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Social media analytics – sentiment, influence, conceptual search of social media topics, etc. – are useful tools in the marketing professionals’ toolkit. For the most part, that is how social media analytics are viewed. They help marketing to understand the marketing and engage customers better. Many companies have, however, a tendency to look at social media analytics primarily through the lens of digital marketing. That’s unfortunate since there are so many more uses for the technology.

What social media analytics can tell you is three things that are fundamental to a business: who is talking about you, what they have to say about your company, products and people, and if what they say is good or bad. While these capabilities are undoubtedly important to marketing it is also key intelligence for so many other aspects. For example:

  • Advanced warning of problems in your own company – employees use social media themselves and say things that can indicate future problems. For example, Wal-Mart just fired a store manager for making racist remarks about Muslims on social media. Unfortunately, they didn’t notice it themselves and now its news. A heads up from their own social media marketing tools certainly would have staved off some serious repercussions for Wal-Mart and the employee.
  • IP leakage – social media analytics can reveal if your employees are sharing your intellectual property on social media site. Probably the most likely IP transgression will be leaking trade secrets. This is not to say that employees are doing this purposefully. It is, unfortunately, common to treat social media as a private conversation when it is really a broadcast medium.
  • Good ideas that your customers have that you didn’t think to ask. Customers’ feedback rarely makes its way to the right people in a company without modification. Asking customers is one way to get information but even then, all types of biases can be introduced. At the very least, you have to know what questions to ask. This is why many companies look to market research to validate not generate ideas. Social media is a treasure trove of ideas that you didn’t know to ask.
  • Supply problems – customers may talk about their inability to get your products on Twitter long before it shows up in your supply chain reporting. Underlying a negative sentiment about a product may well be its unavailability not problems with the product itself.
  • Exceptional employees that need to be rewarded – how many times will someone send an email say “I had great service” versus saying it on a social media site? Monitoring positive comments about employees who go the extra mile provides a great way to recognize and retain quality employees.
  • A smear campaign – there are people out there with an axe to grind. It’s better that they be identified before it gets out of hand.

 

There are many more. Social media represents unvarnished, raw information about the company, products and individuals. Information like that – open and honest –is hard to get unmodified and almost never filters up through the organizations to those who can take action. It’s true that much of this unbiased information applies to marketing efforts. Like all business intelligence though, the uses are broader. Supply chain management, legal risks, human resources, IP management, and so on, are all areas where not knowing can have devastating effects on an organization. It makes sense to use all the tools available to keep out of the dark.