The Social Business: From Data to Insight to Action

Even though large streams of data are available to brands through social media, that information is worthless unless a business is agile enough to respond to leverage real-time social media dynamics. In order to become a social business, an organization needs to be able to convert social data into actionable insights through new analytics and customer relationship management (CRM) tools.

But to turn insight into action, a brand’s employees should use social media to align itself internally in order to be best prepared to engage with customers externally. The most successful social businesses will be those who are best at converting social data into insights and quickest at turning those insights into actions.


Knowledge in-and-of itself does not equate with power. As evidence-based marketers, our efficacy is measured by our ability to translate raw data into actionable insights that can increase ROI. As the Web gets more and more social, businesses have access to larger amounts of data through social streams. As more knowledge becomes available to brands through various social streams, it will require agility, ingenuity and the adoption of new solutions in order to convert vast amounts of real-time analytics data into valuable business intelligence.

Every day, new data becomes available to marketers through posts on Facebook, videos shared on Youtube, tweets, and reviews posted on comparison sites like Yelp or eCommerce sites like If this social data can be properly leveraged by marketers, then it can offer businesses added insight and the opportunity to optimize their revenue stream. If marketers can’t make sense of social data they will be at a glaring disadvantage to more agile marketers who can effectively convert big data into revenue.


Access to large streams of social data allows marketers to assemble amorphous fragments of a conversation into cohesive, actionable insights. However, more available data requires more resources devoted to its interpretation. In order to increase ROI, marketers will be required to embrace new analytics and automation technologies to convert social data into actionable insights.

The potential payoff is huge. Real-time analytics—afforded to brands by social sharing—give brands the opportunity to engage with customers more quickly effectively. Marketing’s goal is to not only know the right product to sell a customer, but the right time to sell it to her. Successful social engagement requires businesses to do a better job of targeting customers with personalized, relevant messaging. This is already increasing the demand for social CRM and engagement solutions.

There are a variety of social media analytics solutions poised to help brands make sense of these interminable streams of social data. DataMinr attempts to help brands detect emerging events by “leveraging social media as a real-time sensor network.” FanAppz, a developer of social media applications, is already helping some of the largest brands in sports and entertainment make sense of their social data and engage with fans.

IBM is not only investing heavily in developing new social business solutions, but also in services aimed at accelerating their adoption. New IBM social business initiatives include offering strategic business consulting to help organizations adopt social business tools for internal and external purposes.They are also offering global mentorship programs, certification programs and Social Business Agenda workshops.

IBM’s investment in social business technology is not unfounded. Forrester Research predicts that opportunities for social business software will climb at a rate of 61% through 2016. While market research firm IDC expects that by 2014, the opportunity for social software to expand by a factor of nearly 2 billion worldwide.


Insight in-and-of itself doesn’t drive revenue. Companies need to be internally prepared to leverage real-time analytics. To do so, they must evolve into social businesses. That is to say that organizations will not only need to engage with customers through social media, they will also need to use social media internally to align departments that were once siloed. Only when businesses are effectively using social media internally will employees be properly prepared to use external social media platforms to promote their brand and effectively capture leads.

Brian Solis rightly states that no business “is ready for big data from a process, collaboration or innovation perspective.” This is due to the fact that organizations of all sizes tend to lack a necessary degree of centralized BI. Rather, customer service, marketing, creative, business development and IT end up siloed, preventing businesses from developing overarching business strategies, engaging in effective internal communication and swiftly responding to and qualifying leads. Without alignment, organizations cannot evolve into what Solis refers to as “true social businesses.”

Internal social solutions like Salesforce Chatter should be used to create a culture of transparency in which employees feel inspired to ask questions, voice new ideas and spread their business’ core values. The goal of a social business is to turn employees into brand ambassadors who can then use social media to effectively interact with customers in a personalized way. According to IBM Vice President Sandy Carter: “It’s no longer about business-to-business or business-to-consumer it’s about P2P: people to people.”


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