Social Intelligence: 3 Reasons To Think Like the CIA

Social media is a popular topic at just about every company these days. Enterprise, SMB, and even very small companies understand that social media is a key competitive differentiator.

Major players like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have played a critical part in helping drive the social media phenomenon, and rising subscribership is proving that social business is here to stay.

Social media channels help generate a lot of valuable data that can be leveraged quickly and effectively. Companies can gauge customer reaction to products and services and other marketing stimuli on a real-time basis as never before.This wealth of information is commonly referred to as social intelligence  and it is quickly becoming a mainstream tool for marketing and sales.

In a 2012 Forbes article, award-winning B2B marketing expert Paul Dunay made the case that traditional methods of collecting customer intelligence data are ineffective and outdated:

“In traditional research, companies elicit feedback through periodic surveys and then enhance their findings through focus groups. Both have inherent limitations. Surveys are episodic and offer inauthentic information, since the questions themselves alter the answers given, creating a distance from reality. Focus groups suffer from the most human of all issues: The loudest person in the group wins and sways others through a combination of charisma and decibels. In both cases, the information rendered is faulty… Social data offers a way out of this problem… You gain real feedback in real time and can make data-driven decisions on a dime, translating feedback into informed action at lightning speed.”

Social intelligence, on the other hand, offers several advantages:

1. It’s accurate in real time.

When they participate via social media, customers provide information on a real-time, spontaneous basis. Businesses can determine buying behaviors, needs, and reactions quickly – enabling your company to adjust product strategies quickly.

For example, if a product or feature is getting poor customer reviews online on a consistent basis you can make real-time decisions to change packaging or even discontinue products. This level of intelligence means that you can re-focus efforts, save money, and see whether the changes were effective.

For prospects taking a first look at products or services, a real-time glimpse at what interests them is a golden opportunity for you to reach out to offer assistance and share your knowledge. Engaging at this stage of the customer lifecycle is a way to build trust and confidence.

2. It’s competitive information.

Competitor intelligence is valuable for designing effective marketing campaigns.  Customers online are quick to offer spontaneous opinions on brand preference, product ratings, or best value.  They may also offer negative feedback about a competitor to help you guide your own product roadmap. What is pleasing (or displeasing) to customers speaking out to your competitors is important information when you are writing content or deciding what to highlight about your brand.

3. It’s a rich vein of industry trends and predictions.

Online media is exploding and social media channels get bombarded with general information, opinion articles, and industry predictions posted by thought leaders and experts willing to share their views. In the past, companies had to pay dearly to receive business intelligence; now a lot of it proliferates right on the Web. Obviously, a careful watch of industry trends and understanding market predictions ties directly into your decisions.

Social intelligence has become a “must-have” to support strategic objectives of market-driven companies.  By using this new type of information effectively, companies can gain an unfair competitive advantage. Leave that unwieldy survey and expensive focus group in the dust just by tuning in to social networks. Put on your trenchcoat and gather intel like Bond, James Bond!

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