Leveraging social media within business analytics

Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook create vast amounts of freely available information each day. How can businesses leverage this to gain a better insight into consumer needs?

The sheer growth in the volume of operational and business related data available to the average CIO today is unprecedented. In this modern age, executives are finding it more difficult to make the right business decisions due to the amount of information that is at their hands.

Unfortunately, the vast amount of this information is uncategorised and as a result is of no use to businesses on any level. For this reason, advanced business analytics tools are steadily growing in popularity as a means to in interpret, categorise and make freely available the vast amounts of information that is created and circulated within major data centres.

Within this space there is a heavy focus on the kind of operational data that is collected by businesses. This information often relates to the inner workings of the corporation such as product manufacturing, human resources and managerial policy.

This is a reasonably narrow minded view of the possibility of business analytics within the workplace and how it can assist business functions in making informed decisions based on the information that is available to them.

There is massive opportunity for business analytics to be leveraged within social media.

Today, a vast amount of the information that is created and distributed online originates from social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. These platforms boast millions of users with their own opinions about how products should be marketed, the kinds of products they would buy and which companies are least likely to respond to them should they have a query.

This wealth of information should be utilised by businesses not only from a public image perspective, but also with regards to assisting Research and Development. This would help to bring better products to market faster, based on the opinions of a large number of buyers.

What we at IBM are focusing on is a new data resource which is freely available. Businesses are not taking advantage of the information that is coming from social media today – If you’re able to truly ‘listen’ to what the public wants, you will be able to bring products to market far more swiftly. There is a massive amount of opportunity today in analytics for social media.

Information systems which are able to leverage the data provided by social networks have the ability to gain a deeper understanding and insight into what customers want and what their concerns are in real time.

The concept of business analytics has been around for a long time, the next wave is predictive and social analytics.

Although the benefits of business analytics within social media are numerous for Research and Development as well as marketing and trend mapping, Chandor stresses that it is equally important for businesses to engage users on their respective platforms.

This means quickly and concisely responding to individual queries and concerns via the platform in question while logging this information on a business database for later follow up.

In this way, social media analytics can serve to boost the company’s public image and keep customers happy while attracting potential buyers.

The company must be active, not just a listener. They need to get closer to customers through the use of social media analytics. This means asking for feedback on products and services while responding quickly and proactively.

As a company, IBM has already implemented a number of social media analytics solutions in various sectors which have enabled companies to get closer to their customers while bringing more effective products to market more quickly.

The offerings are primarily hybrid based and incorporate traditional IBM business analytics systems with cloud based applications which are tailored to incorporate social media into the analytics framework.

Many companies are choosing to integrate this information into their financial and operational data streams, resulting in an end to end analytics offering which allows the business to access internal information which is fed through company systems as well as external information which is collected from social media.

Business analytics which integrates the data streams provided by social media is truly the next frontier in the struggle to categorise and understand the sheer weight of information that is available to businesses today. The uptake is expected to be gradual but IBM is focusing heavily on this next step in business analytics nonetheless.

There is still a large part of the business population which hasn’t really addressed the value of social analytics. We want to help them along that path and show them where the value lies in the interpretation of this freely available information source.

By Pam Chandor of the IBM Software Group

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