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7/26/2010
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Expert Analysis: A Case for Socialization of Data

It's time to integrate social data, enterprise analytics and enterprise data for better social-media strategy.

Just about every organization with customers (and prospects, competitors, and stakeholders) who use social media realizes by now that online social sources can be mined for significant enterprise business value. People post facts (true or not), experiences and opinions -- to blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, you name it -- related to brands, product and service quality, and competitive position. Yet the social-media analytics state-of-the-art is siloed and unsophisticated.

Industry needs a socialization of data that would bring social data into BI and enterprise-analytics platforms. This would drive social-media strategy in coordination with other enterprise channels, incorporating social-media insights into everyday operations. We're talking comprehensive analytics -- total enterprise awareness -- for fully informed business decision making. The goal is not unlike that of DARPA's abandoned Total Information Awareness program (living on at an archival site), albeit built for business.

As I've written in earlier articles and blogs, true 360-degree views must encompass enterprise feedback and social media and location intelligence. Turn the equation around: comprehensive social-media strategies will rely on the full set of enterprise data sources, including operational and transactional systems, to the greatest feasible extent.

Social Data

Let's define social data as data extracted from social media. I see three principal elements:

  1. People, organizations: connectors
  2. Connections
  3. Messages
These elements constitute a social graph, a network of nodes (connectors) linked by edges (connections), plus content. By message, I mean essentially the information transmitted when a connection is used: a blog posting or comment, an article, a Facebook status update or posted item or even a poke, and a phone-text or e-mail message; also, actually, phone conversations and in-person encounters. To use the metaphor of a letter, a message has an envelope with From and To addresses and, sometimes, markings that indicate Fragile or Special Delivery or Delivery Receipt Requested. This envelope information is distinct from the message content, which may even be encrypted and inaccessible to anyone but the recipient.

There's no good reason, in this set-up modeling exercise, to distinguish electronic from real-world social networks. For that matter, when someone concludes a transaction online or in a store -- makes an inquiry or a purchase or a service request -- how is that so different from sending a message over what's conventionally seen as a social network?

This non-difference is the basis for my advocacy of integrating social-media-sourced data with data from corporate transactional and operational systems. We (in the business world) have, for years, sought that illusive "360 degree customer view": a portrait of the customer that assimilates information drawn from every customer touchpoint. A coherent, coordinated, complete view lets us better serve and profit from customers, right? Think of social platforms as additional customer touchpoints.

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