Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

Social Media & Business Intelligence: Friends or Frenemies?


Social media monitoring is an emerging trend that’s here to stay as the popularity of sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ increases. Business intelligence is past the trend phase – it’s commonplace at companies large and small, who will spend nearly $11 billion on it before the year is over, according to Gartner. These are two powerful segments of the analytics market and the question that’s begging to be asked is: are social media and business intelligence friends or frenemies? Do they have to play along to keep the peace or do they actually go hand-in-hand?

For us at arcplan, social media and BI are two sides of the same coin, two pieces of the puzzle that is your business. For a complete picture of your customers, your brand, and your position in the market to emerge, you need information that’s collected from social sites and from your corporate data sources. After all, your data warehouse isn’t going to tell you that the off-handed Twitter comment you made last week contributed to a drop in sales unless you can associate your sentiment analysis to your sales data.

We’re all striving to “do more” with our data – to roll out ad-hoc reporting to our business users so they can take ownership of analysis, make data easier to access so we can rely on IT less, create high-level dashboards for our executives, build scorecards to manage our KPIs, master every chart type… but we haven’t truly begun to do more with data until we incorporate information from outside traditional BI data sources into our everyday analysis. And be aware, the amount of data we’re talking about can be huge. That’s why some in our industry call this Big Data – but this is a story we will review in another article.

It’s important to understand how you, as an organization, can structure social information and associate it to the other data you have about your customers. All kinds of companies – B2C and B2B – are seeing the need to better understand all dimensions of their customers – not only demographic information and purchase history, but also what they’re saying in the social space.

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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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Social Media Monitoring as Part of Your Business Intelligence


A growing number of enterprises realize that Web 2.0 means communication and customer interaction, which are essential for businesses to survive in this day and age. We’re all participating in the social Web and trying to figure out if it’s worth the effort we’re putting into it. Social media monitoring is essential so companies can learn about the public perception of their products and services, monitor their competition, and more intelligently manage corporate communications. We need to know where, when, and how to respond to our constituents.

However, social media monitoring is not necessarily an option for all organizations. But the bigger a company is, the more important it becomes to develop a strategic approach for social media efforts and to devise performance targets. Many enterprises with a large customer base (like car manufacturers and banks) have been engaged in blogs and social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Xing for years. They know that their activities and those of their stakeholders have an impact on their business, but so many companies are still struggling to know exactly what kind of impact social media efforts are having and how to continuously monitor and measure these actions.

With over 100 million active blogs, more than 65 million tweets per day,* and countless Facebook status updates, keeping track of your organization’s online reputation and customer sentiment can be a real challenge. How can you derive relevant information from all these sources? Which sources are most important for your organization? Which are essentially irrelevant? How can you process all the unstructured information about your company on the Web?

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