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From Socially Intelligent Business To Socially Intelligent Research

Social intelligence is an adaptive, continuous, collaborative and open customer/consumer driven knowledge framework that sits at the center of a company’s organization - where all marketing and business disciplines feed into and out from the customer/consumer.


Editors Note: As most know, I engage with a select few companies in an Advisory capacity. My criteria for accepting those roles is complex, but the over riding factors are that I have to believe in their approach and respect their leaders. Face is one of those companies and today’s post by Face CEO Andrew Needham will explain why.

A while back Andrew shared an early draft of a white paper they were working on that I read as a Manifesto for the  future of insights (click here for the original and complete whitepaper). I asked him if he’d re-purpose some of it as a blog post, and I am thrilled to share that with our readers today.

It’s one the most cogent descriptions of the role and position of insights in the social era that I have ever read and it truly should be considered a road map for insights professionals to use as they navigate the transformation of our industry. Although certainly it is reflective of Face’s position, this is the antithesis of promotional: it’s written as a thought leadership and knowledge sharing post and as such I hope all of our readers will give it the attention it deserves.

Andrew, as well as Face North America MD Philip McNaughton will be speaking at IIeX in Philadelphia June 17-19, If  you’d like to connect with them to chat about these ideas, register now.

By Andrew Needham

Success in the “Pull Economy” means understanding that a number of significant business principles have changed. In a hyper connected world information flows much faster and more freely. Organizations as a result are subjected to a growing level of collective intelligence and value creation from outside the company’s walls brought on by the increased collaboration of customer/consumers, consumers, employees and suppliers in what is now a much larger ecosystem of data, conversation, innovation and participation. There needs to be a knowledge framework to help companies manage this transformational change and maximize as much value from it in a way that benefits the business and the customer/consumer.  

Social Intelligence

We call this social intelligence. An adaptive, continuous, collaborative and open customer/consumer driven knowledge framework that sits at the center of a company’s organization like the hub of a bicycle wheel where all marketing and business disciplines feed into and out from the customer/consumer. In this model the empowered customer/consumer is at the heart of everything a company does.


Figure 1: Social Intelligence Framework


Alongside the role of the customer/consumer there are two other key ingredients to becoming socially intelligent. The first is the application of smart technology to help manage the real time flow and exchange of information, creativity and value from within and outside the company’s walls.  The second is a growing army of people who have proficient skills to extract value and meaning from big data. And this is where socially intelligent research has a big role to play by helping companies have a real time, in depth holistic view of their consumers.  Socially intelligent research combines best in class social media research, on-line qualitative communities, mobile ethnography and co-creation best practices in an integrated way. It is powered by proprietary platforms that have been built by researchers for researchers to deliver robust insight supported by rigorous qualitative processes.

Socially Intelligent Companies Must Embrace The Customer/consumer

Companies have often spoken about how the customer/consumer is at the heart of their business and more often than not have failed to deliver against this mantra. Success in the pull economy means doing just that at a time when companies feel that it is harder to achieve. There are many examples where this is already happening. 

From Open Innovation to Crowd-sourcing

Open innovation and crowd sourcing business models tap into the collective wisdom and creativity of consumers and this has been incredibly disruptive to more traditional approaches. Instead of “not invented here,” the mind-set is shifting to “proudly found elsewhere.” The most notable case is Procter & Gamble’s ambition to ensure that over 50% of its innovation is driven from outside the organization with the set up of its Connect & Develop platform that has secured more than 1,000 partner agreements on innovation.  Kickstarter is a U.S website that allows projects to turn to people outside the organization for funding taking small or large donations from thousands of backers in return for credit or early access to products and services. Coca-Cola used crowd-sourcing to develop new designs for bottle crates in Germany and marketing ideas for Coke Zero in Singapore. GE has crowd-sourced green business ideas under its “eco-magination” challenge. 

From Social CRM to Social WOM Communications

Social CRM, where the customer/consumer helps to deal with problems, queries and complaints of other customers/consumers is also being applied to a number of businesses. Telefonica who launched GiffGaff – “the mobile network run by you” – relies on its customers/consumers to service other customers/consumers as part of its community driven business model. In the area of communications examples of content generated by consumers and how it is shared is also prevalent. A recent campaign with UK’s Irn Bru showed just how powerful this is – one super fan, Rachie caused Irn Bru’s latest TV advertisement to generate 1.5 million views before it even went live. In the U.S recently one of the most buzz-worthy ads of this year’s Super Bowl wasn’t even a commercial – it was a mere tweet from Oreo during the blackout. 


Figure 2: Oreo’s Superbowl Twitter Ad


From On-line Communities to faster decision making processes

Continuous on-line communities where companies can connect their internal employees with customer/consumers, suppliers and partners is another example of where the consumer rules. Through communities such as Burberry World, companies are speeding up cycle times by shortening learning curves, testing new products or ideas with consumers using mockups, computer-generated virtual products, and simulations. Together with the use of social media this is also helping to fast track the decision making process. In the case of Oreo their ad agency 360i told Buzzfeed that they had gathered Oreo executives together in advance, just in case something in the Super Bowl sparked an advertising idea. When the lights went out they were able to respond to this opportunity immediately with their Twitter Ad.

