Social Listening Isn’t Enough: Start Integrating Social Data

Nearly two years ago, I published our first report on Social Intelligence; it included this headline: “The Time To Start Listening Is Yesterday.” In the report, I pushed for the importance of social listening, but I made a call that there’s more to social media than monitoring conversations for brand mentions. But now, as we near the end of 2011, we’ve found that while most companies do in fact listen, few have Social Intelligence strategies and most don’t yet gain true actionable business insights from the data they collect. So even though listening is still very important for brands, it’s time Customer Intelligence teams start using social data.

That’s why I’m eager to announce our latest research on social media data, “The Road Map To Integrating Social And Customer Data” (client link). This report focuses on the role social media data plays for CI professionals. And as the title hints, the role is “integrated with customer data.”

This research was born out of the idea that too many companies have siloed data practices, keeping marketing and business data on one side of the organization and social media data on another. But as I often say – if you only listen to social media, you only learn about social media. To get the most out of social media data, you must integrate it with other data.

For CI teams, integrating social and business data gives you deeper customer insights, the ability to inform targeted marketing, and a more complete view of marketing measurement. But because integrating social data is easier said than done, we’ve put together a road map on how to do it (hence the “Road Map” part to the report’s title) – here’s a quick peek:

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It's Time For Business Leaders To Embrace Customer Intelligence

Forrester believes that we have entered the age of the customer — an age in which customer obsession matters more than any other strategic imperative, requiring firms to focus their strategy, energy, and budget on processes that enhance knowledge of, and engagement with, customers.

It sounds straightforward, right? Which of us doesn’t wish to become more customer-centric? Yet we see few executive teams that treat customer understanding and intelligence as a strategic imperative. Don’t believe me? Look at the agenda or the minutes from your last several executive team meetings or board meetings. How much time was devoted to understanding customers better or to leveraging that customer knowledge in new ways to drive business success?

Our research shows that fewer than fifteen percent of firms operate at a strategic level of Customer Intelligence. These are the firms that have turned customer knowledge into a corporate asset. The vast majority of them drive improvements in customer acquisition, retention, satisfaction, revenue, profitability, and customer value. And they apply CI broadly within the business. Ninety-five percent of strategic intelligence firms use CI to drive corporate strategy, versus 30% of those we categorize as functionally intelligent. And 87% of strategic intelligence firms use CI to drive business operations, versus 19% of those at the functional intelligence level.

But before you switch off and tell me this is someone else’s job, be aware of the role of executive management. Strategically intelligent firms are far more likely to have a senior-level sponsor or champion: 46% of them strongly agree that their company has a C-level evangelist or champion for Customer Intelligence, versus 20% of marketing intelligence firms and 7% of functional intelligence firms.

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Silk's Other CI Concern

David Streitfeld at The New York Times' Bits blog comments on Representative Edward Markey's (D-MA) letter to Amazon. Streitfeld says:

But if you use the tablet to post reviews of Italian restaurants on Yelp, Amazon would merely collect that data, bundle it with the fact that a lot of customers in your community seemed to be favorably reviewing Italian restaurants, and then strike a deal with one restaurant to offer discounts, which it would e-mail to you. Some customers might feel tracked; others might not even notice.

David's example is certainly worthy of consideration. Building a database of targeted offers and triggered campaigns from aggregated browse behavior is one way for Amazon to extract value from Silk. It's clearly a striking example for privacy advocates, but it's not the whole story.

Aside from the Customer Intelligence advantages, Amazon's Silk browser also provides the retailer with competitive intelligence (the other CI?). Amazon can watch for products or product combinations purchased on competitor websites, then optimize its merchandise to match or beat those competitors. Besting other retailers doesn't require it to track individual Kindle Fire users or target them through seemingly creepy direct marketing. Instead it can continue to do what it does best -- optimizing its supply chain and catalog -- without appearing to overstep customers' privacy expectations.

The competitive issues raised by Silk are as critical as the individual privacy concerns. 

Are you a retailer who competes with Amazon? What should CI professionals do to combat Amazon's move?