Social Media Analysis (SMA), often referred to as or at least closely related to, Social Media Monitoring (SMM) and Social Media Intelligence (SMI), is a growing technology market, with IDC projecting a 38% growth in the market last year. A quick search can provide hundreds of vendors with SMM, SMA, or SMI capabilities, enough to make you hate the word social.
It should be said upfront that SMA differs from Social Media Marketing or SocialCRM, which is what compels companies like General Motors to have a Twitter account -- @GMBlogs -- and a Facebook page... proactive marketing to consumers via social media. SMA focuses on reactive analysis to what others (competitors, customers, potential customers, competitors' customers, etc.) are saying about an organization or their brands on Twitter and Facebook posts, as well as other social media sites. Companies want to know what their customers or potential customers are saying about them and their competitors, and social media offers the fastest, and arguably the most accurate, method to discover who hates you, who likes you, and who loves the company but despises the product. Is a recent change in service delivery models having an impact on customers' opinions of our brand? Is that impact caused by the change, or something else? A company gets the nitty gritty on these types of questions by using SMA technologies.
There are five reasons organizations should use SMA tools, namely: Gain a Competitive Advantage; Learn from Your Customers; Enhance Your Products and Services; Better Target Marketing Efforts; and Market Innovation.
1. Gain a Competitive Advantage
Implementing SMA tools can help an organization gain a competitive advantage because it facilitates a better understanding of their brands: how their customers use their products and services, what problems customers have with their products and services, and how society views the company. This information is missing -- or is only hinted at -- in most business intelligence portfolios. In addition to tracking an organization's own portfolio, SMA helps organizations track competitor activity and how their customers are using their products and services, problems with products and services, how that organization is viewed, etc. It's helpful to know what the competition is doing even if they are doing it poorly, which we hope they are. Having this data integrated with other business intelligence systems provides an organization a competitive advantage by better understanding how their brands are perceived, used, etc. in comparison to their competitors.
2. Learn from Your Customers
Many would agree that the Internet has created opportunities for organizations to grow their customer base through social marketing and online sales efforts. However, the Internet has also created an environment where organizations compete with their customers in that customers are providing solutions to an organization's problems to their other customers, and many vendors desire to provide the one-stop-shop or use this customer support opportunity for expanding product offerings.
For example, I recently bought an outdoor entertainment system online and had issues connecting with my existing outdoor audio system, not because I am inept at these things, of course, but because of poor documentation. I checked the vendor's online knowledge base, but found nothing relevant to my particular problem. After searching the Internet for another 15 minutes, I found another customer that had the same problem, and solved it after hours of trial and error. His solution was also successful for me. Had this vendor leveraged SMA technologies correctly, they should have been able to mine this customer solution, which had their product and the problem identified, and have included it in their knowledge base, as well as train customer support on this issue. Furthermore, maybe this customer solution actually introduced a problem that, under certain circumstances, could affect my new entertainment system -- turn it into a Gremlin. By learning of this customer solution to a known issue, the vendor could actually engage in that blog and warn that this is not a valid use. STOP. PUT THE SCREWDRIVER DOWN. If the solution is OK, the vendor could endorse it as well as integrate into their systems.
3. Enhance Your Products and Services
This is probably one of the top reasons organizations implement SMA. There exist millions of blogs, tweets, comments, etc. containing consumer sentiment about products and services, more often negative than positive (an understatement), which an organization can mine to understand issues and problems that consumers experience with their products and services that can help make them better. SMA is a virtual therapist who teases out the issues, identifies who is to blame, and then presents a few options to resolve the problems. But SMA is cheaper than the therapist.
4. Better Target Marketing Efforts
Most organizations want to optimize their marketing efforts. Recent innovations in SMA are providing organizations timely information on demographic and psychographic characteristics for product and service usage. This information can be used to target marketing campaigns -- including Internet-based marketing campaigns -- based on this SMA-derived information.
5. Market Innovation
Some SMA tools provide deep natural language processing (NLP) and/or semantic analysis of social media. These tools can be configured to discover capability gaps in a market as a whole. For example, the minimalist innovation in the running show market was partially fueled by user feedback desiring lighter, cooler (not hot) running shoes. Now we have a bunch of barefoot believers trying to evangelize the benefits of yanking the nice comfy shock-absorbing padding. Whatever! Organizations that were able to mine that user feedback via social media sites were the innovators in the market, as opposed to the laggers.
Social media is full of golden nuggets of information about an organization's portfolio. Implementing SMA can help an organization mine those hidden treasures, which helps enhance existing products and services as well as customer support, better target marketing efforts, innovate new markets, and, in general, gain a competitive advantage. In Charlie Sheen vernacular, it's a "bi-winning" situation.