Who should own social media data? The answer is everyone

The exclusivity of marketing in managing social activities is a big reason why organizations are not reaping all the benefits of social.

With nearly two out of three large companies around the globe plugged into social media, we can see the revolutionary social impact on the business world. And yet, recent research by Tata Consultancy Services shows that only 10% of enterprises are realizing key improvements to their business as a result of social media investments. So, what are they doing wrong?"

Marcomms pros know social media is a useful avenue, so it was not surprising to see that corporate social channels are often operated by marketing experts within companies. But research suggests the exclusivity of marketing in managing social activities is a big reason why organizations are not reaping all the benefits of social. It's time to spread the wealth.

In North America, only 28% of R&D and 21% of product manufacturing units within large companies regularly view consumer social data. Yet those who are developing products would benefit from hearing the voice of the consumer. Social media conversations between consumers represent a more honest and timely window into their attitudes and loyalties than traditional focus groups. These channels can inform product innovations and business decisions.

I envision a company structure that embraces the value and use of social media across the enterprise. From top to bottom, it encourages social media and creates a social circle in which at least four or more business functions are sharing the same consumer data and collaborating on how best to leverage this data.

As more departments collaborate on social, it is more likely that a company's foresight and reactions to consumer behaviors on social media will be cohesive. That means R&D, product development, legal, and other functions - not just PR and marketing - should pay attention to this rich data. This approach is not solely for playing defense against customer complaints. It ought also to be employed as companies look forward and go on the offense to proactively address customer needs.

Social media data is a goldmine of rich customer insights. The more inventively it is leveraged from an array of perspectives, the greater the chance it will help lead to a competitive advantage. So, who should own social media? No one and everyone.

Dr. Satya Ramaswamy is global head of Tata Consultancy Services' digital enterprise unit.

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