08/29/2014

Social listening: Real-time market intelligence

In a digital age, business resilience — managing risk while seizing strategic opportunities — is almost unthinkable without robust data analytic capabilities.

Data analytics, like sport, is about being able to play both offence and defence. On offence, it enables you to understand your customers better — and hopefully to gain competitive advantage by anticipating their needs before anyone else can.

On defence, it can serve as an early warning system — not just against the usual bad cyber-actors, but also against early signs of negative buzz (digital grumblings that can portend trouble for your brand down the line), or the first moves of a potential competitive threat.

In this article, my colleague Anand Rao offers a strategically compelling look at social listening — sophisticated data analytics techniques that resilient companies use to achieve what he calls market sensing. Like all data analytics, social listening is fundamentally about mining unstructured data — in this case, social media and other forms of digital chatter — to generate meaningfulinsights and effective strategies — in this case, identifying and responding to market trends and improving customer loyalty.

In a world connected by a single, real-time nerve net of communication — where the balance of power has shifted to the consumer and where market dynamics can swing at lighting speed — social listening is rapidly supplanting traditional market research techniques such as surveys, focus groups and interviews. Not only because these techniques contain inherent biases — the format cannot match unguarded comments made on social media when it comes to revealing what customers are really thinking — but also because such research is trapped in an instant of (past) time. It’s dated almost as soon as it is captured.

And in a viral consumer market, being dated is a risk few companies can afford.

After all, as Anand points out, your competitors are likely to be listening to the market chatter. The media is certain to be listening. Regulators and even your shareholders may even be listening to social chatter. So you’d better be listening, too.

I encourage you to share your thoughts in the Comments section.

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