Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Using social media as crucial business analysis resources 1: capturing new sources of opportunity and competitive advantage

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 27, 2014

I recently had an opportunity to meet with the dean of the business school of one of my alma maters and one of the core topics of our discussion was on how his students and alumni could more effectively use social media in their job searches and career development. I have written at least in passing on a range of more specifically focused issues that fall within the scope of that larger overall topic area. And I will more systematically expand upon it in an upcoming series that I will add into directory page 3 of my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, immediately after finishing a series still in progress as of this writing: What do C level officers do? (Guide postings 376 and following.)

But we also spoke more widely of how:

• Social media can be used as a strategic business intelligence and business development resource,
• For better understanding the marketplace and competitive context faced,
• And as a rapidly forming and evolving business analytic resource of emerging importance and value.

I said in the course of our conversation that I would post a series on that complex of issues too, and I begin doing so here with this Part 1 to a new series, which I will add into page 3 of my Business Strategy and Operations directory.

I will add both of these new series into Social Networking and Business 2 as well, as both of their perhaps seemingly separate topic areas involve developing and using best practices for capturing informational value and insight from the same ongoing flow of online social media conversation. So the distinction between them is more in how data obtained is organized and used than it is one of what data is to be assembled for use.

My goal for this posting is to set the stage for more detailed discussion of business use of social media-sourced business intelligence, by at least briefly listing and organizing some of the major areas of consideration that would go into that. And I do so by posing a series of interrelated questions:

• What types of online content do businesses intentionally and otherwise put online about themselves and about what they do? In an increasingly interactive online context with web 2.0 sites and social media of all sorts, any intended boundary between what these organizations publish for more passive consumption and what they push out as part of more active, genuine conversation can blur and become fluid.
• Closely related to that, and certainly in an interactive online context, what is being posted about these businesses by members of the outside community, and by whom? Here, review sites and review and opinion postings of all types enter this informational flow – that can become an informational flood.
• How can a business better craft its own message, respond to the messages of others, and create positive value out of all of this?
• And what can be learned about a business by outsiders to it, simply by tracking, correlating and comparing, and systematically analyzing their online story?
• Consistency of message enters in here for all of the above points, among other issues. And I cite here a point that I made in my above-noted business school conversation. Just looking at what businesses post about themselves online and on social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, it can be easy to identify any drift into inconsistency in what is said and shared when comparing, for example a business’ online presence in primarily customer and marketplace oriented sites, and what they simultaneously share on more business and professional oriented sites. This type of disconnect can among other things reflect differences in understanding and in priorities as presented by a Marketing and Communications department as an executive-vetted message, and what different functional areas and individual employees and managers think and say.

There are more questions that could be added here but this is enough to at least initially set a foundation for discussion to come. And I add with the above points in mind, that these are questions that can and must be asked about your own business, and they are equally important to ask about your competition. And business-sourced online information here in this series’ context and for both of the series to come that I noted at the top of this posting, essentially always includes both formally vetted business communications as would come out of that organization’s Marketing and Communications department, and online content that comes from individual employees, with that including everyone from non-managerial staff on through senior and executive officer leadership. Increasingly, everyone posts online and both about their private social lives and about their work lives and what they do professionally, and through explicit networking sites, blogs, tweets and more.

My point here, and the topic of this series to come is that a great deal of business intelligence value can be derived from this ongoing multi-sourced flood of information. And this can be used and both operationally and strategically. And I will look into some best practices approaches and tools for doing that too.

I am going to begin this series’ larger progression of discussion in my next installment where I will start at the beginning and with the question posed in my first bullet point, above:

• What types of online content do businesses intentionally and otherwise put online about themselves and about what they do?

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and also at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. And you can find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its continuation page.

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