Companies can and should go far beyond simply monitoring social media, Forrester Research analyst Zach Hofer-Shall wrote in a recent report.
One step to take is to push social media data into marketing dashboards, he wrote. "For example, one consumer bank created a 'brand health index' that is a combination of the volume and sentiment of online conversation, integrated with its website survey scores and responses to phone surveys."
Beyond that, companies should try to tie social data to actual customer records, allowing markets to target specific individuals based on discussions they're having on social sites, Hofer-Shall wrote. "This approach comes with privacy concerns and limitations around data matching but has proven effective for some large consumer brands."
Companies such as Fliptop offer services that are supposed to make this process easier, Hofer-Shall added.
But it's important to recognize that social analytics are in their early days, according to Susan Etlinger, an industry analyst with Altimeter Group, which has provided advice to NetBase and several of its competitors.
"This is such a nascent space," she said in an interview. "It's nascent and it's also all over the map. It's comprised of a bunch of a different kinds of companies that are being lumped together."
Radian6, with its social media dashboards, has served as a general archetype, Etlinger added. But companies like NetBase and Crimson Hexagon have superior text-analytics capabilities, she said.
NetBase also has a larger archive of social data, giving it an edge over rivals, she said.
As for the SAP-NetBase partnership, "there's a lot of proof-of-concept that needs to be done," Etlinger said. "With Radian6 and Salesforce.com, their structures are not that different. With SAP and NetBase it is a very different kind of tool. It's not only about marketing, it's about product development, supply chain planning, essentially any place in the organization where social media could provide some perspective."
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