Monday, 16 September 2013

Social media analytics emerges as new area of focus for enterprise vendors


Is analyzing social media a necessity for today’s businesses? To answer this question, let’s consider these facts: If Facebook was a country it would have been the third biggest country in the world. Facebook has over 1.15 billion monthly active users out of which 82 million monthly active users are from India. As of March 2013, Twitter had 200 million active users creating over 400 million tweets each day. Nearly one in five individuals now looks to Facebook to obtain information about a brand or product, as per a Fleishman-Hillard and Harris Interactive Annual Global Study.

Social media, hence, has truly arrived as a huge listening and customer engagement channel for enterprises to better connect with their customers.

Social networking sites offer huge opportunities to organizations to create products and messaging that is more engaging and connect to their customers in a much better fashion. Apart from this, the medium also allows organizations to get unique insights like customer buying behaviour and spending patterns.
“The amount of social interactions and engagement has been steadily increasing in India and each social/digital interaction leads to the creation of data, which has potential to share valuable insights. Consumers are a lot more empowered today — they chat, create, share, comment, post and review. It is sacrosanct to listen closely to their views and preferences,” asserts Sudipta K Sen, Regional Director – South East Asia, CEO & Managing Director - SAS Institute (India).

In fact, a recent McKinsey Global Institute report states that companies that rely on brand recognition can increase margins by as much as 60 percent by using social technologies to connect with customers and to generate sharper consumer insights.

Social interactions have been steadily increasing in India and each interaction leads to the creation of data, which has potential to share valuable insights

Sudipta K Sen, Regional Director – South East Asia, CEO & Managing Director - SAS Institute (India)

However, given the unstructured nature of data generated on social media channels, it is a major challenge for organizations to gauge and measure insights from the huge volume of data generated. Thus, organizations are increasingly contemplating smarter analytic solutions to gain new insights from social media to better understand consumer preferences, market dynamics, brand affinity and to improve customer satisfaction, and make smarter decisions regarding marketing campaigns.

Derek Laney, Director - Product Marketing Management, Marketing Cloud, corroborates the trend, “Today, C-level executives in both B2B and B2C segments are very keen to understand how they should go about setting up social technologies to take advantage of these opportunities and derive business benefits.”

This is where major enterprise vendors such as Oracle, software service firms like Persistent Systems and analytic firms such as SAS are sensing a golden opportunity in developing social media analytics solutions and are meticulously crafting strategies to target this space.

Let’s a take a look at some of the players in the social analytics space and how their offerings are helping organizations.


Salesforce is targeting the space with Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SMC), a unified social marketing suite that enables organizations to identify sales leads, discover advocates, detect trends for any topic or keyword, uncover social influence and analyze content in 17 languages. “55 percent of the Fortune 100 and leading brands including Ford, Hewlett-Packard, and Unilever are turning connections into customers for life with the Marketing Cloud,” says Laney.

Today, C-level executives in both B2B and B2C segments are very keen to understand how they should go about setting up social technologies

Derek Laney, Director - Product Marketing Management, Marketing Cloud,

Hardware major Dell is one of the company’s clients, which is using SMC to gain a better understanding of the marketplace and build long lasting relationships with customers. With SMC, Dell is able to monitor over 25,000 conversations each month in 11 different languages. When Dell sees customers talking about buying a new laptop, or about server requirements, it engages with consumers to find out what they are looking for, sends them coupons, or directs their request to the right people within the organization. By adopting a proactive social strategy, the company has been able to fuel its sales leads. “In its first year of experimentation alone, Dell generated approximately USD 6.5 million sales through social media,” informs Laney.

The company’s another customer is United Spirits, which is using social media to connect with its customers about topics of their interest like sports, fashion and music.

Similarly, Oracle has introduced cloud-based Social Relationship Management (SRM) solutions that enable organizations to transform business processes with innovative social collaboration, marketing and insight services. Oracle’s SRM solutions simplify the deployment of social business applications through cloud delivery, mobile access, and integration with key business applications.

“By integrating the full spectrum of social activities and analysis in a single platform, Oracle SRM eliminates the inconsistency, duplication and delays of ‘social silos’ to enable users to create, measure, and consistently deliver more rewarding customer experiences,” says Sunil Jose, Vice President – Applications, Oracle India. A component of SRM suite, the Oracle Social Engagement & Monitoring Cloud Service provides listening, engagement and analysis capabilities across social channels to help companies understand their customers and act.

Another company betting big on social media analytics is Persistent Systems, which classifies the social analytics space in three broad areas, namely customer segmentation, branding and customer engagement and customer service and voice of customer management. In customer segmentation, social data is used to create accurate customer segmentation, which can then be used to make the right kind of offers and promotions for the segment.

Kartik Vyas, Head Big Data Marketing at Persistent Systems, explains this with an example, “If Micromax is planning to launch a mobile handset model specially targeted at music lovers in the age bracket 22 to 32, publicly available social data, such as Facebook page likes can be used to segment the customers accurately. If a person likes fan pages of musicians, music shows, writes about concerts, etc., it means that the person is more likely to be interested in the handset for music lovers as compared to someone who has most page likes for stuff related to cricket or fashion.”

For branding and customer engagement, the company suggests analysis of responses to advertising and branding campaigns. “Sentiment analysis of responses of customers on the brand fan page, nature of response to contests etc., can be analyzed to fine tune the messaging and improve customer engagement,” says Vyas. In the customer service and voice of customer management space, Persistent suggests text analytics of complaints and customer feedback expressed on social forums and other sites on the web.
Giving insights on how the company derives trends from social data, Vyas says, “We have built several connectors, which connect with social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and crawl public data with regards to a specific organization or entity from these sites. This data, once collected, is analyzed on a Hadoop-based social media analytics platform that we have built. Our platforms can automatically tag and cluster user responses. Once these responses are tagged and clustered, our analysts and data scientists pick out trends and help our customer organizations understand these trends from the data. Organizations can then quickly respond to these trends.”

T20 cricket league is a case in point, where Persistent released a dashboard to figure out the popularity of players and teams based on the analysis of tweet messages that were posted during the tournament. Further, for one of its customers the company has automated its customer relationship management system in such a fashion, that any social media message about the customers’ product would be responded to within 10 minutes of a message posted on that forum.

The analytics firm SAS Institute’s social media strategy surrounds around the fact that the value of social media analytics enhances when organizations are able to integrate the insights derived from social channels with their transactional data, campaign management systems, call centres, etc. “We empower users with superior social media and text analytics along with multi-lingual capabilities, which is the key for a diversely and densely populated nation like India. We also help organizations integrate this data with other data sources, enhance the data and derive meaningful insights from this comprehensive source of data, in easy to understand formats which can be used by business users and decision makers,” informs Sen.

The company enables this via simple and easy-to-use dashboards that can be used across the enterprise. Real-time and approachable analytics makes it possible for marketers to create offers and delightful experiences for customers and prospects based on their needs and via their preferred channel.
On similar lines, iGATE too is launching solutions in the buzzing space with its dedicated Center of Excellence. For example, the company has developed a solution especially targeted at companies in the pharmaceutical space. A lot of drugs often have side effects. It is a regulatory compliance in some companies that all the side effects being talked about in the social space need to be analyzed by the pharmaceutical company. To help companies meet this compliance requirement, iGATE  tracks social conversations about any drug from public medical sites and provides insights into the side effects that have not yet been explored. “We search for unknown side effects about a particular drug and then analyze the same using algorithms and advice the organization about the social conversation,” says Anil Bajpai, Senior Vice President and Head of Research and Innovation, iGATE.

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