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The Ultimate Guide to Social Media Intelligence

Ranjani Raghupathi

Ranjani Raghupathi
Global Marketing at Unmetric

Eyes are the windows to the soul, but social networks are the eyes to a purchaser’s decision making process. Well, they can be. Enough has been said about how the relationship between a brand and customer has changed – developing into a conversation where the customer now has more control than ever before. Nowadays instead of taking your brand to the masses, the tactical nature of digital marketing allows a personal relationship to build between a brand and a customer, the goal is no longer just a purchase – every brand can now use social media to promote brand loyalty and best of all, fan amplification of brand messaging.

There are two ways that social media has changed the way brands do business – indirectly, through insights on smart data compiled from analytics, and directly – which is a direct purchase button, now increasingly available through social networks themselves.

What is Social Media Intelligence?

From the Merriam-Webster dictionary, intelligence is defined as: The ability to learn or understand things or to deal with new or difficult situations.

With this definition, we can say that simply looking at or reporting on data derived from social media is not true intelligence. It only becomes intelligence when there is something learned from the data or something is understood about a particular strategy being employed.

You might look at a chart of fan growth, one of the most basic metrics that social media analysts might look at, and see that there was a spike in growth. This is a very descriptive way of looking at something. To add intelligence to this data, one would need to understand why the fan growth suddenly spiked upwards.


The Unmetric platform overlays additional information on to charts like Fan Growth so that the user has easy access to social media intelligence that has automatically been picked up by Unmetric’s algorithms

Difference Between Social Media Intelligence and Social Media Monitoring

There is a vast amount of data being generated by social networks every single day. Many companies quite rightly monitor the data for information that impacts them, for example the number of mentions or the sentiment towards their brand. Social media monitoring is absolutely essential for brands, big and small, to know what’s being said about them.


By itself, social media monitoring is not intelligence, according to the definition above. If a brand receives 8,000 mentions with a positive sentiment throughout the week, it’s a great data point to report on, but it doesn’t delve deeper into the why. Further more, without a deeper analysis of the data, pulling in data points from multiple sources, there’s no learning that’s taking place.

Difference Between Reporting and Intelligence

Social media reporting is simply presenting what has happened, but social media intelligence is there to ask why. To go back to our earlier example, a chart that shows the spike in fan growth is often a symptom of something else at play. When reporting on social media data, always be thinking of the ‘so what?’ when it comes to what you see.

Diving deeper, you might find that the increase in fan growth corresponds to a particularly engaging post that was publishing. Now we’re gathering some intelligence. Take it to the next step, why was that post particularly engaging? Was it an image or a video that was widely shared? Was the content about the brand specifically? Was it promotional in nature or a holiday greeting? A lot of content on social media today is promoted as brands look to reach a wider audience, so you need to look at whether the content was promoted.

Reporting on social media data is a fairly easy task so if you want to start adding value to your report by adding a layer of intelligence, you need to start thinking about the why.


The average response time for a brand might be an important metric to track, but diving deeper into the numbers and overlaying additional data might reveal opportunities such as for this beer brand which gets most @-mentions in the evening and makes an effort to reply to tweets quicker after 3pm

What Can Social Media Intelligence Do For My Brand?

Incorporating social media intelligence into every aspect of your business can have far reaching consequences.

  • HR can use it to understand attitudes towards the brand that might affect hiring policies
  • R&D can use it to help guide what features your product needs to have in the future
  • Customer service can use it to identify times when demand for support is highest or understand the type of support people want most
  • Marketing can use it to understand how much impact their messaging is having on their audience and benchmark that against their competitors
  • Sales can use it to understand what common problems potential buyers have and talk about how the product addresses that particular problem

The important thing for brands is to disseminate the information captured from social media monitoring and social media analytics tools to all departments.

How is Social Media Intelligence Gathered?

To begin with, data is required. This data is collected from social network sites via a feed known as an Application Protocol Interface (called an API for short). By itself, this data doesn’t represent social media intelligence – although it has the potential to do so.

By parsing the data and overlaying other data points, metrics emerge which can be used for intelligence. For example, combining all the brands from the same industry together to establish benchmarks can be used for intelligence. Unmetric adds data analysts to the mix who manually tag all the content on Facebook and Twitter to identify campaigns and content categories. These data points are overlaid with engagement metrics to understand what campaigns perform well and the type of content that engages best with audiences.

Social media produces so much data that it would be very difficult to analyze it without algorithms to sort and group data and present it in a way that humans can spot trends and outliers.

Facebook Social Intelligence

Each social network has their own metrics that reflects social media success, and each social network may have a different role to play in your marketing strategy. Facebook is the perfect place for a brand to build and maintain brand loyalty and increase the reach of your brand and messaging. Facebook is still the most popular social network, and is often the starter kit for a brand’s social media presence – for good reason. With 1.44 billion monthly active users, naysayers of Facebook’s relevance and importance are quickly quietened with the obvious mass appeal of the ‘original’ modern social network.

With an audience this large, brands need to capitalize on the kind of insights never before possible. Sure, the number of likes is great, but you don’t want the brand’s messaging to belong to a very clever digital marketing agency. The relationship to work on is between a brand and its audience, with your digital marketing playing the part of the therapist. Yes, you need to listen and communicate better with your fans, but you don’t want them to fall in love with the therapist, and forget about your brand. Data answers the basic questions of likes, shares, even impressions – those are the vanity metrics – what you need is intelligence.

This can come in multiple ways. From a purely social media perspective, you can keep an eye on these aforementioned vanity metrics to ensure that your fans are engaging with your content. The higher the engagement, the higher chance of brand recall and brand loyalty. Even if they don’t buy your product today, chances are that when an engaged and loyal fan comes to the point of purchase, it helps to if you’re already in their heads. To bolster this engagement, you should be looking at engagement metrics, at the post level, the campaign level as well as the industry level to find out what kind of content and campaign resonate best with your audience.

