What is Social Business Intelligence?

Before I can answer the question of “what is social business intelligence?“, we need to think about some of the ramifications of what I’m talking about at an individual level.

The reality of the digital world is that a majority of our actions and relationships have dual lives.

We create information we can comprehend and consider ourselves full participants in, while we also create information that is completely outside of our normal realm of process. Both of these types of information are archived online… all of these digital footprints overlap from sources we actively know about, the sources we subconsciously consider and disregard, and the hundreds of sources we technically never knew about.

The pervasiveness of this digital archive is fairly shocking. A good portion of our society has willingly and unknowingly abandoned many traditional concepts of personal privacy in favor of having easy access to information and being socially connected.

When you consider the information any person contributes as an individual and scale it to include groups of family, friends, consumers, employees, competitors, and markets the ‘digitally created’ map becomes far more defined than any one person.

To help draw a picture of these different personal, third party, and proprietary pieces of information interacting I’ll give you an example:

Imagine this scenario:

You are a business professional that works ten miles from home.

You own a laptop and are a regular user of a smartphone.

You have accounts on several social sites, but are not ‘active’ on them

What data do you produce?
What information can be located about you ?

Before you even got out of bed, Google Earth has taken a snap shot of your house from orbit.

We can see your car parked outside.

Zillow has told us what your house is worth.
We also know your neighbor’s house has been on the market for two months.

We can see on your Linkedin page that you’ve held your job title for three years.

A comparative check on your residence tells us that you didn’t receive a big enough pay bump to afford a different house. We know from basic lending factors, your job title, and the average of salary of people with your job title at your company that you have an annual household income of $85k.

Before you manage to get to your morning coffee, we already know you prefer to go visit Starbucks as you’ve liked the page on Facebook and tweeted about it several times before.

While you haven’t actually gotten to work yet, we also know your coffee break is at 9:30 because three out of four tweets happen at that time.

You don’t realize it, but your employer knows when you actually get up. The act of taking your smartphone off the night stand each morning causes the mail application to connect with the corporate server and get your morning mail. While no one in IT has looked at it, they can also see that you like to wake up at 3:00 A.M. and check your mail.

By the time you are on the way to work,

The local city officials have identified your vehicle several times as you’ve passed through a dozen traffic cameras and a toll bridge.
You’ve also alerted your bank to where you like to get gas (as the ATM card is always used at the same gas stations.)

When you turned your laptop on at work…

It automatically synced your cookies (the records of what sites you visit) with the cookies on the business server mainframe. While you never really think about what sites you visit, the company wonders about your browsing behavior in regards to risk analysis (HR issues, security, etc.)

Between your Facebook and Google accounts you’ve been noted as ‘liking’ all sorts of things. Some of them were conscious decisions on your part when you hit the ‘like’ button. Thousands of other items were noted by what you did and did not engage with from an advertising perspective (a few thousand people are trying to figure out why you didn’t click that button…)

While you don’t actively post too much information on social networks, your friends and family have gladly made up for your lack of involvement by uploading a few dozen images that have been digitally processed with facial recognition software. A few of those photos were taken with smartphones and your family was nice enough to include GPS tagging on where and when it was taken.

When you visited your friend for lunch you paid for your parking meter with your debit card. That told your bank and the city where you were. The police already knew you were there thirty minutes into your lunch because the license camera in the parking enforcement car pulled your file for that unpaid ticket last month.

Getting back to Google, they already knew where you were going eat because you did a search for “Mexican Restaurant” and clicked through a Groupon advertisement that was being bought on a shared ad network when you visited the website for your favorite online magazine.

Individual and Direct Group Data

An analysis of the common day would result in anywhere from a half dozen to hundreds of data points for any one person. Some individuals can easily reach into the thousands.

As individuals assemble into groups that consists of personal communities, business work forces, and consumer populations the amount of data quickly escalates into hundreds of thousands of interaction points.

