[UPDATED] What is social media intelligence?

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What’s social media intelligence?

Let’s start with the definition of social media intelligence.

With over 4.5 billion social media users around the world there are huge volumes of social media data produced and requested by companies across the world daily. Many of those companies monitor that data for information that makes a difference for them, like the amount of times their brand is mentioned or what the overall attitude is toward their brand. Keeping an eye on those metrics is important - but that’s monitoring, not intelligence. We're not just talking about a list of social media posts here, it's about what that data tells you.

Social media intelligence can help dig out data on your social media activity like the number of mentions you get, the engagement or potential reach.

Example of mentions, engagement and reach figures. Source: Talkwalker, Share of voice

Pulling data and doing some quick analysis as to why things are happening, is definitely not social intelligence. Using data to critically analyze why, is social intelligence. It’s way more than just pulling the numbers and taking note: social media intelligence exists to ask why.

Social media intelligence consists of the decisions and actions that come after your initial social media reporting. It allows you to act on your insights and work toward becoming a social data driven business based on the conclusions derived from your social media reporting.

While reporting and monitoring your social media stats is important, the next step is even more crucial. Looking toward tomorrow and deciding what choices you can make (based on your social media data) that can help benefit your business in the future. Social media intelligence helps you create a central intelligence zone that can reach its tentacles into every department of your company to help them make better and more beneficial decisions. Here are a few examples of different use cases:

  • Marketing: In its most common use, social intelligence can help track the performance of campaigns, figure out which type of content works best, detect existing influencers and ambassadors of your brand that you may not know of, track hashtags relevant to you, prevent potential PR crises, and more. Social intelligence allows you to tap into billions of online consumer conversations across social, blogs, forums, and news sites in order to monitor your brand mentions. Not only using text but also in image, video, and speech recognition.. Most platforms will also allow you to perform sentiment analysis around your brand. That means you get access to a new generation of consumer insights, where you access people’s emotions and feelings. What’s a better way to know if your marketing strategy is working or not?
  • R&D: The amount of time and resource put into human-led research can be colossal. Whether you are using surveys or focus groups, research initiatives are always costly, lengthy, and become outdated after a short period of time. Social intelligence helps follow the evolution of topics, separating fads from trends to find new market opportunities. It allows you to get the full picture and make informed business decisions based on real-time insights instead of data which can become out of date.
  • Sales: Social media intelligence makes it easier to find potential business opportunities. Specific boolean searches allow you to look for groups of consumers who are discussing the type of services or products you offer. Social intelligence also boosts your lead generation efforts by helping look for communities who are discussing your competitors or asking for recommendations. They represent a great pool of prospects as you already know they have a need you can fill.
  • Customer experience: Customer retention is vital to companies. Businesses can get closer to their customers with social intelligence by listening to online conversations. It allows you to set up alerts on certain topics to detect anomalies and complaints before they turn into a crisis. It’s also a good way to identify trending discussions to engage with, giving a voice to your brand and creating that closeness without having to rely on clients ‘@ mentioning’ you, and ending up missing a question or query.

The use cases for social media intelligence are almost endless, but these are some of the most common. There are many ways in which social intelligence can benefit your entire company.

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How do you gather social media intelligence?

Now that you understand what social media intelligence is, I know that you’d like to reap the benefits for your company. Which, leads us to the next question, how do you gather social media intelligence?

Reporting on your social media data is relatively easy, especially with a consumer intelligence platform like Talkwalker. But social media intelligence is taking it a step further. Adding value to your report by adding layers of intelligence begins with thinking and asking “why.”

To begin with, you need data collected by Web Crawlers and Application Protocol Interface tools (API, for short). As you already know, this is not on its own intelligence. By taking data that you’ve captured and overlaying it with other data points, you can merge metrics and use this comparison for data. If that sounds like a swirling tornado of social media jargon, I’ll lay it out step-by-step so you can understand how to begin gathering social media intelligence for your brand.

Phase One: Listen

  • This stage is about collecting your data and organizing it in a standardized, easy-to-digest way to ensure that its manageable. At this stage, it's likely that you're beginning to understand the potential of gathering social media intelligence, but you've not figured out how to track the sentiment and conversations surrounding your brand.

Example of Sentiment analysis on Talkwalker showing how social media intelligence can detect a positive or negative sentiment around product features or a brand: here the iPhone.

Example of sentiment and share of conversations for iPhone features. Source: Talkwalker, Quick Search

  • This is where you initiate brand awareness, such as figuring out how to track online mentions of your brand, industry keywords, and competitor analysis. The best way to do this is to figure out which dashboard you should use that can give you a broad overview of your online presence. Simple dashboards will highlight key metrics and familiarize you with social media key performance indicators and help you get more comfortable working with listening platforms.

