Gathering Social Intelligence

In recent years, social media have become pervasive throughout society. No one can deny that social media have completely changed the context of privacy, shaping and reshaping relationships, exaggerating ideals of sharing, and reconstructing daily routines in order to visit one’s online friends at least once a day. Thanks to social media, people can now share every detail about the most mundane things in life. Updating where you are at any given moment alerts your friends to what you are up to but also allows enterprises to learn how to better market products and promote celebrities.
Responding to the growing influence of social media and, in turn, demonstrating another crucial function of the phenomenon, all types of organizations are finding value in monitoring and digesting the nonstop flow of posts in the social media world. For example, traditional business intelligence (BI) will inform you where your products are selling well and where they are not. But it will not tell you why your product is selling well in one location but not another. By integrating social media with traditional BI tools, you can monitor everything that is being said about your products on various platforms. With such social intelligence, you can gain deeper and more timely insights about customers, learning why a product is not selling. As we all know, information can travel fast on social media sites, as information goes viral when people like, share, and retweet information. By carefully monitoring trends, companies can stay ahead of the competition as new information is starting to trend. Countless successful organizations are actively monitoring social media to gain social intelligence regarding the sentiments of current and future customers.
Social media has not only become an important source of up-to-date information for businesses, but it is also emerging as a valuable resource for police and other first responders. Social media users have demonstrated that information about crises can travel at a rate that rivals 911 services. Indeed, analyzing public information is not unusual in the world of intelligence gathering either. Today, social media have people racing to express who they are and what they think, information that has never been this vast and openly accessible. Using such information, the U.S. government is developing tools to forecast everything from revolutions to upheavals to economic changes. Recently released documents also reveal that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) uses Facebook and other social media profiles to create maps of social connections. From business corporations to government agencies, insights about what is happening, or about to happen, can be gleaned from social media where people are compelled to share what they know or think with just about anyone.
Have you checked your Facebook newsfeed today? Or, more accurately, how many times have you been on Facebook since you woke up this morning? It is astonishing to see what a large part of our lives social media have become. By just keeping an eye on the number of posts your feed gets in an hour, you can easily imagine how analyzing these massive numbers of posts can quickly become a Big Data problem. On the other hand, gaining social intelligence has become a Big Data opportunity for countless organizations.

1. How will organizations know what to look for when using social media for business intelligence?

2. How can government organizations analyze social media activities to predict social upheavals?

3. Given the speed and volume of activity on social media, what business analytics and visualization tools could be used to make sense of the information?

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