The Social Elite Are Winning in Digital

LinkedIn, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram. Yes, it’s 2017, and none of these are likely unfamiliar to you. Also, no longer is social media interaction, outside of LinkedIn, the preserve of trendy retailers (yes, I just used the word trendy... *checks in the mirror for grey hair and a knitted jumper*).

Today, numerous leading professional service organizations, includng the some of the “Big Four” are active on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. So yes, we should all be using social media regardless of industry, but all too often social media gets left to marketing and/or customer service, and even there, it frequently gets treated as an afterthought.

But is marketing and consumer engagement the only valid uses for social media usage in organizations?

Well, the short answer is, it shouldn’t be. In my most recent podcast, I interviewed a member of our transformation and strategy team on the changing shape of customer engagement, and an interesting fact was raised, namely that social media sentiment profiling has proved significantly more accurate at predicting recent political events (Trump and Brexit) than traditional polling techniques.

This immediately got my attention. If social media analysis is this accurate at predicting personality type, sentiment and outcomes, why isn’t every organization’s strategic and product development divisions making more use of it?

To answer this, I went in search of some of the social media analysis technology available and presented myself as the guinea pig.

The first was Apply Magic Sauce by University of Cambridge. This tool analyzes an individual’s personality, age and gender through their social media posts (on Facebook and Twitter) as opposed to simply checking these data points in the person’s Facebook bio. Now, just to clarify, I’m not by any means an avid Facebook user. I maybe update my status once every two to three months and seldom upload pictures. On Twitter, my content is 100% business focused (so follow me here  @mikemarkc).

Even so, some of the analysis was disturbingly accurate. The platform got the headline figures (age and gender) spot on, and my personality traits weren’t far off: contemplative, liberal and organized all seemed to fit the bill, and the only outlier was competitiveness. I am not marginally competitive but manically so (symptomatic of growing up with two older brothers). Where it fell short was in other areas like religion, political orientation and relationship status. But given my extremely infrequent use of social media, this could have been expected.

Next was BrandsEye. Here, unfortunately, I couldn’t test the software myself, but these were the guys that predicted Trump and Brexit, so their pedigree seems relatively sound. Essentially, BrandsEye is an opinion mining company whose algorithms identify nuanced sentiment, and yes, that includes sarcasm.

And lastly, PULSAR Trac, a social media audience intelligence platform, has been used by firms including HERE and Irn-Bru to successfully tailor product development and demographic targeting.

So, there are platforms available to predict personality type, preference, outcome analysis and product and/or service research – all of which are invaluable to organizations’ strategic and product development departments. So why aren’t we seeing wider adoption? Ultimately, social media is still viewed with an air of suspicion and, yes, given the recent spread of spurious news proliferated by these channels, it’s understandable. But ultimately, the evidence is here in black and white: These channels can and will disrupt your business but can also be the key to unlocking forecasting accuracy, measuring product sentiment and, in the end, stealing a march on your competition.