Do businesses make the most of social media? Every organisation is interested in what‘s best for its business and knows it has to be digital (oh, that magic word!) as well as active in social media. Every company is aware that it‘s good to get likes and have engaged followers. But then what? What do you do with your followers once you get them to follow you? Can you properly hear what they have to tell you?

Those were the issues discussed at the first master class of a series entitled Social Media Intelligence in Practice. The event was organized in Sofia under the joint initiative of PwC Academy and the University of Sheffield. It was a venue of young experts talking about their experience rather than some well-known business gurus, who have been giving lectures for the last 30 years, but are not able to get today‘s perspective on matters.

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The event was presented by social media expert Dr Jillian Ney, a digital behaviour scientist and an engaging speaker. She was the first Doctor of Social Media in the UK long before social media was the big thing that it is today. She was criticised and mocked over her title and taking social networks too seriously.

Even though there‘s no doubt that social media have an enormous impact on companies or brands nowadays, businesses will face the challenges of Facebook and the rest of the social media family for a long time, if not forever. Just being digital and present in the social media can add zero value to a business, because simply referring to the user-generated content in social communities is not enough – the important part is to understand customers‘ behaviours, expectations, intentions and feelings towards a company or a brand.
I’ll share with you some of my takeaways.

Not just the metrics

Social media intelligence takes a step further from simple analytics – counting mentions, likes and tweets, which show the quantitative side of public engagement, but fail to present the emotional and intelligent side of the information we can get through all that comments and tweets. Businesses should perceive this content as nothing, but pure loads of information. One of the examples Dr Ney gave was about fashion brand H&M. The company wanted to know who of the celebrities they endorsed in their summer campaign drove the highest intent to purchase. It turned out that the star that generated the most buzz (David Beckham) was not the one with the biggest purchase intent ratio (Beyonce).

Emotion drives the buzz

Social media monitoring should not be only about how many mentions one‘s business gets online and assume a certain number of mentions means a job well done. It is also knowing what they said, did a product provoke joy or hatred in them, are consumers happy or disappointed, are they thinking of buying something, what are their preferences and intentions. Being aware of what customers are saying, an organisation can engage them to share more and create even more useful information – the consumer-generated content helps a business follow and meet the needs and wishes of the customers, identify what people and groups of people are interested in, find new customers, fix issues based on complaints, recognise opportunities and foresee failures as well as minimise risks – there are numerous benefits if a business makes use of social media content correctly.

Go real time with social media

Research and surveys on customer opinions are no longer as relevant as they used to be. Now professional analyses of social media buzz can give companies all the information they need immediately, at this very moment, and not after a certain period of time by involving or even dedicating departments within their business to do such studies, or by paying agencies to do the job. Especially, with crisis management it is vital to know in real time when something’s gone wrong.

Engaging users

Language and emotional analysis of the data are critical for understanding users and maintaining a proper relationship with them. For instance, textual analysis on the way users express themselves will help engage them more by using similar language. Knowing the emotions behind posts will help arouse specific behaviours in the future interactions and make the connection with the audience stronger. Thanks to language analysis a big cosmetic company was able to understand the changes in customer opinions on cosmetic surgeries. The company managed to modify its approach to customers and position itself better.

Technology is constantly changing and improving, and so must businesses. Adapting fast and having the ability to communicate are essentials in this 21st century of ours.

Not taking advantage of what social media intelligence has to offer is not a good strategy for any business.