Getting the Most Value Out of Social Media for Market Intelligence

March 14, 2011. Looking for information and opinions about companies and their products, new technologies, new ideas and needs? No problem, just log on to Twitter, LinkedIn, SlideShare or even YouTube. There has been such a proliferation of news, reviews and announcements though social media platforms that companies are finding it challenging to navigate among the complex maze of possibilities to find the information and discussions that are relevant for them on social media.

Added to that are more than 200 vendors of Social Media Monitoring solutions that have emerged to help companies to do just that. Which solution is best? We ask Ville Vanhala, Senior Vice President of Information Resources at M-Brain (formerly GIA) for his thoughts on the subject.

How is Social Media Monitoring different when it is done for market intelligence and not communications?

“In many organizations, the corporate communications team or some brand managers will already have a Social Media Monitoring solution in use, provided by communications agencies or e-marketing consultants, for example. The focus there will be on measuring how the company’s brands are discussed and how marketing messages are reaching target audiences.

Market Intelligence users however have their own specific needs – to monitor topics in social media far beyond just following how a company’s own brand is being discussed by consumers.”

Product Development as well as Marketing and Sales are some of the business processes often supported by market intelligence. What are some examples of using Social Media Monitoring for market intelligence that can help those processes?

“When communications agencies or e-marketing consultants monitor social media, the type of information they provide will show, for instance, changes in the amount of discussion about a brand, the sentiment of discussion – positive or negative – and shares of voice. An example would be how much a brand is discussed compared to other brands.

When Social Media Monitoring is conducted for market intelligence, you take on a broader perspective.

For example, you can monitor whether online discussions are in line with your intended product positioning. How do product users perceive features of your product and competing products? Are intended or unintended user segments actively discussing your product? Are new product features being favorably perceived? What are opinion leaders saying? Are industry journalists and analysts blogging in a favorable tone about the competition or about your company? Who are the product influencers in driving adoption for new products and services?

In which networks or forums are product users expressing new ideas about desired features? What do they think about where the industry is headed with the next wave of products?”

What kind of market intelligence can Social Media Monitoring provide to Strategic Planning teams?

“You can monitor signals to confirm or challenge anticipated market trends. For example, are companies promoting green technologies highly favoured? Or is touch screen technology becoming a “must have” in new product categories?

Alternatively, you can check if public opinion is turning in favor for or against a chosen business model. For example, is there a strong debate gaining momentum to question the feasibility of production plants in certain locations? Or how are people accepting the use of ads to support an online product? Or how are customers reacting to personnel with a foreign accent in telephone support?

You can also gain insights into the regional differences in market maturity. For example, are there discussions in certain markets indicating a higher preference for personal service?”

What other business functions can benefit from Social Media Monitoring?

“Anyone along the value chain can benefit.

Take Supply Chain Management for example. You can monitor any online discussion about questionable practices at key supplier sites or a company’s undesirable political connections. How are new suppliers being discussed about in their country?

Another example would be for corporate social responsibility. You can identify if public opinion is demanding more environmentally friendly operating practices in your industry or for more responsibility for employee well being – and the list goes on.”

How does one choose the most suitable Social Media Monitoring solution?

“The first step of course, is to understand the organization’s unique market and competitive intelligence needs and consider how social media sources can offer additional intelligence to respond to those needs.

As mentioned earlier, there are many social media monitoring solutions out there. Most tools allow you to be quickly alerted of new discussions and important posts. And most solutions can be used to deliver weekly or monthly analytical reports that summarize the trends and themes developing in the social media space related to your industry. Thousands of items can be analyzed on a monthly basis.

However, many tools are geared towards support for marketing or corporate communications and are mainly focused on monitoring one or a few brands.

You need to evaluate if any single monitoring tool offers the full scope of monitoring and analytics you need for your broader market intelligence perspective. You may end up concluding that you need your market intelligence consultants or your internal analysts to choose the best tools for your needs and then work with a combination of tools and human interpretation to derive the real insights you need from social media.”

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