Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

Q&A: Integrating Social Media and BI


A Q&A with arcplan President & CEO, Roland Hoelscher, was featured in yesterday’s TDWI BI This Week newsletter. We thought our readers might like to check it out, so we’ve reprinted the text below. Enjoy, and if you have additional questions for Roland beyond what’s answered here, leave us a comment!

Q&A: Integrating Social Media and BI by James E. Powell

Can social media really make your business intelligence better? What are the drawbacks, and what data should you try to integrate? How do you incorporate the data in reports, and will this truly give your enterprise a competitive advantage? For insight and answers, we turned to a company with experience in this process, arcplan, and its president and CEO, Roland Hoelscher.

BI This Week: What are the benefits of integrating social media information into BI applications? What are the drawbacks?

Roland Hoelscher: I think many businesses are starting to recognize that social media tracking needs to be part of their overall business strategy, whether or not they’ve considered integrating social data into their corporate BI systems. Social media data is like any other data your organization might collect except that it’s often unstructured and it comes from an external system. Now we’re starting to see a lot of companies realize that there is so much that can be gained from viewing social media data as another data source in their BI systems.

By collecting and analyzing social media data alongside the rest of their corporate BI, companies get an enhanced view of the people who purchase (or don’t purchase) their products and services. It offers an understanding beyond “Product X sells well in the Midwest.” Social data can explain why Product X sells so well in the Midwest, and can even help you spot early trends that can drive product development, and product delivery, marketing messaging. A BI application will give you a visual representation of this data, making it easy to identify these trends.

One drawback is the sometimes difficult task of marrying your qualitative social media data with the classic quantitative data that’s housed in BI systems. However, as social data becomes increasingly important to many organizations, it is possible to bring the two together, especially if your BI system can manage both structured and unstructured data.

What are some of the misperceptions about social media integration? What benefits do companies mistakenly think they’ll gain?

Most companies that implement business intelligence are likely see ROI fairly soon — revenue enhancement, cost reduction, etc. — so they may think that tracking social media data is also going to bring them an ROI that’s quantifiable in dollars and cents. Some companies will have to live with the fact that re-tweets and YouTube video views will always be leading indicators that may bring future financial gains. In addition, you’ll only get better insight into your customers and prospects if you map your customer interactions on social media with your CRM records, thereby putting them into context of existing relationships. This is often no small challenge.

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