Taming the Social Media Beast

July 9, 2012
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taming social media beast 150x150 photo (unstructured data social analytics data analytics big data )Many companies have struggled for years to analyze and generate actionable insight from structured data – data from rewards cards, transactional systems and personal information shoppers provide online.

Now, add the big data behemoth – mostly unstructured data streaming in from “likes” on Facebook, Tweets, data from smartphone apps – and the task of culling through customer data can seem downright daunting.

Companies need to build robust systems to analyze the huge amounts of data flowing in from social media and then determine how they link to all the other ways consumers interact with their brands, argues Marita Scarfi, CEO of Organic, a digital ad agency with clients like Kimberly-Clark, American Express and Chrysler. And the key to effectively corralling social media and other big data is hiring and training people who can make sense of the social media data, Scarfi notes.

“If we ask consumers on our social media sites to help us create new products, can we actually analyze that information and digest it into actionable points that will help research and development move forward?” Scarfi adds. “Or are these queries destined to end up where so much of data already do? Stored, but not used.”

Despite the widespread use of social networks among US companies, only 11% have fully integrated social media into existing business programs, according to a study by Insites Consulting. Moreover, only 38% of companies say they share the outcomes of social interactions with their entire organizations.

Roughly one-half (47%) of the survey respondents are still in the early stages of social media integration, and 17% are in the process of integrating social media into their business programs.

Perhaps some of this lack of integration of social media into the business can be attributed to a dearth of digital leaders in the C-suites at companies today. According to the authors of the blog post, who have analyzed the backgrounds of the CEOs and directors of America’s largest companies, only nine companies – less than 2% of the Fortune 500 – are “highly digital.” Within the Fortune 100, only 7% of companies are highly digital.

The bloggers define highly digital companies as those: that generate high percentages of revenues digitally; with leadership (both the CEO and the board) with deep digital experience; that do business significantly enabled by digital channels; and that are recognized as transformational in their industries.

Scarfi suggests companies add people to their marketing teams with skills that haven’t been necessary in the past including:

  • A strong database person to put the data into forms that can be analyzed
  • Statisticians who can understand the data and its impact
  • Employees adept at understanding behavioral data

Gartner research suggests that companies might want to start their searches internally for employees who can make sense of the deluge of data from social media and other sources.

“Organizations already have people who know their own data better than mystical data scientists – this is a key,” according to Gartner’s Svetlana Sicular. “The internal people already gained experience and ability to model, research and analyze. The team members with diverse skills will inspire and enrich each other: their combined knowledge will be the power to develop analysis and bring new insights.”

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