Mark Harrington looks deeply into todays social media to give us strong insights into how to empower or organizations to utilize the big data that is generated for our benefits. Today the boardroom also needs to understand the power of Analytics, social media, and big data. But, at the same time we need to be sure we are using social media in a way that connects with our consumers. TPG has always said social media is of little use unless it is focused on bringing the consumer closer to the brand, it builds a stronger brand connection with the company, and it is building an effective connection that generates results for the business. Many social media campaigns, as noted herein, are not monitored. Are not effective. Can cause greater harm than benefit if not properly designed and managed from the outset.
By Mark Harrington, Published November 12, 2013
While most companies are using social media on a tactical marketing level and some are executing shallow reputation monitoring, very few are leveraging the advantages social business intelligence delivers to their boards and senior managers to set strategy.
Social Media has become “big data” with exponential growth in terms of volume, velocity and variety. Today, Social Media is changing the world and disrupting everything it touches, from government and society, to corporations and brands, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on a global basis. Social Media is among the best, and at the same time, among the most potentially destructive forces in society today.
Most businesses are narrowly approaching social media as a one-dimensional, modern-day marketing megaphone to tactically broadcast promotional messages. Some companies are also superficially monitoring the basic social networks with simplistic, self-service tools. However, there are deeper, more relevant, strategic long-term and real-time advantages that social media can deliver that Board Members and Senior Executives should be leveraging. These advantages can help these Executives understand the risks and opportunities facing their business and help them gain unique, far-reaching visibility into a wide array of landscapes to set their overall strategy.
According to the University of Massachusetts, Digital Presence Survey, 73 percent of businesses use Twitter to market their corporate offerings, yet, according to the Digital Marketer Benchmark and Trend Report, 75 percent of companies have no initiative to listen to or measure social media. On the other hand, as the Center for Complexity in Business Social Media Study reports, 90 percent of online adults use social media regularly,and 50 percent of online consumers follow corporate brands according to The Social Skinny Blog. With over four billion daily posts on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube alone, the bottom line is that consumers, influencers, employees, prospects, bloggers, reporters and partners are making comments and having discussions in real-time about your company, products, brands, executives, quality, tactics, decisions, industry and competitors. However, if your organization is like most, it’s not strategically listening to this social commentary and certainly not reporting the relevant, intelligence to your Senior Executives and Corporate Directors in an appropriate form to drive corporate strategy.
Despite the vast majority of corporations failing to strategically exploit social business intelligence, most companies clearly recognize the opportunity social media affords senior leadership to understand markets, customers, competitors, activists and regulators better than ever before, as well as the potential risks social media poses to product brands and corporate reputations. This is evidenced in the Altimeter Social Report, with 66 percent reporting that they see social media as a major risk to their brand reputation. So most companies clearly see the opportunities and the dangers, but few have determined how to effectively address it.
Intelligent Insight From Big Social Data
Within the constant chaos of social media lies valuable, relevant, actionable intelligence for corporations to leverage. While first generation in-house tools enable teams to track a few sites and keywords as well as produce simplistic graphics and reports, these simple tools just skim the surface and are often not much better than the myriad of free tools available like Google alerts. The primary issue is that these tools are being buried by the big, fast, ugly mess that is social content today. The result is a corpus that is 90+% noise that misses 90+% of the critical signal hidden within.
The challenge for large corporations, particularly for the intelligence delivered to Executive Managers and Corporate Directors, is gaining the technical capability to efficiently filter, structure, identify, analyze and report the relevant insight from the on-going social media tidal wave. This information tsunami contains billions of posts from millions of posters across hundreds of thousands of sources at a constant rate. Of paramount importance is the extraction of relevant, meaningful, actionable intelligence at a deep, accurate level on key strategic shifts and trends while also discovering and delivering alerts on that single post out billions that Senior Managers need to know about…all in real-time, typically milliseconds.
Gone are the days where companies have to depend on biased, flawed, narrow results from consumer surveys or focus groups. And gone are the days where companies have to wait until press inquiries to hear about the latest crisis facing their organization
Today, businesses have the ability rely on actionable intelligence derived periodically and, when appropriate, instantly, from tens of millions of real-time social comments. Rather than act on 20 individuals in a focus group or 2,000 survey responses from last month, Senior Managers can receive the analysis of commentary from 6 million consumers, filtered for noise, spam and relevance and segmented by customer, prospect, product, age, gender, ethnicity and geo location. With clean data sets in the hundreds of thousands and “small” subsets in the thousands or tens of thousands, corporations are getting views of their markets, customers and competitors that were simply not possible before. This deeper, more relevant insight facilitates adoption of proactive strategies for the business rather than traditional reactive tactical responses to dated happenings in the market.
Real-Time Risk and Opportunity
Social Media is much more than people talking to each other. It’s individuals, professionals and organizations listening and talking round the clock and around the world. Social media today drives the press and everything else. Social is actively monitored and used by the traditional media, financial press, influential blogs, analysts, professional and individual investors, labor, lawyers, government, regulators, as well as activists, advocates and agitated individuals with an axe to grind.
