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Social Analytics and Intelligence: More than Just Social Monitoring Tools

By June 11, 2013Article

More than directional guidance, or trend analysis by share of voice or topic, organizations struggle to understand which metrics or key performance indicators will lead to actionable insight. While numerous types of social metrics are currently available through dashboards, visualization or other types of reporting, linking these performance indicators to business use cases in order to justify investment in these tools eludes many organizations. Hypatia’s point of view is that CMOs should not invest five to six figures in social intelligence or monitoring tools unless they are able to show tangible ROI to their board of directors. 

Our research found that most companies fall into one or more of the following maturity levels:

  • Clients know they need metrics but are uncertain as to what to use in order to be effective.
  • Clients expect vendors to provide them with a menu of available metrics or KPI’s to choose from.
  • Clients know precisely which metrics they want for each of their business objectives. 

Estimating total ROI eludes many organizations. More than 12 percent of all companies reported not tracking return on investment from social analytics and intelligence tools (SA&I). Among the largest enterprises using social analytics tools for more than two years, 34.6 percent cited not tracking ROI effectively. On the other hand, nearly 23 percent overall reported getting an ROI of at least 2-3 percent of their annual marketing budget from SA&I investments. Our research revealed that corporate executives cited the following metrics as important for measuring the effectiveness of their social media efforts: 

Figure 1: High Priority Metrics* Tracked

Hypatia social analytics graphic 1

* Multi-response answers will not equal 100%

Source: ©2012 Hypatia Research Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved 

Nevertheless, companies plan to invest in social analytics as a method of measuring if not justifying growing expenditures in social business initiatives. Early adopters have jumped on social analytics for measuring tactical or operational metrics. In 2013, nearly 60 percent plan to invest between 1-2.9 percent of their annual marketing budget; another 52 percent will invest between 3-4.9 percent of their annual marketing budget, and 39.5 percent will invest more than 5 percent of their annual marketing budgets. Presumably, all of this investment will occur after figuring out:

  • What business application to apply social analytics to
  • What social processes to redesign or improve
  • What metrics to measure
  • Who will be accountable for creating and applying metrics to take action?
  • When and what types of actions to take based on the creation of social intelligence 

“Judging sentiment analysis is a non-trivial exercise and customers are just starting to understand how difficult this is to do well.” (Michael Redgrave, CEO, OpenAmplify) 

Companies seek consultative services and process expertise 

SA&I software vendors that offer consultative professional services such as configuration of best-practice business processes that are mapped to realistic performance metrics and aligned with a specific business use case are in a position to provide higher value to end users as well as to themselves. Benefits to providers of software plus consultative services accrue in the form of:

  • Immediate customer feedback
  • Hands-on experience resolving business process mapping and configuration of rules, alerts or escalations
  • Granular understanding of how different functions utilize social media — and which performance metrics need to be tracked or measured at each stage of customer engagement
  • Domain and sector expertise gained during the engagement 

Figure 2: Top Three Actions Planned* to Circumvent SA&I Challenges

Hypatia social analytics graphic 2

* Multi-response answers will not equal 100%

Source: ©2012 Hypatia Research Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved 

As top priority, 34 percent of respondents plan to source expertise externally in order to get their SA&I programs up and running and/or to augment or refine current programs. Selection and implementation of a social analytics tool using internal resources only at 32.3 percent is of secondary priority to development of a program or selection of a solution utilizing external expertise. A full 38.7 percent plan to rely on a software vendor or its partners for expertise, while only 14 percent will invest in SA&I via managed services, preferring to keep proprietary and domain expertise in house. 

