Discovering the Hidden Signals through Social Media

As information thunders through the digital economy, it’s easy to miss valuable “weak signals” hidden amidst the noise. Arising primarily from social media, these snippets of information can help companies figure out what customers want and support looming industry to make the first move. In many companies, marketers have been first movers in social media, tapping into this gigantic base of real people for insights on how consumers think and behave. Social media should be used to help companies transforming the old-school intelligence gathering.

Figure 1: How social media is changing the old-school intelligence cycle

 april blog

By identifying the signals, employing efficient Web-focused metrics to visualize social-media data, and channeling this information to people within the organization who need and want it, companies can develop a “social intelligence” and harness the power of social media. So the question is: how exactly should companies tap into the strong yet hidden signals in the social platform?


Involvement at an executive level:


Given the fluid nature of ideas that emerge, it’s often useful to get senior leaders actively involved with the social-media sources that give rise to weak signals. Executives who are attuned to the themes emerging from social media are more likely to identify such insights. Although “social” will not entirely displace current methods of intelligence gathering, it will emerge as a strong complement. Social-intelligence literacy has already become a critical asset for C-level executives and board members seeking the best possible basis for their decisions. One global beverage company is even considering including social-media awareness in its hiring criteria for some managers, to build its network and free its management team from old-school data analysis.


Listening and Mapping

Weak signals are ubiquitous, of course, so deciding when and where to note is critical. Many companies seek to simplify the process and consolidate the ideas found, and services like VideoGenie allow companies to “listen” both selectively and closely with unprecedented ease. Companies are then able to tap on semantic clues of current markets.


Intangible techniques delivers tangible results

Many customers like to make videos or take photos to share their experience of using certain products, and such indirect ways of relating to the company serve as rich grounds for signals. Nordstrom, for instance, took an early interest in the possibilities of Pinterest by displaying popular “Pins” in two of its Seattle-area stores. It began rolling out the test more broadly to capitalize on the site’s appeal to customers as the “world’s largest ‘wish list,’”. However, such mining for signals takes up energy and time. Companies like VideoGenie aggregate posts, photos and videos across various social media types into a single platform that both companies and customers will find useful.


Discovering signals is just the beginning of marketing. Once marketers dive into the social media and extract the “jewel”, they can again capitalize on these platforms to promote their services and products in a viral and powerful manner. It’s time to double down on social.



Source: McKinsey Insights