Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Using social media as crucial business analysis resources 7: rethinking business intelligence for how you gather, analyze and use it and from where

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on June 3, 2015

This is my seventh installment in a series on social media as a source of actionable business intelligence insight (see Social Networking and Business 2, postings 217 and following for Parts 1-6.)

I have spent the past four postings of this series examining how business intelligence that includes insight gained from social media sources offers competitive value, and even the potential for distinctive competitive advantage and certainly for the businesses that gather, organize, analyze and use this information flow more effectively.

• I focused on gathering marketplace and consumer sourced data as a significant part of that overall endeavor in Part 3 and Part 4 of this series,
• Then turned directions to consider business intelligence gathered about other business organizations in Part 5 and Part 6 where I discussed study and analysis of competing businesses, and of supply chain and other collaborating businesses respectively.

With that set of series installments offered as a foundation point, I turn here in this posting to at least begin a fuller consideration of business intelligence per se, and more particularly of business intelligence as augmented with social media sourced input. And as a starting point for that, I note that Marshall McLuhan’s famous dictum: the medium is the message applies as fully to this series’ context as it does to any.

• Where we gather business intelligence and how we gather it, shape and define it in our thinking.
• And that in turn determines how it can be used and how it will be, and to what effect.

There are a lot of dimensions to this set of observations, and to understanding business intelligence and making effective due diligence-based use of it. The first that I would make note of here is data reliability. An initial assumption that is commonly made is that if incoming data is derived from social media sources it is of necessity that much less reliable and that much more in need of validation if it is to be used:

• Who is the source of an online message or message thread and does that source of social media data have a track record of consistent reliability that you have been able to check and in some way validate?
• Particularly for more extreme opinions or judgments expressed or for more unexpected reported findings, can you find any corroborating or refuting evidence or data that would support them?

Consider online consumer-sourced reviews there as a source of working examples. Businesses sometimes post false flag positive reviews about themselves, attempting to make it seem as if outside customers who have no financial or other stake in them, were offering objective opinion. On the negative reporting side of this, trolls and others who hide behind the online anonymity that social media can afford, sometimes negatively review seemingly just to negatively review too. So this cuts both ways (see for example, Trolls and other Antisocial, Disruptive and Divisive Social Networkers: Part 1 and Part 2 for a business intelligence discussion of the negative side of this.)

• Corroboration and validation of business intelligence data gathered are always important due diligence steps and for any business intelligence gathered and from any source or type of source.
• Social media simply presses that responsibility more fully onto the people who collect and would use this data as end users of it, than you would find necessary for example when gathering data from a long-term known and vetted professional news or other information source.

On top of that, social media insight often comes in what amounts to smaller chunks of information: smaller pieces to any analytically developed puzzle that you would assemble from them. These data points, after all, usually arrive as reflecting the experience, judgment and insight of single individuals where, for example news organization or government service sourced business intelligence might be based upon input from multiple vetted sources.

• Large organization vetting means large organization data filtering, and that can mean introducing systematic judgment biases and even when that is not overtly intended.
• And large organization vetting can also mean reliance, for at least part of the business intelligence so offered, on the vetting carried out by the sources that those organizations in turn obtained their information from, that went into their larger aggregated data compilations after going through earlier filtering and selection processes not under their control.
• As an end user of these final step but perhaps multiply processed data compilations, you might not even know where all of the original raw data that went into them came from, let alone how it was filtered and shaped and vetted for accuracy, and both from its initial sources on and for its current reliability.

Data age and its current state of applicability and accuracy are important considerations here, so timestamps are vital. In this, online reviews and other social media postings are usually date stamped as to when they went live, which sets a limit on how recent their content might be. This is not always as easy to discern when aggregated data streams are considered – unless you know and can vet the aggregating source for its due diligence reliability for tracking and understanding its data from its original sources on.

• Yes, what I am doing here is analyzing social media sourced business intelligence essentially exactly as I would any other types and sources of such data, as ultimately it has to pass the same types of litmus tests to be considered reliable for use that would be applied to any business intelligence source.
• Social media sourced data has to be evaluated and vetted with an understanding of where it came from,
• But ultimately it is still business intelligence that would be used in combination with other sourced data in making business decisions.

And as social media channels and their ubiquitous usage mature as sources of business insight, their vetting and usage will simply come to be taken for granted, as standard resources that every business needs to tap into if it is to remain competitive. In that, I write this series as a line of discussion that is becoming more and more dated every day.

I am going to finish this series with that point, at least for now. And noting that, I add that 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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