The new Social Business Index seeks to bring enterprise insight to social media

New tools are emerging all the time to sift through social media and help companies determine their impact and relevance in the new medium. The freely available Social Business Index is a new melding of big data and social media to help companies get an comprehensive view of how they are represented in the world of social business.
Written by Dion Hinchcliffe, Contributor

Full Disclosure: I rarely write here about the Dachis Group, a company I'm an investor in and for whom I work. But today's news is significant to the industry, I am close to it, and it is being provided as a free service to the social business community and general public.

The new platform currently analyzes hundreds of millions of signals from tens of thousands of companies, through the use of natural language processing, machine learning, and clustering algorithms in near real-time and is free to use. As companies attempt to engage today with their customers via social media, they have rapidly encountered the challenge of dealing effectively with the vast ebbs and flows of conversations in far flung corners of the social media universe. Keeping track of social media and one's context or impact in it has become a major challenge for us all.

It's turned out that making sense of this tapestry of open participation on the Internet and then figuring out where and how to engage in an efficient, scalable way has in fact become one of the the signature obstacles for effective business use of social media. In years and decades past, the rise of new forms of media was soon met with innovative new services to rate, analyze, or otherwise understand how the world was reacting to specific messages and content. Witness the rise of Nielsen ratings for a variety of traditional media or services such as Comscore and Hitwise for Web traffic as commonly accepted ways of measuring popularity and competitive positioning.

But social media is very different from previous forms of large-scale human communication in that 1) it's highly decentralized, 2) it consists largely of unstructured signals are often mixed in deeply with other messages, and 3) has surprisingly few formally defined channels. This can make it extraordinarily difficult to tease apart the signal from the noise. It also poses a serious challenge to determine the relevancy of conversations "out in the wild", such as if someone's blog post or tweet about your company is really about you, or your competitor, or both.

While social media analytics has had its time in the sun recently, most capabilities usually provide raw informational data (such as how many times something has been retweeted or how many comments were left) instead of meaningful business insight in relevant industry context. Examples of the latter include the general opinion of a company with its customers, it's overall engagement level with the marketplace, or whether the current sentiment of the company with influencers is good or not. Thus, businesses seek information that does not just provide statistics, but meaning that's significant and specific to them as well.

Can we put a real-time BI lens on all social media?

This has led to recent discussions of social business intelligence as a way to transform the largest scale analytics required to deliver on this directly into actionable information. Recent advances in something called big data is making it possible to process the large volumes of information and analyze it deeply enough in a short enough time frame that businesses can make substantial insights that drive critical decisions. Big data technologies and techniques, something I've recently examined in detail here on ZDNet, provides the necessary toolset and matching approaches that take data-driven mining of the social world, coupled with powerful semantic and statistical capabilities, to create simple and easy to use end-user tools that can be employed to guide an organization's participation in social media.

At the moment, Dachis Group is considered by many to be one of the world's largest social business management consultancies. As such, this has let us clearly see the profound challenges that large companies are facing when they deal with the vast juggernaut of activity that social media represents today. Most business realize their customers are moving en masse to such channels yet are struggling to figure out how to assess the entire process of their engagement, from where, when, who, how much, and what impact it's having. We've seen clearly that companies want much more clarity around these dimensions of social media. However, there are few options available today that have the breadth of data for a significant number companies, is updated frequently, and is simple and straightforward enough for most organizations to use regularly and with confidence.

Introducing the Social Business Index

Effective immediately, we are announcing the availability of our new Social Business Index (SBI) service to the general public. The core capability of SBI is free and open to use by anyone, while some value-added services are or will be available for an additional fee. We hope and believe the SBI will be an instrumental and key component of the social Web for organizations to understand their social media business performance as well as their competitive stance. Unlike the typical 'top 100' lists offered by other services, the Social Business Index is based on deep analysis of a much larger global set of firms and their engagement around the world. Consequently, it can give insight to thousands of companies today for optimizing their global social media activities.

The SBI is designed to identify actionable insights, measure social ROI, and analyze the effectiveness of social strategies and tactics employed to engage the marketplace through social channels. The underlying SBI platform currently analyzes hundreds of millions of signals from tens of thousands of companies, through the use of natural language processing, machine learning, and clustering algorithms in near real-time. This data is now available for most companies to use to improve their social media activity. Representing a major development effort over nearly 2 years, the aspiration is that the SBI could ultimately become a definitive baseline in the way companies acquire and use strategic social business intelligence to drive better market outcomes.

I would also caution that the Social Business Index is in early days yet. It's not perfect and it will evolve. The vast pool of data it is based on is shown only through a tiny lens at the moment, but one that will expand and become more sophisticated over time. Dachis Group will take industry input and continue to refine the index. It's also important to note that it's just an external view of social business at the moment. We are considering how to make this same process work within companies as well to handle the full spectrum that represents social business today.

So, we truly hope that organizations will find the free Social Business Index service useful to gather intelligence on their (and their competition's) social media footprint, activities, and engagement level to improve the way they provide value to the marketplace. You can also read the official announcement here in the press release.

Will services like the Social Business Index help you manage your business impact in social media?

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