Get Friendly With Social Listening

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted Monday, November 25, 2013 10:00 AM

Social media and big data have confounded more than a few business and IT executives over the last few years. Attempting to combine the two effectively has left a great many of them with a deer-in-the-headlights feeling.

Social media, at its core, is more than a barrage of posts and tweets. It offers an ear to the marketplace and a way to identify fast-changing sentiment, micro-trends and clusters of people who influence one another. The right tools gauge behavior and consumer sentiment in a matter of seconds or minutes rather than days or weeks.

The challenge, of course, is putting the right processes and technology tools in place to get results. The current Baseline feature on social media, "Social Media Helps Build Bridges to Customers," examines what organization must do to become more strategic with this technology. But even the best strategy is rendered useless without the right buttons and levers.

So far, the vast majority of organizations haven't connected the dots. CMOs and others plug in marketing clouds, analytics software and other tools, but the capabilities are frequently limited in scope or too unwieldy for enterprisewide returns. The data often winds up squirreled away in silos, and it's extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to put it to full use.

The right social listening tools can slide the dial from evolutionary advances to a revolutionary leap forward. For example, IBM's Watson—which is making a mark in industries as diverse as health care, financial services and engineering—can digest huge volumes of marketing, sales and operational data and spit out on-target recommendations. It can also parse through reams of social media data and highlight patterns that no human being could ever see.

By now it's obvious that today's business and IT environment requires new ways of thinking and radically different approaches. As businesses look to redefine customer relationships, move faster and better, and tap emerging concepts such as growth hacking, it's critical to morph social media and big data in new and innovative ways.

Social listening isn't a trend de jour. It's the future of business.