Social media analytics adopted for business planning

One of the results of the business turmoil of the last 18 months has been entrepreneurs and C-level executives increasingly turning to social media analytics to interpret, understand and navigate fast-changing markets. 2022 will be the year when this starts to become mainstream.


Traditionally, it was marketing departments that used customer and sales prospect analytics to plan campaigns, but we are now seeing business leaders starting to drive its use. Though still not widely understood, social media data at its deepest level can be one of the most valuable management tools available for understanding markets, identifying opportunities and significantly improving planning.

It would seem unlikely that a medium most commonly associated with the messaging of one time consumer offers, general trivia and wild conspiracy theories, could provide business changing insight. But it does. This is because all social media activity leaves tell-tale trails of information, including behaviour that migrates onto websites. Little snippets of code called pixels that can be gathered to produce deep understanding alongside social data that informs on actions and motivations, as well as trends.

Pixels can tell what buyers and prospective buyers think of a company, a brand, a product, customer service, what customers really want, when, how and why they want it, what they want improved, and what they expect in the future. It can also reveal all of this in relation to rivals.

Because social media analytics produces so much essential management related information, and in real time as opposed to sales tracking that by its nature is historic, it is being increasingly used for decision making about product portfolio, staffing, R&D, logistics and improving collaboration with third parties.

Counterintuitively, it is marketing departments that often put up the greatest resistance to using social media strategically, whether it is for developing long term relationships or gaining deep understanding of consumers. This occurs when sales and marketing professionals become too immersed in ‘demand’ culture. Regimes in which individuals succeed or fail based on constant quick returns at the expense of building long term value.

Demand culture is one in which there is little interest in deep understanding to generate brand future. Results are measured in days, weeks or a few months at best, and those involved live or die based on immediate figures. The quick turn over of sales figures, and often lack of them, are usually mirrored by a fast turnover in staff who are constantly on the move following their tactical mantra.

Ironically, it is the ending of one of demand culture’s most popular tools that will lead to accelerated use of social data for business development. Cookies provide third party data that is easy to use, and needs minimal planning or integration to generate one off sales messaging. Cookies are extremely convenient sales drivers. It is why their withdrawal next year has already caused so much pain for many. And it is that withdrawal that will lead to an increase in the use of social media data.

The reason is that as well as providing the opportunity for creating detailed market insight, pixels can also be used for many of the tactical functions of cookies. They can be applied to construct remarketing audiences, and to retarget website visitors, plus lookalikes can be identified through website visits and from what customers have bought. This meets short term sales needs, but crucially it also introduces new audiences to the wider opportunities analytical data brings.

The use of social media data is not only significantly enlightening in its own right, it is a demonstration that business leaders have a will to make decisions based on the best possible information.

If a company is using social media analytics, then it is probable other forms of reliable data are being used for key decision making. If it is not being employed, it is an indicator that other key data formats are not being used. This is important.

A recent survey by Deloitte found that 49 per cent of managers say analytics helps them make better decisions, with 16 per cent responding that it allows them to make better strategic choices, and ten per cent saying that it helps create better relationships with customers and partners.

The difference in the futures of companies that use information analysis for strategic decision making, and those that operate with data myopia are necessarily different. Social media is able to play a crucial role not only allowing business leaders to understand the best direction for companies, but also optimising proposition and communications during the journey. It makes the use of social media a key indicator of how well a company is managed and will perform in 2022, and onwards.

By Colin Jacobs, Managing Director of social media independent, Immediate Future