Every company should strive to be driven by data. That’s not a controversial statement. As organizations and technologies have become more sophisticated, we’ve been able to tap into the kinds of insights that wouldn’t have even been imaginable 15 years ago. Those insights drive real business value, whether you’re proactively increasing customer retention, engagement or satisfaction, or creating new products or services that solve problems your customers didn’t even know they had.

When I think about data, I inevitably think about social media. That might be because I spend my days working with our clients’ executives to capture the voice of their customer, but I think it’s because social media intelligence is the next data frontier.

Think about it: 4.62 billion people are on social. That’s over half of the world. Which means over half of the world is Tweeting, TikToking or livestreaming about the things that bother them, the things they love and everything in between. That data—if you can harness it—can give you actionable insights to drive your business forward.

What is social media intelligence?

Across the social media landscape, there are probably trillions of data points that are essential parts of cumulative business intelligence. Data points that could impact your pricing, sales strategy, product development and, of course, marketing.

But those unstructured data points mean nothing in their raw, hashtagged format. Social media intelligence is the result of pulling these disparate points together into something measurable, whether you’re looking at volume, sentiment, content or demographics. One Tweet might not mean a lot, but the aggregation of every post on a topic that’s relevant to your business can be magical.

This vantage point is especially critical in the current economic landscape. In times like these, businesses either fall far behind or get way ahead. Social media intelligence gives you a macro perspective when you desperately need one—one that can have a major positive impact on your quarter or fiscal year. Incorporating social media intelligence will give you the edge you need to generate revenue, discover potential cost savings and reduce your risk.

There’s a good chance your competitors are already using this data to their advantage. According to The 2023 State of Social Media Report, 85% of business leaders say that social data consistently informs or often informs their company’s business strategy. Over the next three years, 30% of business leaders expect that amount to increase significantly. .

Why is social media intelligence different?

You probably collect survey data from your customers, monitor product reviews and conduct focus groups. All of that data is extremely valuable. But when you put it alongside social media intelligence, you get a clearer picture of what your audience is clamoring for. Simply put, social data is different because it comes from a wider audience, it’s unfiltered and it gives you real-time understanding of your market.

Cast a wider net

When you put out a survey, you’re getting input from your current customers. This helps you understand what you’re doing well and what you could improve on with your base. But social media intelligence captures the sentiment from anyone buying within your product category, opening the door to new audiences. You can see why consumers choose your competitor over you—a competitive intelligence play that might take months to accomplish without the power of social. You can see what’s missing from the marketplace. That kind of intel has a ripple effect across your business and you might not ever uncover it without social media data.

Leadtail, a B2B-focused social media agency, started casting that net pre-pandemic with a video-conferencing client who was being outperformed leaps and bounds by their primary competitor: Zoom. By using social media intelligence, Leadtail was able to help their client uncover Zoom’s strategy of leveraging existing partnerships to drive conversations on social and beyond. With this competitive intelligence in tow, Leadtail and their client started brainstorming strategies to forge their own partnerships to drive brand reach and community engagement.


Social media, for better or worse, is where people go to express their unfiltered thoughts. Your customers might hold back on a survey that’s going directly to you, but on social media, they’re posting their thoughts as they come. Without a social data program, you might notice a few posts that go viral and address those individual concerns, but once you organize that data, you can find the commonalities and adjust your strategies accordingly.

This information isn’t only useful for customer satisfaction. Whether you’re interested in employee sentiment or investor relations, your constituents are still people with social media accounts. I know of one company that tracks both employee and investor sentiment directly after earnings calls to get an unfiltered view on how their results and commentary are being received. They can use that intelligence to shape future internal and external communications, with messaging tailored for each group.

React in real time

If there was a problem with your product, you’d want to know immediately. Social already holds that information for you. When you establish a trendline of social sentiment, if there are any sudden deviations from that line, you can investigate quickly. Consumers post to social as soon as they have a problem, giving you a real-time window into how your product is being received. By implementing social media intelligence practices, you can keep an eye on problems faster than you could by monitoring your internal customer care.

For example, one of our agency customers discovered the value of social data after their client’s moisturizer sales started dropping and they couldn’t figure out why. By setting up a social listening query, they had their answer within minutes instead of months. While customers still loved the product, they hated the packaging. The social team was able to pass the feedback on to R&D so they could redesign their packaging based on real customer insights.

Making social media intelligence actionable

We’ve established that social media intelligence has a direct impact on your bottom line. So how do you create a social data program that works for you? There are some simple steps you can take to make social media intelligence a reality for your organization.

Empower your social media team

Social data should be owned by the people with their hands on the keyboard every day. Period. Your social media team already understands the landscape and probably already have a few insights from their day-to-day work. The next step is giving them the tools they need to surface that information to the rest of your organization. Keep them informed on the metrics and goals of the business in the next quarter, year or even five years. Make sure your social media team knows what matters to the business so they can mine and present insights to your leadership that will fuel your strategy.

Create a data dashboard

Social media intelligence is most powerful when it’s paired with other data sources. Placing the insights you glean from social with your CSAT or NPS survey results, reviews, customer support tickets and other data sources gives you a clearer view of the total landscape. All of your business data is valuable and it can’t live in a silo. When you give social media intelligence the same weight as data from your CRM or ERP, you see everything more clearly.

As we move through this turbulent economic time, listening tools can be especially helpful to make game-time decisions. For example, retailers who need to make difficult decisions about their inventory can use social media intelligence to decide what to discount and what might be useful to keep on hand. Having all of that information in one place can help you make the tough calls.

Be proactive, not reactive

I mentioned the real-time nature of social as a benefit earlier, but it’s a double-edged sword. You don’t want to fall into the trap of using social data solely as a crisis management tool. You’ll get your best results from your social data program by making sure it’s ongoing. It’s easy to let one viral Tweet drive the direction of your strategy, but you have to think of posts as data points. That one point may be an outlier. Having a robust, always-on social data program is the best way to make sure your leadership is seeing the whole picture and not just one loud voice.

See your data differently

The sheer amount of data that social can provide can be intimidating. But if you approach it intentionally, the impact it can have is unmatched. Implementing a social media intelligence program is one of the best things you can do for your business.

Want to know more? Check out some examples of how other brands use social media intelligence to create tangible change.