With social media intelligence you can find the number of results over time for a brand on Talkwalker.

Example of the amount of mentions for the keyword "veganuary" on social media over time. Source: Talkwalker, Quick Search

Phase Two: Start analyzing

  • When you have a stronger understanding of what sort of data you should be collecting and how it can be analyzed, you’re ready for the second phase where you’ll use the collected data for a variety of functions. This stage requires a firm-grasp on social media awareness and analytics, with employees understanding social media analytics.
  • In this phase, you will learn how to use social data to track the performance of your campaigns online and across all your social channels. Additionally, you can establish your KPIs to act as benchmarks for previous and future campaigns.
  • Here, you can begin tracking keywords that represent reputational risks and set up intelligent alerts to make sure that you’re a few steps ahead of potential crises. Additionally, you can analyze topics that are trending or use filtering to critically examine specific discussions about your products and your market.
  • To get ready for the third stage, you can begin using more advanced filters, tools, and operators to improve your insight accuracy.

Phase Three: Advanced social media analytics

  • This is one of the most exciting stages in the social media intelligence gathering process – combining the systems you’ve set in place with analysis to find correlations between data sets, insights, and using those to make important decisions.
  • Here, your social media intelligence grows immensely. Instead of using it in a straightforward data manner where it’s isolated, you combine it with other data to do a multitude of things that can benefit your business. Think about the possibilities: you could predict inventory, determine customers’ opinions and tastes based on location, track valuable information, and determine clusters of customers’ conversations about your brand.
  • This level of data usage will require you to be an expert and perhaps form an analysis group so you can get the most out of your intelligence plans and turn that data into insights.

Example of a Conversation Clusters on Talkwalker showing how social media intelligence can help you identify customers’ conversations about your brand.

Example of conversation clusters. Source: Talkwalker, Conversation clusters

Phase Four: Incorporation

  • Now you combine all the skills you’ve learned and create a team to analyze and ensure the insights from your data is spread to the relevant departments and  put into action.
  • Consider creating a specific team and delegating ownership of that team to the Chief Data Officer – someone who can oversee how well your company is harnessing their social media intelligence.

Our Influencer Network gives you an instant view on communities for any topic. You can easily share it with your team.

Example of an Influencer Network on Talkwalker showing how social media intelligence can detect networks of influence amongst users

Example of an influencer network. Source: Talkwalker, Influencer Network

It’s important to note that each social media platform will have its own specifics for gathering and getting the most out of social media intelligence.

Social media intelligence vs reporting: the difference between intelligence and social listening & monitoring

I’ve talked about how social media intelligence differs from social media reporting, but let’s dive a little deeper into it by looking at social listening and social monitoring.

When you’re working with social listening, you are primarily focused on identifying online conversations – keeping your ears open to the online world -  what’s being said about you, your brand, your market, etc.

The metrics seen here are Results, Engagement, Unique authors, Unique sites and Results over time.

Social media reporting KPIs include number of results, engagement, unique authors… Source: Talkwalker

Social listening is a component of social media intelligence, however, when isolated, it does not adequately give you the tools you need to separate, categorize or understand data.

Social media monitoring is what we consider the first step in your social listening plan. This is where you survey and gather your information, like your social mentions, actions, the sentiment, share of voice, retweets, etc. The monitoring phase of your social listening is how it sounds – you’re observing and checking online conversations you’re having, trending topics, and how your brand and company are perceived online.

Talkwalker uses social media intelligence to measure your brand's and your competitors' share of voice.

Example of Share of voice graph. Source: Talkwalker, Share of voice

Monitoring is a facet of social media listening, which, in turn, is a facet of social media intelligence. All these pieces work together to build the greater picture of social media intelligence.

In simpler terms? Social media monitoring, which is a part of social media listening, is the way you identify, build, and create your social media data. By keeping eyes and ears open to the online world. Social media intelligence is taking that data and using it to extract meaning and make real, tangible changes in the way you do business and the way you make decisions.

What’s a good social media intelligence tool?

As we’ve explained before, every social platform is different, but for most, you can track media from the countless social media platforms that exist. Many of the most popular and dedicated social media analytical tools can crawl different sites to harvest information, especially the most well-known platforms and other news sites, review sites, and blogs.

What you can track depends on the measuring tools you’re using. Many of the social platforms that exist have built-in analytical tools. Analytics can vary between the social networks, so it’s ideal to choose a social media tracking tool that can work with all your platforms simultaneously to harvest valuable and efficient results.

