At its BI Symposium in London last week Microstrategy outlined its product and marketing strategy based along four key pillars: Social, Big Data, Mobile and Cloud. While Microstrategy isn’t the only BI and analytics company to push these themes (in fact I’m hard pushed to think of many vendors who don’t) its attention to Social Intelligence for the Enterprise and in particular its Gateway for Facebook and Wisdom offerings drew my attention, especially given my upcoming research around social analytics. Overall, these offerings provide a valuable way of tapping in and leveraging the huge streams of data found with Facebook to enhance and serve consumers or customers more effectively. That said, any successful effort also needs to take into account how and in what context this data is used as part of any social media strategy.
Microstrategy is betting on Facebook for its social strategy
One of the key takeaways from the Symposium is that Microstrategy is betting on Facebook when it comes to its social intelligence strategy. Given that the company has one of the biggest social media platforms—although certainly not the only one—it’s easy to see why Microstrategy is placing (at least for the time being) its eggs in the Facebook basket. The social networking platform generates unprecedented levels of data, not only about people, companies, their relationships and connections, but also their likes, interests and preferences. With close to 800 million active users—around a half of which log on to Facebook in any given day and an average user connecting to around 80 community pages, groups and events—Facebook can certainly be called one of the biggest and richest source of CRM data. As an untapped resource it provides huge potential for organisations who want to mine and leverage this data to enhance customer engagement, improve loyalty and ultimately generate revenues for their company.
Microstrategy’s approach differs from those of its competitors
Microstrategy isn’t the only BI and analytics company to talk up social, although its approach is unique in two respects. Firstly, as mentioned, it is focused on leveraging Facebook data rather than other social media data and, secondly, it is concerned with augmenting and leveraging this information to get a deeper and more granular understanding of a company’s fan base. Unlike other vendors, it does not focus on sentiment or text analysis. To illustrate its aim the company has two enterprise offerings focused on social intelligence.
Gateway for Facebook is a cloud-based offering that converts Facebook’s social graph—the term for the collective interrelationships between users of the site—into a relational format that can be leveraged alongside other enterprise data for further analysis and application development. Although there are plenty of other smaller vendors who can claim to collect Facebook data via their Graph API, Microstrategy is differentiating its offering by placing a deeper focus on synchronising Facebook data with enterprise IT applications and through its enhanced performance and availability. In the case of the latter it uses a governing mechanism to track query loads and a database to make social graph data available even when Facebook access is interrupted.
Wisdom is a cloud-based analytic application built on top of Gateway and lets companies explore demographic and psychographic information contained in their Facebook application user profiles. It provides a set of dashboards that allow marketing users to filter user data and group the population based on its psychographic profiles. For example Wisdom uses Facebook check-in and page-likes to determine a user’s likely behaviour, so if someone has updated their profile when staying at a five-star hotel and also has a penchant for Ferraris and Gucci, then Wisdom infers they are a brand-conscious consumer. Providing this level of enrichment enables organisations to (arguably) make better and more informed decisions about how to categorise, target and personalise communications to that consumer group.
Key considerations for organisations
By integrating with Facebook data both offerings can tap into and harness a rich source of data to get a deeper understanding of consumer groups and their interests. But while it’s easy to get carried away with the possibilities and the financial results this may bring, we believe organisations also need to take into account a few key considerations when starting their social intelligence journey.
- Creating a compelling Facebook application is a pre-requisite for leveraging Facebook data. That’s because every Facebook application requires explicit permissions from a user to access his or her Facebook data. After a user grants his or her permission to gather this data via the Facebook application, Facebook grants a token to the application enabling it to collect Facebook data via their Graph API. Without a Facebook application there can be no social intelligence.
- Blending Facebook page-likes with other data will provide a richer source of insight. Social intelligence offerings such as Microstrategy’s have the capability to filter and segment user groups by their likes. A page-like is a way to give positive feedback or to connect with things that you have an affinity with on Facebook. At best it can signal a positive intent or preference for something, but at worst it can simply be a misguided representation of a person’s interests; nor does it enable a person to qualify the like with a comment or even to dislike something. Used on its own, a Facebook page-like provides a limited amount of intelligence about a user’s preferences; however, if used correctly and in combination with other profile, historical and transactional customer data, it provides the potential for deeper consumer insights that can lead to more targeted and personalised customer service and offerings.
- Wisdom’s data enrichment rules must be understood. Wisdom’s library of psychographic profiles use cross-reference logic and external databases to enrich the Facebook data by filling in missing fields such as age or gender, as well as augmenting the database with additional information, such as location-based detail. Similarly, population groupings such as ‘outdoor enthusiast’ and ‘fast food lover’ can be derived based on likely behaviours of users. Understanding the quality levels within Facebook data and how it is enriched, segmented and grouped is key for organisations if they are to confidently use and act on this information. Moreover, knowing how these data enrichment rules gel with existing business rules, customer segmentations and profiles is also vital if organisations are to effectively leverage social information in the context of their corporate marketing strategies and stop it from becoming another data silo.
- Sentiment analysis brings a deeper level of insight into social data. While both Gateway and Wisdom provide an effective mechanism for accessing and analysing Facebook data, being able to also understand the sentiment within this data can provide an extra level of insight. In particular, sentiment analysis is becoming popular for organisations that want to understand not only people’s preferences but attitudes towards a particular company, product, or advertising campaign for example. Again, if used correctly, sentiment analysis can provide a deeper level of analysis that helps organisations understand how to market products, identify new opportunities, manage reputation and improve the customer experience. Understanding the type of business outcomes and questions that need answering will help govern what type of social analytic capabilities are required.
Microstrategy Facebook for Gateway and Microstrategy Wisdom are currently in beta.