The fascinating topic of social data is the focus of the third Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing, published today by Econsultancy in partnership with Adobe.

According to our report, only 16% of companies we’ve surveyed say they are ‘harnessing social data effectively’ for their businesses.

Below I’ve summarised some of the key findings and subjects discussed in the report.

What are businesses using social data for?

This new briefing looks at a range of reasons that companies are using social data for, and how they rate their ability to use the data to help with these objectives. Social data can include information from sources such as social listening tools, social media management systems, Facebook’s social graph and on-site ratings and reviews. 

The chart below shows how companies rate their ability at using social data for various objectives including ‘gauging sentiment’, ‘enabling targeted and relevant communication’, ‘improving customer service’, ‘addressing specific complaints’ and ‘informing product and services development’.

It is clear that companies struggle most when using the data available to understand the return on investment from social media activity and also the ROI from other types of marketing. 

How do you rate your ability to use social data for the following?

What challenges do businesses face? 

Our survey of (mainly UK and US) businesses found companies striving to embrace social data are most likely to be held back by organisational structures which aren’t conducive to a joined-up approach to data collection and analysis. Just under half of responding companies (44%) said this was a top-three barrier.

As part of the same problem, a third of companies (34%) said that the separation of social analytics from multichannel analytics and business intelligence was a significant barrier.

The increased availability of data from various marketing platforms and the resulting ‘data overload‘ is a theme familar with those reading Econsultancy reports over the last few months, for example the Online Measurement and Strategy Report produced in association with Lynchpin.

Becoming a social organisation – a four-stage journey

This latest Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing contains a matrix which outlines the four-stage journey a company needs to take when moving from using social simply as a tool (and then as a channel), through to embedding social as a platform within the business on the way to becoming a ‘social organisation’.

The use of social data underpins this model, and plays an important part across the five key pillars which support this model: Leadership and Culture, Measurement, Systems and Processes, Customer Experience and Use of Insight.

Marrying social and CRM data 

One of the challenges companies face is being able to understand social data within the framework of existing customer data. As the chart below shows, social and CRM data are completely separate for the majority or businesses. This means they are missing out on an opportunity to build intelligence and improve their communication and marketing to customers at an individual and collective level.   

Which of the following describes your own or your clients’ approach to social CRM?

While organisations recognise the potential value of joining CRM and social (in a way which data privacy legislation allows), they are most commonly held back by ‘difficulty marrying disparate databases’ (49%), ‘processing social inputs into CRM-ready information’ (47%) and ‘technical issues’ (37%).  

As we explain in the briefing, these are problems worth overcoming because, as well as improving customer engagement, social CRM gives companies the chance to evaluate all types of marketing by following conversions back through the customer experience and examining the points of engagement in the process.