In assessing these responses through a different lens — via an aggregated perspective, we noticed that organizations are equally split in their plans to utilize external expertise versus internal resources when addressing SA&I challenges. Provided with seven potential answers to the question — “What are the top three actions planned to circumvent SA&I challenges?”— enterprises shared that:

  • 71.9% plan to source expertise externally in order to get their SA&I programs up and running and/or to augment or refine current programs
  • 71.9% plan to select and implement a social analytics tool using internal resources only
  • 65.1% plan to rely on a software vendor or its partners for expertise
  • 31% will invest in SA&I via managed services 

What does this this mean for end users of SA&I technologies? Similar to gloves, hats and pantyhose, one size does not fit all. Organizations will likely take a hybrid approach in addressing SA&I challenges. 

Figure 3: Company Investment in Social Analytics Forecast to Grow: 2012-2014

Hypatia social analytics graphic 3

 Source: ©2012 Hypatia Research Group, LLC. All Rights Reserved 

Business use cases: taking action on social intelligence 

Not surprisingly, analysis of social media can be applied toward multiple business initiatives such as:

  • Brand reputation, brand reach and crisis management
    • Course or message correction
  • Product innovation, ideation and product design quality alert
  • Sales and marketing
    • Correlation or probability of influence on purchase
    • Customer segmentation or profiling prior to taking action
  • Customer service and support
    • Escalation and resolution of issues
  • Business process improvement
    • Work-flow design
    • Rules-based alerts
  • Competitive Intelligence 

If these business initiatives seem similar to those for “Voice of the Customer,” they should. In the first industry analyst-authored primary research study written on VOC (“Operationalizing Voice of the Customer: Benchmarks, Best Practices and Maturity Models,” ©2010, Hypatia Research, LLC), we identified integrated VOC technologies as encompassing and combining the analysis of both structured (data) and unstructured (contextual) information.  In short, social media analytics and intelligence business processes and enabling technologies should be viewed as a subset of voice of the customer — a rapidly growing piece of the customer-intelligence pie due to the recent explosion in user-generated content. 

“At EMC we have an interesting thing happening I suspect is common to others’ experiences … our PR folks are truly in ‘measure mode’ approaching social as they would any traditional channel. ‘Listening’ to them is a finite concept, using specific Boolean logic rather than embracing organic conversations.” (Keith Paul, Chief Listener, EMC)

Hypatia Research defines social analytics and intelligence technologies as enabling the monitoring, filtering, categorization, sentiment and trend analysis, text analysis, correlation discovery and root cause analysis of all types of unstructured social media and/or user-generated content from multiple sources both private and public. 

In short, social media analysis helps organizations discover actionable signals within the noise of more than 50 million conversations per day and to use this customer intelligence for guidance, decision support and/or corrective action deemed most advantageous in meeting business objectives and/or corporate goals. 

Bottom line: Social analytics and intelligence solutions are much more than a “social media monitoring” tool. Ideally, social analytics software tools should help organizations measure the effectiveness of social media on business; but, insofar as measuring a tangible ROI, software alone is just a major part of an overall strategy, operational plan and solution. 

Stay tuned for more research insights and excerpts from “Social Analytics and Intelligence: Converting Contextual to Actionable Insight” in future articles. 

Leslie Ament, SVP of research & principal analyst at Hypatia Research Group, is a Customer Intelligence Management thought leader and analyst who focuses on how organizations capture, manage, analyze and apply actionable customer insight to improve customer management techniques, reduce operating expenses and accelerate corporate growth. Her coverage areas include CRM, Business Intelligence, Social Media Intelligence/Search/Text Analytics, Web Analytics, Marketing Automation & Customer Data Management/Data Quality. Ament has driven process requirements gathering implementation for both on-premises and SaaS CRM systems. Contact her at 

This article is adapted from “Social Analytics & Intelligence: Converting Contextual to Actionable Insight”, ©2012 Hypatia Research Group. All Rights Reserved. Our primary research is designed to provide end-user organizations with an analysis of how companies invest in Social Analytics & Intelligence (SA&I) solutions, what tangible benefits are possible with SA&I, and what metrics can be used to measure the ROI of a SA&I initiative.  In short, our research provides actionable insight that companies may use in compiling a vendor short list, request for qualifications and best practice terms of engagement with software vendors.

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