Leveraging Social Listening Programs To Develop Market & Competitive Intelligence to Leapfrog Your Competition

Leveraging Social Media Capabilities and Applications to Develop Competitive Advantage – Three Current Social Media Mega-Trends
Part One – Leveraging Social Insights & Intelligence to formulate better decisions to gain market, competitive, political and social advantage

In keeping a very close eye on the trends on the rise in the marketplace on how companies and government agencies are leveraging new social media capabilities and technologies, there are several on my radar screen that are coming up over and over again and again.  These trends are evidenced by the numerous requests I am receiving in these topic areas in the form of responses to proposals and information, requests for ‘lunch and learns’, requests to speak on the topic, etc.

Some of the hottest trends in the social media space from a corporate or governmental agency perspective are as follows:

1) Leveraging of Social Media and ‘Social Intelligence’ as a component to developing overall competitive and Market Intelligence Insights & Capabilities
2) The use of Intra-Social Enterprise Collaborative Platforms (ECPs) to enhance organizational productivity, internal collaboration and decrease overall go-to-market cycle time
3) The use of Intra-Corporate Social Crowd Sourcing ‘Innovation Acceleration’ Applications & Capabilities

Over the course of the next three blog entries, I will cover each of these social media mega-trend areas in the following format:
A. What is it – Description of the functionality this capability enables
B. What are the benefits – Why are companies and government agencies adopting and using this capability and how are they benefitting from its use
C. The hottest tools/applications in the market for this capability – who is leading, lagging, emerging
D. How do you implement it – what are the steps and considerations on implementing this capability within your organization and company

There are several instances where the use of social media insights could have helped organizations be better prepared for market shifts, product issues & defects, crisis management, and better able to spot trends regarding regulation, key opinion leaders, competitors, and go-to-market issues (sales, marketing, customer service, warranty claims, etc.). In the rest of this blog I will cover the first topic/trend of “Leveraging of Social Media and ‘Social Intelligence’ as a component to developing overall competitive and Market Intelligence Insights & Capabilities”:

A. BP Gulf Oil Spill – Admiral Thad Allen, Admiral from the Coast Guard who managed the gulf oil spill cleanup, indicated that if he had better insights into the issues and ‘mood’ of people through social media listening techniques, he would be much better prepared with action plans to respond to concerns, issues, inquiries, etc.

B. Toyota Stuck Accelerator Recall – If Toyota was monitoring the chat and commentary via many social media sites, it is very likely that they would have been able to spot potential automobile defect issues starting to trend and handle them earlier vs. blowing up in the media.

C. Egypt Social Unrest – Many of our intelligence agencies were caught off guard at the speed and magnitude of the protests that eventually topped the Mubarak regime. A few experts say that the information that this was going to occur was right in front of them in the form of Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. If they had a social intelligence platform and methodology to interpret the information, it is also likely that this would not have been such a surprise to the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

D. Drug Issues & Recalls – Had Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Companies had a social or market intelligence solution in place, many say that companies would have been able to spot very early the issues with Vioxx, Tylenol, etc. Many people were commenting about the problems with these drugs via social media, but many companies were not listening, hence unable to respond until the issue hit crisis mode.

A. What is Social & Market Intelligence – Social Intelligence is the collection, aggregation, assimilation and dissemination of information from social media forums, blogs, wikis, websites in order to spot key trends around topics of interest such as the following:
1. Key opinion leader sentiment,
2. Regulatory issues, news, public sentiment trends,
3. Consumer feedback on your products and services,
4. Consumer concerns with product safety or availability,
5. Public sentiment about current issues, political leaders, public policy, etc.
6. Public sentiment about how a crisis is being (mis)handled
7. Information on your company or brand activity such as consumer feedback, market issues, market facing issues or trends, new products/services, news, etc.
8. Information on competitor activity such as consumer feedback, market issues, market facing issues or trends, new products/services, news, etc.

This function is usually developed into a single Market or Competitive Intelligence portal as a one stop shop to all market insights. The information will also bring together functions such as text mining, comingling of structured and unstructured data and text, and trend analysis and alerting and will also integrate with Business Process Management (BPM) functions in order to make the insights collected – actionable.