Secondary Data

Multiple sources of secondary data exist depending on who you are, what you do, and when you did it. These secondary data sources can include everything from ATM and security cameras taking your photo to mobile phone applications reporting on your usage and location data.

Third Party Social

While you may not check-in or ‘like’ things, your family and friends will help identify you by default: ranging from tagging photos of you, adding comments about your name online, and adding location data about where you are.

Proprietary Data

While some of the data above is typically private data owned by some organization, the amount of information they collect quickly becomes an actionable resource that can be matched up to other publicly available data.

This is effectively where the ‘aha’ moment occurs and businesses, governments, and private entities discover the missing ingredient that makes their proprietary data something entirely different.

Basic Isolated Examples:

Gift Cards: as soon as you use the gift card, the organization already knows that the giver and the recipient are linked. The dollar amount indicates the value of the relationship. Commonly overlooked data includes how far the gift card has traveled, how long it was unused for, and what the card was used to purchase.

Photo Usage: when you take a photo there are electronic markets attached to the file that detail the type of camera you used, when you took it, and potentially where you took it (for GPS enabled cameras and smartphones.) This data can be visually sorted with additional automatic information (facial and image recognition) and be appended to socially curated content (tags, friends, associated interests).

Electronic Information Storage: the simple act of using a web storage service like Dropbox identifies you are a data curator and/or creator. The types of data you store and access, when you access it, and from where you access it opens up a variety of scenarios where a business can target a primary or secondary need.

Trillions of records….

Data Data Everywhere

There are several core elements to keep in mind when trying to define useful types of social business intelligence:

Data by itself is lonely; it likes other data

All three of the above isolated examples have multiple types of data that could be paired to the isolated data to draw a better detailed map of the behavior taking place. Data becomes more attractive as a business asset when it associates with other types of data.

Everyone has some secrete sauce

The typical business has amassed all sorts of data in the form of customer records, shipping metrics, performance reports, and a variety of other data. A majority of businesses also have the ability to track, record, and analyze additional types of data that they currently disregard/destroy as an organization.

The process of consuming social data creates more social data

In January 152 million unique people visited YouTube to watch videos (*traffic report via Comscore.) Facebook had 970 million unique visitors (*traffic report via Google.)

If only 1/10 of a percent interacted with the content in the form of a comment, an additional million pieces of content was created. However each unique visitor created a social data stream of metrics in the form of browsing patterns, click rates, interest identification, and personal information. This means that 1000+ pieces of meaningful data are created by every single visitor on a site like YouTube or Facebook (a trillion pieces of social data created in January!)

The act of living creates social data

The example above includes a list of occurrences where someone creates social data that is recorded from shopping and personal behaviors. While the example only includes a handful of items, any individual or group could have hundreds of different social data points being recorded about them.

Your lump of coal is another’s diamond

Facebook and YouTube make enormous business decisions on the trillion pieces of data that most of us disregard. This data is collected, analyzed, and processed into understandable pieces of information that they can sell as a commodity. For Facebook and YouTube this is typically in the form of different advertising options.

Why do these trillion pieces of data matter to me?

There are two basic reasons this type of data matters in business.

#1 – your consumers, employees, vendors, and competitors are continually producing this type of discarded data when they use services like Facebook, YouTube, Linkedin, Twitter, and Google. These same audiences both knowingly and unknowingly share information that is critical to your business.

#2 – your consumers, employees, vendors, and competitors are also continually producing this type of data using your own marketplace processes but you are failing to track and record the data. Failing to know what data could be a ‘secret sauce ingredient’ causes your organization to continually throw out prized diamonds with the lumps of coal that is consistently being churned through.

So ‘what is social business intelligence?’

Social business intelligence is simply the applied process of strategically collecting, archiving, analyzing, and acting on all this data.

It is not limited to popular social sites like Facebook and Twitter, nor is it limited to being strictly online or only including information that you contribute.

Social business intelligence takes this data and applies it as a tool for increasing opportunity and decreasing risk.