We’re well aware that there is a lot of data behind social (and more widely, digital). This huge volume of conversations and interactions reflecting our every digital twitch is far too much for most to make sense of.

Yet the availability of this data is accompanied with a tendency to measure at the molecular level, a behavior more characteristic of digital than any other channel.

The challenge facing the enterprise is not a simple one – the utility of social data can be both a blessing and a curse. A single post can be just as useful for analytics, PR, customer service or marketing teams.

Furthermore, a single customer may blip on and off the sales radar as their journey exists both online, offline and across many different platforms.

The incredible thing about social data is that all our conversations are in the limelight. Brands can see what we’re talking about and can get involved. The challenge they face is that the window of opportunity to respond or connect is very small while the quantity of conversation may be massive.

Analytics lets brands find the appropriate conversation and get involved before the opportunity fades.

Yet social data is not only useful for ‘in the moment’ conversations. Aggregate social data has also been lauded for its utility in improving product development and innovation, finding active participants for the design phase of a website, and in managing ecommerce product lines through online reviews.

One Econsultancy panel member pointed to Lays’ “Do us a Flavor” campaign as a prime example of how brands can successfully cross product development with marketing and crowd-sourcing.

This utility is, in part, what has caused the political jousting over who ‘owns social’ at the Enterprise. Yet the need to act at the speed of social demands that brands are coordinated to level of Olympic synchronized swimmers. One laggard will quickly ruin the group’s performance.

It’s easy to understand this difference when you compare the quick and personable response you get when engaging with a brand via Twitter to the tediousness and frustration of the old school customer care process. Window dressing is not enough.

So the real questions for organizations isn’t which department owns social (they all do) but who coaches the organization to be the lean, coordinated network that takes full advantage of the opportunity digital data offers.

So what is so important about seeing the sailboat?

Well, to wring the analogy dry, this boat is our new customer. It’s the three year old that thinks a magazine is a broken iPad, the children who’s parents created a social profile for them before they were even born, the ones that are leaving Facebook because their parents use it.

Like all things technological, their habits are changing faster than brands, Facebook, education systems and governments and they’re not only the consumers but they’re the employees of tomorrow too.

So grab your lunch and soda, relax your eyes, and don’t go blind trying to see the sailboat.