B. What are the benefits – Why are companies and government agencies adopting social Intelligence capabilities?
There are many benefits to adopting this social and/or market intelligence capability as follows:

a) Ability to capitalize on competitor trending market issues or weaknesses
b) Ability to spot competitor trends or new market initiatives before they erode you market share
c) Ability to accurately spot Key Opinion Leader (KOL) issues, trends, or preferences in order to  respond with products/services/policies that are in-line   with these stated needs/preferences
d) Ability to spot consumer sentiment trends that will impact or change regulation that might impact your company or organization
e) Ability to gauge unmet market demand or needs via consumer sentiment
f) Ability to gauge trends in the social-political climate and mood of the country in order to accurately predict needed public policy changes
g) Ability to spot and respond to potential product defect trending issues early before they get to crisis mode and erode your brand image
h) Ability to have an integrated  ‘one stop shop’ repository for all market relevant information – news, blogs, web feeds, RSS feeds, structured data, unstructured data, text feeds, etc. 
i) Ability to accurately gauge social moods and perceptions during the time of crisis in order to develop responsive programs and messaging in order to demonstrate proactiveness and responsiveness
j) Ability to filter out social noise and one-off commentary vs. significant trends and market shifts

The trick in realizing these benefits is twofold. One, you must develop robust trending functionality in order to filter out the noise associated with a few comments being said about a certain topic in order to be focused on rapidly building or significant trends vs. sentiment blips.  The second is integrating the social insights with Business Process Management (BPM), so that actionable projects or programs are put in place once significant and impactful trends are spotted. Chart 1 Illustrates how the social media listening lifecycle should be structured in order to develop a robust social and market intelligence capability.




C. The hottest tools/applications in the market for this capability

Some of the hottest platforms in the social listening space are as follows:
Leading Social Listening Tools:
1) Attensity – Attensity Analytics Suite. Social Monitoring and Analytics
2) Converseon – Conversation Monitor, Conversation Miner. Converseon also performs outbound social conversation management via their Conversation Manager
3) Jive – Social Media Engagement Platform – Inbound Monitoring and Outbound Community & Conversation Management
4) Lithium – Social Media Monitoring Console (formerly Scout Labs). Lithium is also a leading conversation management platform.
5) Nielsen  – BuzzMetrics. Nielsen also performs outbound social conversation management via BuzzMetrics.
6) Radian6 – Radian6 Listening Dashboard. Radian6 also performs outbound social conversation management via the Radian6 Engagement Console. 

Next Tier (alphabetically):
1) Alterian – SM2
2) Collective Intellect – Social CRM Insights
3) Cymfony – Cymfony Maestro Platform
4) Dow Jones – Dow Jones Insight
5) Evolve 24 – The Mirror
6) Visible Technologies – TruCast Suite

In addition to the social listening companies and platforms above, many new firms are entering this space at an incredible pace. I recently performed a vendor selection for one of my clients with many of the above tools and the selection process was extensive.  If anybody needs additional insights into these vendor or platform capabilities, please feel free to contact me for assistance.

D. How do you implement it – what are the steps and considerations on implementing this capability within your organization and company

I have developed this capability for several Fortune 500 companies and the capability can be enabled via three (3) Major steps as follows (Summarized):

A) Step #1: Develop a Social Media Monitoring and Strategy including the following:

1) Social Intelligence Strategy/Vision, Objectives, Business Drivers, Critical Success Factors, Community/ Forum Listening Strategy, Key Metrics & Performance Plan, Organizational Plan, Change Management Plan, Communications & Risk Management Plan, monitoring policies, governance plan

B) Step #2: Social Media Technology Platform Evaluation & Selection
     1) Identify potential social media platform & community management vendors
     2) Develop Needed Listening Requirements and Capabilities
     3) Perform Technology Platform Vendor Selection
     4) Onboard Vendor

C) Step #3: Develop Social Media Program Pilots & Deployment Plan
     1) Develop Pilot Project & Deployment Plan
     2) Develop Technology Pilots
     3) Develop  Program Pilots
     4) Develop Organization & Process Pilots
     5) Deploy Pilots and Programs including
           a.  Center of Excellence Deployment
           b.  Multi-Channel Integration
           c.  Policies/Processes
           d.  Roles, Rules, Responsibilities
           e.  Change Management

In summary, Social Intelligence, Social Monitoring, Competitive Intelligence and Market Intelligence are gaining a great deal of Momentum.  Many Fortune 500 companies are either planning to implement this capability or already have.  The practice has gained so much momentum there are even associations and groups being formed like the Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP) group (http://scip.org/index.cfm ) in order for members to collaborate and share best practices. Is your organization planning on implementing this potentially game-changing capability? If so, give me a call, I call help you achieve world-class programs that enable you to surpass your competition and bring your organization or agency to the next level of market and social intelligence.

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