From the perspective of your business objectives, social media intelligence can be interpreted in so many ways. Promote offers, announce product launches or brand news, receive feedback, or even ask fans to help you choose a brand ambassador. Getting customer insights have never been easier, and if you’re not analyzing your social media analytics to learn more about your customers, you’re wasting a precious (and easily accessible) resource.

Twitter Social Intelligence

Customer service has found its natural second home on Twitter. While also used for the amplification of content, one of the most important ways that Twitter has changed the way we do business by being the easiest, and often the most effective method of immediate customer feedback. This has evolved to the point that major brands now devote a separate Twitter handle just for customer service, manned not by the marketing team but the CRM team of the company. Your ART metrics can influence decisions on budget and staffing, to best serve the requirements of your customers because at the end of the day the easier you make it for customers to reach you, the happier they’ll be with your service.

American Airlines is recognized as being one of the most improved airlines when it comes to customer service, and this is reflected in their Twitter response times. American Airlines responds to more tweets than any other airline and often much faster too.


Analyzing Twitter data is like having a finger on the pulse of your audience, as well as the larger conversation surrounding your brand. Looking at the number of Retweets is great, but understanding the reason behind a spike in mentions is the kind of actionable insight you need. Often the first sign of a brand related crisis, social media listening can keep you forewarned about any brand related conversations while social media analytics will keep you abreast of how your brand’s social media performance stacks up against your competitors.

Metrics like Share of Voice can identify your brand’s ownership of key industry conversations – For instance, in the airline industry, understanding who has the highest share of voice for terms like ‘miles’, ‘rewards’ or ‘points’ can indicate necessary strategy changes to ensure that your brand is at the top of your customer’s or potential customer’s mind when the time comes for the purchase decision.

Instagram / Pinterest Social Intelligence

As digital marketing makes its way away from text based content to more visual – photos and videos, photo-sharing social networks like Instagram and Pinterest are quickly gaining importance for consumers and brands alike. While Instagram is still figuring out its strategy to monetize their platform, Pinterest has already rolled out brand-friendly features like Promoted Pins, as well as audience-friendly features like the Buy button.

On Instagram, data from hashtag analysis can help identify current trends in consumer patterns and even A/B test marketing strategies. If a fitness brand’s #MondayMotivation posts engage better than their #VeganRecipes, with data, they can make informed changes to their content strategy. And on a deeper level, if the data finds that #summer posts do better than #fitness posts for the same brand, this intelligence can also inform larger business-wide decisions as well.

On Pinterest, the analytics can, in a very tangible way, identify consumers as well as potential consumers at every stage of their purchase journey. Tools that let you identify influencers can help take any brand’s business to the next level by identifying key partnership opportunities and ways to reach a wider section of your potential audience.

YouTube Social Intelligence

Over 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. With over a billion users and a myriad of advertising options, it is the ideal visual medium. YouTube provides its own dashboard to show you the performance of your own videos, however, when it comes to performance of competitor’s videos, brands tend to fly blind.

Identifying content as and when it gains traction could be pivotal in creating competitive content. Unmetric’s YouTube intelligence has the ability to detect virality even before a video goes viral. Our data scientists take into account the growth rate of the video and compare it with the norm to see if something beyond the ordinary is happening.

Another key metric to keep in mind is video duration. Though it differs based on content, there is an ideal length after which viewers tend to lose attention and it differs according to industry. For example, we’ve found that in the hospitality industry long form videos that are tours of the property perform well whereas in the travel and tourism industry shorter videos that capture just the essence of a location perform better.

Though garnering many views on a video is an important campaign goal, it is just as important to grow a brand’s subscribe base. Growth rates can be very promising while actual new subscribers added might be lower. Remember to compare the two numbers while also benchmarking to find the average in your industry.

Robust YouTube intelligence can help improve your channel performance while also keeping an eye on how competitors are doing.

Job Opportunities in Social Media Intelligence


Uncovering intelligence from social media data has become a valuable skill and is something that larger businesses now recognize as something that is needed. As companies build out their social media teams, one role they are looking to fulfil is that of the social media intelligence executive, a person who will not just take the data at face value but delve in to it, ask what the data means and what the company can learn from it.


One just has to do a search on LinkedIn for all the people with ‘social media intelligence’ in their job title or work description to understand how important this role is becoming. Some companies are even looking out for senior roles like this one for Head of Social Media Intelligence.

How to Evaluate Social Media Intelligence Tools

Without a doubt, social media is a crowded space when it comes to tools to analyze social media data. There are tools for social media listening (which might also call themselves social media monitoring), there are tools for social media analytics (which might also be social media monitoring tools) and tools for social media benchmarking. One thing they have in common is that they all claim to offer social media intelligence, so how do you make a decision on what to use?

The first step is to know what exactly are you looking for social media intelligence on?

  • Research & Development
  • Product Problems
  • Learning Successful Social Strategies
  • Understanding How Your Marketing is Performing

A social media listening tool can help with the first two items in the list. Listening tools monitor social network sites as well as blogs, forums and media sites and are looking out for particular keywords which you enter in to the app. It parses the data to help give you an overview of how much buzz your brand is generating, groups keywords together to help you understand what the gist of the conversation is and lets you know how the marketing views your product or brand.

A social media analytics platform like Unmetric is used to gather intelligence on how you can create better social media marketing strategies by analyzing your own efforts and that of your competitors. Benchmarking abilities and campaign intelligence add to the levels of insights that can be drawn out of the data pulled from the various social networks.

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