ImageSensational social media stats like one billion Facebook profiles or Instagram reaching 150 million users always captures media attention. However, savvy businesses realize the true value of social media lies in the value of intelligence from influential posts and people. Beyond the sensational numbers is an imperative need to find the right data to make smart business decisions. To support this goal, leading analyst firm, Gartner, predictsglobal business intelligence (BI) software, including social analytics, is expected to reach over $17 billion by 2016, nearly $4 billion more than 2013.

As businesses harness the value of social intelligence, they can quickly out maneuver competitors who are slow to adopt social media as an intelligence source. When looking at the coming year for the evolution of social intelligence, here are three trends all marketers should be paying attention to in 2014:

International growth of social media analysis and engagement will greatly accelerate and become the norm in developing markets where consumers are mobile savvy and use crowdsourcing for recommendations on social channels.

As the sheer number of consumers on social grows, marketers will tap into the rich resource of social intelligence to understand global brand perceptions. Marketers will rely more on social to compare regional and country behavioral preferences, attitudes and differences. Social intelligence will inevitably become the go-to, quick, robust outlet for assessing these global markets via geo-location of social data.

Social data/intelligence will become a primary business intelligence source in mainstream marketing and business operations.

Rather than analyze online and offline data in a silo, companies will begin to integrate social with traditional data sources to create a holistic picture of their customers. With a high percentage of data available, marketers will discover the value of combining a mix of traditional consumer data with real-time social data. Companies will use these holistic views to better predict customer behavior and understand the “buyer’s journey” in real-time versus waiting months for outdated feedback from conventional research methods. Some market research teams have been slow to adopt the unstructured nature of social data. However, the fact remains that the trends outlined above will make it impossible to ignore the value of social intelligence and determine how to integrate it with other consumer intelligence.

Marketing will inherit the responsibility of managing more customer communication and support as these interactions increasingly take place over social channels.

As social media becomes integrated across business functions, marketing will become the focal point of communication in all channels (including social). Marketers will be under pressure to understand the systems, tools and metrics, and to rapidly assess data to make smart and quick decisions. This new responsibility will lead them to best-of-breed solutions for marketing/sales communications, as packaged CRM suites are unable to deliver. In 2014, we will see customer service become a multi-channel bi-directional operation, presenting messages and offerings, and responding to questions, complaints and other forms of feedback. With these two departments evolving, the mesh of customer service and marketing will be similar to how sales and marketing have historically been intertwined. Social intelligence will be a cornerstone for this shift.

For anyone who is an expert or advocate of social media intelligence, 2014 should be a banner year of usage and focus. It will also prove to be a warning call for those organizations that are slow to adopt. Expect to see more media stories of innovative brands that are leveraging social for rapid business decision making to impact product development, campaign creative and messaging, media buying and 1:1 consumer outreach programs. It’s going to be an exciting year!