Here are a few examples of popular platforms and just a few of the metrics they can provide:


  • Best Posts: Time of day, during the week, & popular content
  • Likes: Where they happened, Total Likes
  • Page Views: Popular Pages, Where Traffic is coming from
  • Posts & Their Reach
  • Fan Demographic


  • Top tweets, top mentions, top follower, impressions, mentions, new followers, etc.
  • Followers: people following account
  • Impressions: how many times tweets are seen
  • Engagements: interactions
  • Visualize the online spread of a tweet (Virality Map)

Example of an Virality Map on Talkwalker showing how social media intelligence allows you to see how a social post is relayed and shared through time

Example of virality map. Source: Talkwalker, Virality map


  • Updates: Number of Clicks, Comments, & Shares
  • Reach: Organically vs. Paid Promotion
  • Engagement
  • Followers: Demographics, Type & Trends
  • Visitors: Unique, Page Views, & Demographics.


  • Number of comments
  • Likes
  • Shares
  • Video Views
  • At account level, we collect the number of followers and likes

Check our Social Media Analytics guide to learn more about which networks can be monitored and how to track their metrics, such as Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, and more.

How do you choose your social media intelligence tool?

It’s clear that social media analysis and intelligence are important, so it makes sense that choosing a platform to manage and control your intelligence is vital.
To choose a software or tool that makes sense for you, consider the following factors:


Ask yourself how you’ll use the analytics: for social performance? Monitoring public relations? To drive a conversation about your products? Figuring out what you plan to do with your social media intelligence will help direct you toward the best tool for your needs.


Once you’ve figured out the purpose of the intelligence tool you’re looking for, you sihould start narrowing down which features are important to help you accomplish those goals. Do you need search functions? Should your tool be able to create reports quickly? Should it cover multi-platforms and be customizable?


Cost is important to consider. While you might want the tool with the most bells and whistles, you must make sure you’re staying within not only your company’s budget, but also in the realm of what’s reasonable for the goals you want to accomplish. Typically, a lower price means fewer features, which is why it’s important to assess which features are must-haves, before you look at price.


How broadly do you plan to use these social media tools? Will it be specific to one department? Company-wide? How much do you plan to monitor? Will you be creating a team specifically dedicated to this initiative? Answering these questions first will help you establish how sophisticated a platform you’ll need.

Read this guide’s section for more insight on how to choose your Social Media Intelligence Tool and how they can benefit you.

Brands that use social media intelligence

Hopefully by now I have managed to convince you that social intelligence is key to deriving actual real-time insights from the available social media data. But if you need one final push, maybe looking at some real-life examples will help you go over the line. Social intelligence is not new and some big global enterprises have hopped on the train a while ago and are showing positive results from their efforts.

  • Unicredit - Listen: The pan-European bank used social intelligence to boost its digital channels and optimized its branch network thanks to Reputation monitoring and crisis management to monitor brand-related conversations, competitive intelligence to listen to industry conversations and  communication strategy to understand the social impact of marketing and communication initiatives.
    UniCredit leverages insights to remain consumer close
  • Bayes Business School - Incorporate: The City, University of London's school used Talkwalker social intelligence insights to inform news updates and correct misinformation around the renaming project of their business building.
    How social media engagement helped Bayes navigate a sensitive renaming project
  • Yves Rocher - Advanced social media analytics: How consumer intelligence helps the cosmetics brand offer its customers products that meet their expectations, their requirements and current challenges.
    Yves Rocher: understanding today's consumers to develop cosmetics for tomorrow

Still need convincing? Click here to access more case studies.

Give social intelligence a go

All of this can sound daunting if you're new to social media intelligence. There is so much content out there to read, so many social media platforms to source data from, and so many social intelligence platforms to choose from. Don’t you worry, we got you covered. Whatever it is that you need, we will have something for you to inform your decisions.

Final thoughts & how to determine your social media intelligence

Now that you understand social media intelligence and how it can be beneficial, it may be time to start taking steps toward strengthening your company’s social media intelligence score.

While it’s likely that you, like most companies, want to make sure you’re using data efficiently to get the boost you’re looking for, it’s important to make sure you first grasp where you stand in digital marketing, data usage, and in the social media realm.

Want to figure out where you stand in the social media intelligence department? Looking for an assessment of your company’s data maturity level? Book your free demo!

You can better understand how to move forward in a way that specifically fits your needs and where you fit when it comes to data maturity and social media intelligence. Don’t wait any longer!



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