Reimagining Social Listening for the Rest of Us

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In any given day there are more than 15 billion social activities on Twitter. From tweets to retweets to favorites to media plays, humans are creating data at an exponentially faster rate than which we can consume it.

This poses a real problem for brands, for in that same given day there are true and valid trends that ripple through these endless mounds of data that can help businesses better understand their customers and even signal the need for crucial actions that can change the course of a company’s history.

The Future of Decision Making

It’s widely known that listening to your customer is a good thing (so widely you might have groaned while reading that sentence). What isn’t always known is how to use listening data from customers when they’re not talking to you. This is the future of decision making.

This is where the most valuable conversations often lie, where companies are built or destroyed. Listening with goals in place can (among many things) help organizations improve sales and lead generation, recruit and retain better employees, as well as gauge public perception of the company that isn’t so obvious in direct interaction.

Most companies simply aren’t listening because it seems like such a daunting task. The truth is brands needs to start thinking about the relationships their audience has with their products in an entirely different way.

Tearing Down the Gates of Social Listening

In 2011, a series of acquisitions of social listening providers kickstarted a listening movement across marketing departments worldwide. The idea that social can be used passively for data mining and insight took off, and ever since then more and more new companies have been working to integrate these new technologies

Most analysts would tell you they spend 80% of their time collecting data from multiple channels and only 20% actually analyzing it.

If you think about it, that’s outrageous.

How can businesses possibly expect to be able to make strong decisions from data when they’re spending a significant portion of their time not iterating and improving, but pulling and trying to set up processes that predict known outcomes?

Today, most enterprise listening tools don’t come cheap. I know, I’ve worked for them before.

And still, Even in companies who spend the money for listening tools, there is still disparity between collecting the data and analyzing it.

I had the chance to see IBM’s Watson Analytics in action and how their new partnership with Twitter can quickly show visualizations of trends, and surface positive/negative relationships between different social data sets and end goals from the company within multiple scenarios.

True Behavioral Analysis

Social analytics is not just what happens in the one to one relationship that is “I tweet brand x and brand x tweets me back” but being able to determine across multiple variables the complex relationships that communication has with the behavior consumers take.

The power of Watson to show multi-variable relationships between social data and data across the rest of your organization allows for more time spent analyzing and workshopping real solutions to the problems or opportunities that the data presents.

This is the next level, really good stuff.

We’re talking not just if people converted from social, but how they converted, or how they have interacted with your content, your website, your app, and what social signals are present that you can draw a relationship with.

As mentioned before, with millions of data points free flowing through Twitter alone, it’s hard to know in an instant that say…app users in Brazil are skyrocketing because one social influencer in Sao Paolo starting tweeting about your awesome app that he found randomly in the iTunes store and 1,000 people started retweeting him.

Listening is something that has traditionally been trapped and siloed within organization. Data is spread between organizations without a thread of connectivity. Now with complete access to the Twitter firehose in conjunction with the complex business systems IBM has, companies can make listening something that’s integrated into the fabric of multiple teams, not just the social team.

This means decisions can be made faster and with greater information and context than ever before.


This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.


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