This landscape has two major features: the wild space of “social media” (where almost anything can happen, and does) and the formal garden of “business analytics” (where everything must be carefully organized). There are also two overlapping areas—one where analytical processes are applied to social media, and one where social processes are used for business analytics.
To get a more detailed map of this complex terrain, let’s start with some basic principles.
- “Social media” refers to the means by which some type of social activity takes place online.
- Social media serves a variety of interrelated functions, but at a very high level these functions can be placed in four categories:
1. Communicating/Connecting (blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
2. Collaborating/Sharing (SlideShare, YouTube, Flickr, Drupal, etc.)
3. Informing (Yelp, Wikipedia, Digg, etc.)
4. Entertaining (Second Life, Kongregate, etc.)
- “Business analytics” refers to the exploration of business data to improve decision making.
- The terms “business analytics” (BA) and “business intelligence” (BI) are often used interchangeably, but they are not identical. BI typically focuses on simpler questions like “what” and “who,” whereas BA looks at more sophisticated questions like “why” and “what next.”
That’s a very quick look at the two big areas. Now let’s consider what happens in spaces where these areas overlap.
A. “Social media analytics” refers to first collecting data about social media use and/or content (this step is often called “web analytics”), and then analyzing the data to gain useful insights.
B. “Social business analytics” refers to using social tools (like wikis, content management systems, etc.) for collaboration in performing business analytics. It can also refer to using social media platforms to publish BI and BA insights.
Obviously, this landscape is not simple—but keeping those basics in mind will make it easier to navigate.
Where Are We Now?
The SM/BA terrain is not only rugged, it’s also shifting. Most organizations have only recently recognized the value of social media data, and most are still developing a strategy to utilize social media data for business intelligence. As recently as Q3 of 2009, a Forrester study (surveying 196 decision makers in large corporations) found that only 16% of respondents listed “social media tracking” as an important capability for their web analytics tool. And even among those organizations that have started to analyze social media data, few have begun to integrate social media data with other types of business data.
Similarly, although BA/BI vendors are beginning to incorporate collaboration and social media capabilities into their tools—it will take time for organizations to adopt and deploy these features.
Where Are We Headed?
In The Ten Stages of Social Media Integration in Business, new media authority Brian Solis explains the process by which an organization comes to understand and effectively use the potential of social media, both internally and externally. Utilizing “Business Performance Metrics” is . . . Stage 10.
Although there are no certain metrics, it’s probably fair to say that Stage 10 is still far away for many companies, so the relationship of social media and business analytics may be evolving for quite a while. But the speed of change continues to increase, and this landscape will undoubtedly develop new paths and new features during the year to come.