By Tim Moylan, President, SAP Southeast Asia (www.sap.com)
There are around 700 million uses of Facebook users in the world today, spending 700 billion minutes per month to check on their families and friends, upload photos or videos, or simply post their thoughts. In many cases, these thoughts could be in the form of comments on certain products or services, or what they felt about their experiences with these products.
Such information could be useful, if not not downright invaluable for companies trying to touch base with their intended markets. As the Internet gave marketers an opportunity to reach out to a crowd of potential consumers, so did it also give them an opportunity to know more about their customers’ experiences. The Internet, essentially, is one of the best platforms for business analytics as it gave many companies immediate response from people, a platform that has so far been effective in interacting with customers and potential clients.
Advent of social networks
The advent of social networks and blogs clearly is a step forward towards customer interaction. User generated content (UGC) through social networks made it possible to monitor movements of people’s behavior. People who had no personal websites were now able to create their own blogs without the need for technical know-how or even paying for a site.
Content management systems (CMS) such as Blogger, Blogspot, Multiply, and WordPress helped launched millions of personal websites that were constantly updated by their owners, in addition to the comments generated by these blogs’ visitors. These new platforms for social network interaction is already a goldmine for many companies, something that IDC would call “socialytics,” an amalgamation of the words “social” and “analytics.”
Potential of social analytics
Social analytics pose a huge opportunity for companies offering services to large base of consumers. The discussions among people within a group can give companies, particularly their sales and marketing team, glimpses of customer experiences that may be useful for their future products, or even upcoming campaigns.
Information that comes straight from consumers is highly valuable but when it is already within a mode of discussion by several people, companies and their marketers will be able to fully understand the full effect of a product or service to consumers. This is because consumers themselves are doing their own product review and sharing this to others within their networks. Social network platforms enable people to analyze the potential of a product or service among themselves.
Often, people within a network tend to make their own preferences and judgements as they feel that they are privileged to do so. The more people talk about products and services, the better the analysis.
Turning data into useful information
For the most part, data from social networks is unstructured. Many marketers have to sift through multitudes of existing data. This does not even include data that is still coming, which adds to the challenge of mixing historic data with real-time data into information that companies can use for their business intelligence strategies.
Techniques are continuously being formed into analyzing and managing unstructured data from social networks. As dynamic as it seems, there are already some standard set of tools that can be utilized to help marketers monitor social network chatter. Once a system like this that monitors and manage oncoming traffic is put in place, the company only has to analyze information that is useful to them.
Of course, the dynamics of relationships within a social networks change and as such, new tools will be developed to better engage these communities of people using social networks.
Behavior and business intelligence
Behavioral patterns are best viewed when consumers are able to share their experiences within their community. This is already a direct application of sociological dynamics that may be just as invaluable to marketers as much as the comments for existing products. People tend to provide additional information about what they seek from certain products or services which provides companies a glimpse of what they would eventually create.
In a business intelligence scenario, these types of information are just initially assumed, citing past buying behaviors of their targeted markets. The added inputs from consumers within a social network allow companies to narrow down what their next strategies will be.
The more useful data is found, the better the product could perform in the future. As these companies peak into the dynamics of relationships among people within a social network, they’ll have more knowledge than they’ll ever get from just basic efforts in business intelligence.