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What is social media intelligence?

What is social media intelligence?

It’s been said again and again that businesses derive incredible value from being active on social media and by investing time and money into social media reporting, analysis, and data combining. Social media is changing the business world as we know it and altering the way companies are handling their digital marketing strategies. Because of this, social media intelligence has become invaluable in business decisions.

But does looking at a chart of fan growth, spikes in likes, or other basic metrics from your online presence benefit your social media intelligence?

What’s Social Media Intelligence?

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

There’s a mass influx of social media data produced and requested by companies across the world daily, and 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 that is important - but that’s monitoring, not intelligence.


Pulling data and doing a 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 the future and deciding what choices you can make (based on your social media data) that can help benefit your business. 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.

Social media intelligence is taking your reporting and analytical-mindset to the next level. Sure, you can see the increase in followers for the month of November - but why? Did you post more engaging content during that month? What kind of content did you share?

Making the leap from simply viewing your analytics to asking why things happen is the most crucial part of social media intelligence.

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 a relatively easy chore, 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.
  • 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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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)

virality map


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

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 should 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.

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 a your company’s data maturity level? Download this white paper to get a clear picture!

With it, 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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