2012 seems to be the year of many things. Business are going to take social media engagement seriously, they’ll become more comfortable in the space, they’ll hire data analysts to measure all sort of stuff in new ways. They’ll slay the dragon known as social data.Lofty goals to be sure, but the market is clear: we need to make business decisions based on data. My employer, EMC, is betting the server farm on it. Not just in products and solutions, but in first-in-the-industry data science summits and data science certifications. It’s a serious business. My readers might recall my younger brother also works here at EMC. He’s part of (wait for it) a new data science team in our sales org. My boss and my bro’s boss are building similar functions to measure and analyze our sales, marketing and lead-gen activities, including a very close look at social (‘natch).
Over the past few years the social media marketing or social media business (pick a phrase) marketplace has seen a number of social media monitoring tools enter the space. Likewise a raft of social media management tools. This year, the debate will continue on the notion of unified stacks bringing the two together. Not sure that’ll happen as has been predicted, but any of SMM categories will need to do a better job of aggregating common data that industry folk like me can easily consume and compare.
All the while, a number of new groups and associations are popping-up to support the notion of educating and credentialing Social Media Professionals. I’m honored to play an advising role for one such group, the National Institute for Social Media.
The rise of the social consumer, wonderfully illustrated as a social media decision process by Brian Solis, makes the idea of a social media analyst all the more important. The space is grown far beyond social media managers posting stuff on Facebook and Twitter. It’s grown far beyond blokes like me listening to the chatter. Like our direct marketing cousins, social needs a champion to dive deep into the insights and be a sherpa through the mountains of social data.
So what does all this mean?
Social analysts are coming. If for nothing else, than to support the products Adobe, Infegy, SAP/NetBase, IBM and SAS are pumping out. As with any data analysis group in any org out there, I see a new cadre of social analysts coming, all charged with solving these challenges and meeting these opportunities:
Capturing comprehensive data sets, both organic as well as those that are a product of social marketing activities.
Analyze & interpret the data appropriately, and tell the story from an objective point of view.
Help stakeholders understand the data, where it comes from, and the actionable insights embedded within.
Work with stakeholders on what they are trying to accomplish, e.g. what problem they wish to solve.
Make stop/start/continue recommendations on social engagement strategies and tactics.
Inform and enable the way an org communicates, engages and collaborates with our social audience.
Help orgs look to social channels as primary research and engagement channels for conducting business.
Earth shattering, right?
I jest, but only in the notion that social analyst types are out there. They just might not know it yet. They’re traditional data geeks who haven’t yet made the social connection, they’re advanced social listeners who can pull valuable business intelligence from social activity and trends. Most of all, they know social and they know it can drive business decisions.
For all of this I put forth this strategy, or manifesto if you will. It’s a cheeky play on the old push/pull marketing debate. It goes like this:
- Ask the customer
Do you know what your customer is looking for? Looking to share? Whom to share it with?
- Inform the process
Are you measuring success? Failure? Is the data telling you to act?
- Iterate engagement
Wash, rinse, repeat. Engage in as many ways as possible. With the data. And your customer.
There you have it. Get out there and manifest your social destiny.
Over the past weeks, analyst Susan Etlinger wrote a series of thought-provoking blog posts that nail the idea of using social data to drive business decisions: Can you back-up that business decision? What drives your process? Anyway, have a read. I think one or all of these posts will change the way you think of social media, listening & metrics and how you interact with your audiences.