Social media data is morphing into a new kind of ammunition for companies open to using it. Marketers have been monitoring the effectiveness of their social media campaigns and attempting to manage their companies' reputations. In addition to determining what customers and prospects like and dislike, the information has been used to optimize sales and marketing messages, minimize customer service issues, prioritize product development, and inform product management.
While social data offers insight, it often provides more value when combined with other data sources. On an operational level, social data can be used across departments to improve operations and outcomes, whether by understanding an issue at a more granular level or embracing an alternative business model.
"People are online, speaking relentlessly to an unbelievable level of detail. It will be almost unsustainable for consumer-centric businesses not to understand the social aspect, the social dimension of their business," said Ido Hadari, CEO of healthcare insights company Treato, in an interview. "It's an additional dimension that was created a few years ago that was initially nice to have and fun -- let's dabble with it. We looked at sentiment to see if people are happy or unhappy and that was nice for starters. But now, it's as critical a business dimension as any other."
Slowly but surely, social data is spreading out through companies and being operationalized in different ways, yielding different results. Some of the challenges include the relative reliability of the data, the degree to which companies have envisioned using it, and how easy or hard it is to integrate into current workflows. It's still early days, in other words.
But, social data can result in real business impact. Here are a few ways companies are using it.