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Can business be social?

"People think social media is the Holy Grail where people just have fun and lots of friends but it’s actually a really good place to get real live insight as to what people are talking about."



Financial Times

15 January 2013


PA has been interviewed for a Financial Times podcast which explains how IT is changing and technology is changing business. The podcast looks at how, by adopting the tools of social media, businesses can become closer to their customers.

PA explains that boards need to overcome their fear of social tools if they want to compete in the market and that social media can become an intelligence system for the business.

PA goes on to say that companies remain weary of social media even though more businesses have made strategic changes because of social media: “Social media has grown up, as a marketing tool. Organisations haven’t fully understood how it can be used to gather really good insightful information and intelligence for businesses.”

During conversations with CXOs and senior executives, PA noticed that the general consensus is that social media is something they fear: “Consumers have a lot of power. Information is tweeted very fast across social networks and that information can be derogatory to an organisation which is something that they can’t control.”

PA explains that these businesses are not sure how to react to social media and are not set up to deal with it culturally and from a governance perspective. They are worried about whether a ‘new social way’ will fit in with the rules and the way that they have run their businesses for years.

PA shares one example of a beauty company giving away free samples to learn whether it was a profitable move or not: “Through social media we have looked at the types of conversations people are having and the types of key words that they use. We even looked at intent – the real action words behind what people are saying. From this we were able to create a number of indicators. We looked at the behaviours that occur immediately after free products are given out for free.”

PA continues to explain that by following people on social media you can see whether people talk about the brand and the product and whether there is a direct link between ‘try and buy’: “The beauty of social media is that you can do this kind of test within a couple of hours rather than traditionally a couple weeks. We found that there was no correlation between the amount of people trying a free sample and buying it.”

On the size of data needed to do this kind of analysis and timeframe, PA explains: “There is a lot of data out there so it is better to filter that data and use smaller samples. What’s important is linking it to your existing BI and data within your organisation. People think social media is the Holy Grail where people just have fun and lots of friends but it’s actually a really good place to get real live insight as to what people are talking about.

“When something of relevance to your organisation is found, it should be cross matched to your existing data to find patterns of behaviour, called micro trends. Finding these sorts of trends of what people are talking about is beneficial as this is information that you would never be able to pick up in usual market research.”

PA explains that no one has real responsibility for social intelligence: “Marketing people use it for marketing, customer services use it in their way but if you really want to make a difference it needs to be taken on at board level by looking at it as an intelligence source.”


You can listen to the podcast in full here. PA is interviewed six minutes and 22 seconds in to the recording.


To find out more about how PA can help your business with social intelligence click here or contact us now.

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