The impact of social media on our lives, and on our businesses has been remarkable. The full extent of how social media adoption and use has changed the way we share information, evaluate products and spread our message still remains to be seen. But what is apparent is that people have access to tools that can potentially give them a larger platform with more leverage  than ever before.

A most recent and impressive example has been the Kony 2012 campaign put out by the Invisible Children group. Not only has the video become widely popular by leveraging social media technologies, but the ungovernable spotlight of inquiry has also shifted to the IC group.  People want to know: Who is IC group? Who are the people behind the video? What’s their agenda? While IC group may have the ultimate goal of contributing to Kony’s capture; viewers of their video have their own objectives.

Or consider the case of Mike Daisey, widely claimed to have ousted Apple’s manufacturing practices in China.  Daisy’s approach blended more traditional forms of protest: theater with the reach of social media. He has performed The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs in many theaters and most recently the script was made available for download from his site. And it has been downloaded. 40,000 times.

The point of both examples is to illustrate how quickly individuals or small groups of people can shine a light on lesser-known topics. This social commentary, resulting from this scrutiny,  many organizations would struggle to detect never mind influence.  Of course, there have always been individuals, who have been catalysts for change, whose reach far exceeded their access to power.  But it’s the availability of these technologies that make the occurrence of these events more likely and common. You know that when Encyclopedia Britannica is no longer available in print after 244 years that something fundamental has changed.

Beyond the proliferation of technologies that enable us to make these connections is the challenge they present if a business wants to meaningfully analyze and monitor how their brand’s value is changing. How does an organization determine a metric of value from all of the data points available? Are the metrics defined today going to scale and provide ongoing insights for a business?

One recommendation might be to analyze the social media conversations around your brand through the lens of what drives value for the business.   What would an analytics strategy that focused on the influence of social media conversations on business metrics look like?

For broadcast TV, it might be trending charts that tracks viewers, who describe their favorite show or watching behavior, within a competitive landscape. Companies would be able to evaluate how their show is performing against the competition and correlate it with other data, like Nielsen ratings.

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A financial industry may focus on customer satisfaction and the impact of pricing policies.

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An agency may monitor a campaign to track if an ad resonated with audiences as intended,  if they found it funny or were influenced to make a purchase.

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In each case, the intent of monitoring is to tie social business intelligence to key business metrics.  And what’s most powerful about this data is that it reflects the unbiased, unsolicited opinion of consumers.  As a business you don’t know how the conversations will evolve and when the spotlight will shift  from product, to a customer service incident, to manufacturing processes. It’s not only important that an organization be able to track how a campaign resonates with consumers but to get an early sense of the emerging trends and issues that can help equip your organization with relevant and actionable insights.