focus groups and surveys, a clear missed opportunity in many industries.

Governance: The value of bottom-up comms

When measuring a program’s governance, we analyzed how social intelligence program are structured and managed, and how the structure of the program affects its output.

How does information get from your social media team to the rest of your company? Do you do regular reporting and analyses, or ad-hoc? Do you have a command center that helps communicate insights efficiently?

The healthcare industry had companies with the most sophistically structured programs.

Going a bit deeper, analyzing the ways employees share social media benchmarks and analyses reflected the importance of effective communication.

From regular reporting to command centers to ad-hoc analyses, the companies finding the most value from social listening used at least three different methods of communicating insights.

Only using one method of communication presents the opportunity for insights to go unnoticed. Making sure your program structure utilized real-time data, regular reports and benchmarks, and has the bandwidth to do bespoke analyses will make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

Additionally, every company who scored above an 80 overall invested in some type of real-time data display or command center.

With the speed at which social media moves, access to a real-time data visualization is fundamental to the long-term success of any social program.

Program scope: The importance of just having the people

The simplest starting point for transforming a social listening program is to just scale up.

We surveyed the program scope, or the size and reach of an organization’s social team. In many cases, breakdowns in efficiency happen because organizations simply don’t have the people to support them.

Below is a chart showing the relative maturity of different industries. Of all the industries of our respondents, those in the the healthcare and energy industries were most successful in developing expansive, far-reaching social listening teams

Interestingly, we found that the number of employees who used social insights in their jobs was not strongly correlated with with the number of people tasked with monitoring and analyzing social data.

This means that in many cases, there are just not enough people versed in social media intelligence to support the teams and departments that use it.

Bandwidth is likely a bottleneck; 62% of respondents only have 1-3 people at the organization analyzing social data. And over a dozen companies indicated that over 200 employees use insights from social listening in their jobs, but have a team of less than 6 who manage and analyze the data.

Nearly 40% of companies said either there was no clear champion in their social program or that there is someone in charge, but isn’t driving it forward.

Our industry is constantly changing, advancing and improving. As we continue to collect results from our social intelligence assessment, we will analyze them regularly to spot changes, identify trends, and to see how whole sectors change.

Methodology and demographics of the respondents

A quick note on scoring: Most of the charts here report on maturity scales, directly from data from our social intelligence maturity assessment.

The assessment analyzed companies based on their responses to over 20 questions, and gave scores from 1-100 based of the sophistication of the companies’ answers. For more information about the maturity model and the philosophy behind it, read our article.

After cleaning duplicate and false records, we analyzed a total of 382 respondents from 15 different industries and 61 different countries. A deep dive into the demographics of the respondents is below.

Count of different sized companies

How many employees does your business have? Number of responses
Less than 100 employees 178
100-999 employees 83
1,000-9,999 employees 62
Over 10,000 employees 59

Count of companies from each industry

Industry Number of responses
Airlines 3
Alcohol 2
Automotive 8
Energy 8
Financial Services 17
Food & Beverage 7
Healthcare 8
Media & Entertainment 56
Other 115
Public Sector or Non-Profit 36
Retail 27
Sports 6
Technology 63
Telecommunications 10
Travel & Hospitality 5

As apparent by the numbers, while we collected responses from a diversity of different sized companies, the smaller number of people from certain industries like the airlines and alcohol industry limit the generalizability of some of our industry findings.

Since the collection of the data, we’ve had over 100 more responses to our maturity assessment, so when we update this report next year we should have more robust insights.

To get involved in our survey and benchmark your own company, take the assessment here.

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Existing customer?Log in to access your existing Falcon products and data via the login menu on the top right of the page.New customer?You'll find the former Falcon products under 'Social Media Management' if you go to 'Our Suite' in the navigation.

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Brandwatch acquired Paladin in March 2022. It's now called Influence, which is part of Brandwatch's Social Media Management solution.Want to access your Paladin account?Use the login menu at the top right corner.