One would think that the sheer amount of real-time commercially valuable data available through social media channels would be enough to encourage businesses to prioritize the utilization of this information for profitable ends, but it appears that many companies are still very much in the dark about this.

Whether this is because they still see these channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, largely as campaign mechanisms or because they see them as trendy, new-fangled approaches that cooler brands use to reach a youthful audience, they are missing out on the true potential this data affords them. Social media is not just for the ‘cool kids’, it’s for any organization looking to reach out to an audience and harness the data this provides to develop more relevant, efficient and effective promotional strategies is what can maximize the profit potential of any social media campaign. 

Marketers and brand managers go to great lengths to build community support and fan bases through social media channels to generate a strong social presence allowing for increased access, direct lines of communication and a better understanding of what market influencers think. However, few take this social data to the next level to also use it as a means of monetization to maximize profits or improve internal processes. Surprisingly many allow this data to amass in reports on desks or languish in monitoring software – it’s not called Big Data for nothing.

Doing what everyone else is doing by simply having a social media presence is not enough: you need to be learning from the communities you develop. The insights you can gain from them are your best way of understanding those you are looking to promote to. This in turn can be used to great effect to increase the ROI potential of your social media efforts through adapting your business or campaign to be more responsive and relevant to your market.

The issue seems to be that most companies are not sure what to do with the data once they’ve gathered it. With the right commitment behind insight development, a company could use this information to come up with innovative new approaches, improve customer support, change priorities as they move towards a product launch, or foresee a crisis while there may still be time to avert it.

Lack of sufficient and appropriate technology to efficiently assess this data is certainly one hindrance to the process and reason enough for many to only go so far with social media before losing confidence in its business viability and, therefore, losing interest. However, those who find a way to separate the wheat from the chaff in the community conversations they are having are the ones who will win big in this arena.

Businesses dedicate large chunks of their budgets to obtaining insight through traditional means, such as surveys and reports, seemingly without realizing that their audience is right in front of them providing massive amounts of data in real time on social media channels. This social data is arguably more valuable than data collected through any other means, since it happens naturally as people willingly interact, express their thoughts, state their intentions and provide feedback within the neighborly atmosphere of online communities.

Companies that do not harness the insights they can learn from their social data are missing out on a massive opportunity to improve the returns possible from their social presence, to enhance their marketing efforts and to improve brand awareness. The path to social media profit maximization is right in front of you, all you need to do is take these first few steps – big data > social media insights > new business strategies > ROI nirvana.

Maz Nadjm, @Mazi, is the founder of Social Media Consultancy SoMazi.