The ability to negatively or positively impact a major corporation used to be exclusively reserved for individuals or organizations with power and massive reach – large media, major investment houses, industry analysts, influential law firms and government agencies. These groups certainly still “move the needle,” but what’s changed is what moves them. The power players in media, finance, law and government are now connected 24/7 to social media, from Twitter and Facebook to YouTube and Flicker to millions of blogs (some that have greater specific influential than the Wall Street Journal). Activists, advocates and agitated individuals know they have a direct connection to these power players to influence and disrupt and they know how to use it. They also have connections to each other, which are often masked from direct public view.
An example of the damaging impact one individual can easily and instantly have on a corporation is illustrated when a individual created the Twitter account @ExxonMobileCorp, representing it as the official and started broadcasting public messages on behalf of the petroleum giant. Exxon Mobil not only avoided participating in social media, but ignored the channel altogether. The corporation was unaware that they were being misrepresented with constant tweets by an individual, and was not made aware until the Houston Chronicle asked them about the disruptive Twitter account days later. By that time the account had hundreds of followers taking the postings (many of which were controversial) as being from the Fortune 500 company.
With corporate social media crises growing at an alarming rate, Altimeter Group has estimated that 76% of these crises could have been diminished or averted with the proper social media investment to deliver relevant and timely monitoring and alerting of threats.
Advocates and activists have sought to influence and pressure corporations for their own agendas for decades. What’s changed is that they now have the tactics, tools and influence to have a major, immediate impact and they can act with a speed that most large corporations cannot match. What often looks like an organic spontaneous increase in activity around an issue, product or corporation, is more often a well-planned and coordinated attack. With the advantage of social media, fast is beating big every day. Corporations simply do not have the knowledge, strategies, technology or people, nor are they operating at the speed necessary to match these current threats.
Like individual corporations, social media can disrupt or destroy entire industries. Take for example the outcry against “pink slime,” the nickname used by activists protesting the additive found in ground beef. Promoted largely across social media, the massive protest campaign impacted an array of industries like grocery and fast food, forcing them to pull the product from their shelves and menus. As a result, supplier Beef Products Incorporated (BPI) closed down several meat processing plants across the Midwest and Southwest United States due largely to the initial social media backlash and subsequent traditional media coverage, which resulted in destroyed product demand.
The family-owned company had to layoff upwards of 700 workers and significantly adjust their production processes, a major financial impact to their business, losing an estimated 80% of their gross sales within a month, estimated to be $400 million in profits over the next five years. BPI was not even aware of the massive “pink slime” social media campaign until it hit the mainstream media, at which point the damage was done and irreparable.
Continuous, real-time social business intelligence delivers powerful advantage to understand what’s impacting your business at this moment. Reputation, risk and opportunity issues that can affect large corporations in real time can range from individual trigger issues, early and subtle trends and social tipping points. These triggers, trends and tipping points are very different and each requires unique technology and skillsets to discover, understand and react to.
Leveraging strategic social intelligence helps corporations keep up with the real-time pulse of their consumers, industries, markets and competitors. It also delivers unprecedented insight for the executive levels of corporations to understand overarching threats and opportunities to their business related to:
At the senior leadership levels of an organization this intelligence can and should be delivered at different altitudes. Board members should receive impacting insight at the 100,000-foot view with significant overarching risks, opportunities and trends related to the company’s stock, industry, reputation, regulations and potential press issues.
This allows the board to have broad visibility into significant elements and issues facing the business to adjust the corporation’s strategy and direction and also set strategic responses to potential or established issues.
C-level executives within the organization should receive impacting insight at the 30,000-foot view of more specific risks, opportunities and trends on top of what the board members receive. This intelligence should be specific to elements potentially impacting their products, quality, promotions, competitors, people, strategy and communications.
The Right Stuff
While the strategic benefits of social business intelligence to the senior levels of an organization is massive, so is the challenge of finding the right solution to process the constant volume, velocity and variety of social data, filter the relevant content, structure the intelligence and identify and communicate the actionable insight in real-time.
Given the specialized nature of achieving true social intelligence, it lies outside the core competencies of most businesses. Investing in the big data processing technology, super modeling and analytical expertise required to adequately deliver intelligence is a huge burden from companies to realistically undertake alone. This is largely why leading companies are relying on strategic partners to gain a powerful advantage with social intelligence.
Companies across a wide array of industries, including consumer goods, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, insurance, financial services and media, among others, are leveraging social intelligence to set and adjust their strategies, identify threats, mitigate risks and drive innovation. These companies gain an incredible advantage in the market by empowering their organizations and executives with the insight social media provides on their businesses, consumers, markets and competitors.
As social media continues to grow exponentially more corporations are realizing that their C-level executives and board members have to be empowered with this sort of real-time intelligence and far-reaching visibility into their industries and markets to not only deliver necessary insight to set their overall strategy but also to identify and understand the growing risks, threats, trends and opportunities facing their business on an on-going basis. This delivers an unprecedented strategic advantage corporations should not ignore.