Social Analytics – An Opportunity or Threat?
Social networking dominates lives of people who are of interest to any business. Social network sites have fundamentally changed the character of social interaction, both on an interpersonal and a community level. Social tools like Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and many more, are now hosting a plethora of social activities of many-many people. This means that they generate huge amount of data about people’s preferences, behavior, sentiments, etc. But like any data, it is only meaningful if you can understand and gain useful insights from it. This need has given birth to “Social Analytics” which can be simply defined as Measuring, Analyzing, and Inferring from interactions and associations between people, topics and ideas.
The level of analytics which the social analytics tools are offering is increasing rapidly. There are lots of opportunities within this domain. With an exponential rise in usage of social media, there has been a similar growth in social analytics tools. To name a few of them, you have Facebook Insights, Google Analytics, and lot many other analytics software from different vendors.
Social Analytics can be fed into the decision-making process across all business activity, including campaign orchestration, product development and launch, customer advocacy and engagement processes, sales input and much more. So for instance, Social Media analytics can help you in creating targeted campaigns to allow deep customer understanding, and enable you to design the product accordingly. Then once the product is designed, you can seek the feedback from a particular set of users and based on the feedback, you can fine-tune the approach and launch the product.
Social Analytics can help you to listen and analyze customer interactions about products or services and address customer concerns promptly. More so, you can track conversations to identify leads and business opportunities. You can manage online reputation and brand by capturing consumer data from social media to understand attitudes, opinions, recommendations, and trends. Businesses can go as far as recommending next best actions by predicting customer behavior, thereby, increasing customer satisfaction.
Let’s take an example of retail industry as retailers were among the first companies to grasp the importance of social data. Retailers pioneered the practice of one of the most popular voluntary data collection programs in business — the loyalty card. The card collect an adequate amount of information about what, when, and where consumer buy products and services. When paired with advanced social analytic, a retailer can also understand why customer should buy the product based on the predicative customer behavior. Marketing team can structure the shopping experience such that it matches with the preferences of customers. This means catering to majority preferences such as the products favored by a majority of a store’s customer and micro-catering to address more specific customer preferences. These analytics may also be fruitfully used to have location specific layouts and collections. This means that store layouts and product range can vary substantially from one location to another, thereby, minimizing turn-around-time, and increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Social analytics is not without its disadvantages. Undoubtedly, social analytics is big revolution for marketing. But there are still many questions that need to be answered, importantly, privacy and reliability. One of the disputes with social media is that advertising violates users’ individual privacy. Personal data is effectively used for targeted marketing. While many people don’t mind personalized advertising, they arguably had agreed to it when they signed up to use these services. And there is an ongoing argument about whether this practice is moral or legal.
As social media is becoming a major part of our lives, the data which we share is also increasing and that too open and public. And this data is being extensively used by advertising companies to transmit personalized ads. This has given rise to another issue of over personalization. While it can be construed as an invasion on privacy, wrong messages (after all, any analytics is prone to some errors) can alienate customers.
Another aspect to be cognizant of, is the divergence of online and offline lives. The online persona, aspirations, and behavior may not be right representation of the real or offline preferences. Also sizeable swathes of population may not be generating adequate social data. One has to always carefully consider whether data pulled from social media sites is credible enough to influence business decisions. For example, if inaccurate demographic information populates reports, organizations may create skewed marketing strategies and product improvements. Therefore, you should adopt some other traditional and conventional methods to validate the findings.
Users of social analytics must also be careful and cognizant of the evolving and rapidly changing legal framework. Much of the current developments have benefitted from ambiguities or absence of law in this matter, and this is sure to change. Investments in social analytics can turn useless by a single change in statutes.
These are many of the opportunities associated with social analytics, but at the same time we need mark a line between using social analytics for marketing and invasion of privacy. I would like to know your views on how to turn social analytics opportunities to your advantage, while abiding with the associated concerns and issues.
Also published in – Financial Chronicle, dated – January 20, 2014
About the author: Badal is currently working in Advaiya as a Principal consultant, BI and Big Data technologies. He has twelve+ years of experience across various technology domains including BI, Big Data, Data Warehousing, Cloud computing, and more; and business functions including strategy development, pre-sales, business consulting, marketing, and trainings. The author in his current role provides high value consulting by delivering innovative and engaging solutions which embrace new technologies as they redefine the market.