Lots of companies and consulting groups are offering social media assessments and new products so companies can listen, react, engage and communicate better with their clients.  So the question I ask myself, is the next suite of tools the next generation i.e we dealt with structured data [sort of], can the next set of tools help comapnies make sense and sort through all this unstructured data available on the social web. Will it allow us make assessments, form opinions and formulate strategies and plans?

It reminded me of my early days when Business Objects, Cognos and other analytical tools were all the rage (maybe they still are so no disrespect meant or intended). What we didn’t know then was what to do with all the analysis that came out of the tools, nor did we know how we were going to make sure we integrated these tools into the organisations business processes [to be really effective]. It always came back to good business, asking the right questions, and understanding what we wanted to know. For executives, it was what we showed/presented to the executive team and were we asking the right questions i.e. did we understand their business properly and were we adding value in what the tool told us. Best practice at the time also dictated that picking one or two key bits of relevant analysis, which conveyed key messages, [trends mostly with structured data]was the best approach. The detail was in the tools so if anybody asked it was quite easy [and impressive] to dive into the detail on the tool.

So what has changed with the new suite of tools?  Time to undertake the analysis, not much ! Most social media assessments take quite a long time i.e. run the query, go have coffee, perhaps lunch and come back a couple of hours later and start reviewing the results.

The last one I did [Social Media Assessment for an organisations executives], it was whilst searching through the various analytical tools and social media channels, it became apparent to me at least what has changed. The ability to run queries on unstructured data and analysing data from sources all over the net,  we can fairly quickly gain a holistic view or understanding of a particular company.  Not only trend data, but what people are saying, feeling (sentiment) who is talking the most about companies etec etc. Much more comprehensive than the previous analytical suite of tools. Again, regurgitating all the outputs [impressive as they are] to an executive team is still not effective. The new breed of analytical tools such as Sysmos, Radient6, Alterian and Row Feeder can give you reams and reams of graphs, pie charts, social chat references, blog references and so on. In fact wads of info. The good things is that this is pure analysis and that the various ‘social media’ analytical tools are able to search and help you make make sense of this largely unstructured data. Being in tool form allows you to slice and dice as appropriate. Really quite an interesting exercise and the tools are improving and rapidly.

So yes they are the next generation analytical tools, but what hasn’t changed, is the process for tools selection, good business sense, understanding your business and its market, and finally, applying what you learn by integrating technology and tools into your business properly. Its no use one part of the organisation actively engaging with your customers using social media whilst the rest don’t.  It remains that tools are not for all, do not suit all and require business due diligence before procurement.