Customers/consumers create value beyond just transactions

The significant shift underpinning all these examples (and there are many more of them) is that customers and consumers seek out interactions with brands that go beyond the merely transactional. This is driving large-scale behavior change where focus on hyper-personalization, relevance and customization are critical.

Socially Intelligent Companies Must Apply Technology

What is exciting is that with the application of technology organizations have the ability to be socially intelligent, enabling new strategies and techniques that will work most effectively in a profoundly connected society. Companies need to be able to connect and tap into the global network in real time and continuously both for obtaining value and for deriving it. Trends like Enterprise 2.0 are starting to put tools that make this possible into millions of employees and customer/consumers hands.

Now Every Company Is a Software Company

David Kirkpatrick from goes further. He said in a recent article that: “regardless of industry your company is now a software company, and pretending that it’s not spells serious peril. With hardware and software growing more capable at exponential rates, data of all sorts are increasingly getting into the hands of ordinary people—competitors, employees and, especially, customers. He cites the example of Ford Motor Company by quoting Venkatesh Prasad, Senior Technical Leader at Ford “Bill Ford said recently that when he was growing up he used to worry about making more cars. Now he worries—what if we only made more cars? Just making more cars is not our future.” Instead, Prasad re-envisions Ford as a maker of “sophisticated computers-on-wheels.”

Making P&G the most technologically enabled business in the world

Another good example is the mission Robert McDonald, P&G’s CEO is on to make Procter & Gamble the most technologically enabled business in the world. He is overseeing the large-scale application of digital technology and advanced analytics across every aspect of P&G’s operations and activities from the way the consumer goods giant creates molecules in its R&D labs to how it maintains relationships with retailers, manufactures products, builds brands, and interacts with customer/consumers. The prize: better innovation, higher productivity, lower costs, and the promise of faster growth. As an example he cites “I personally see the comments about the P&G brand. This allows for real-time reaction to what’s going on in the marketplace, because we know that if something happens in a blog and you don’t react immediately—or, worse, you don’t know about it—it could spin out of control by the time you get involved.

Innovative companies in other industries are experimenting with ways to combine products, services, and data to create entirely new businesses — the example of what Nike did with one of its shoe-lines is well known — often with software playing a critical role in knitting together or enabling these new models. Industries from manufacturing to consumer goods have stitched information assets into their traditional product offerings and have come away redefining the category and raising the bar for competitors.

Socially Intelligent Companies Must Apply Socially Intelligent Research

Socially Intelligent Research has a big role to play in helping companies on this journey to becoming more socially intelligent. Understanding and getting close to customers in a real time and continuous way both passively in terms of mining social data for insight and mobile reality mining and actively in terms of helping companies to collaborate and co-create with their customers and adapt to their needs quickly is at the heart of a more socially intelligent way of doing research.

The following three competencies are key to socially intelligent research:

Deliver a holistic view of the consumer

Be highly skilled at integrating research for big social data, online qualitative communities, co-creation best practices and mobile reality mining in a coherent and seamless way to deliver a holistic view of the consumerit is not enough to rely on one source of data. The ability to augment the depth of qualitative with the breadth and scale of social data as well as be able to use social data to validate and scale up learning gathered through qualitative is vital. It is going to be about connecting the dots across multiple data sets using a variety of methodologies.

Be technology driven

Understanding and embracing technology whether that’s mobile, communities or social media to deliver better, faster and more effective research solutions will become an important differentiator if research companies are to keep up with the lightening pace of change. This will mean no longer delivering work purely on an ad hoc, project-by-project basis (as it has largely been done to date with a focus group based model) but on a more continuous, real time and strategic basis.

Master new skills

There will be a new breed of researchers who are technologists that can master big data for research, get the social web and apply qualitative and quantitative rigor to everything they do. Knowing how to apply technology to customer/consumer driven data, content and creativity will also make a difference.


Companies must do three things well if they are to become more socially intelligent. First they must embrace the customer/consumer and adopt a model whereby the empowered customer/consumer is at the heart of everything the company does. Secondly they must apply smart technology to help manage the real time flow and exchange of information, innovation, participation, creativity and value from within and outside the company’s walls.  And finally they need to apply Socially Intelligent Research which has a big role to play in helping companies have a real time, in depth holistic view of their consumers.  


Competing in a digital world: Four lessons from the software industry, McKinsey Quarterly – Hugo Sarrazin and Johnson Sikes 

Co-Creation: The Real Social-Media Revolution, Francis Gouillart – Harvard Business Review

Esomar Online Research 2010: Designing Relevance – How open and agile research methodologies can help complex organizations respond to change and stay relevant,  Francesco D’Orazio, Face, Esther Garland, Face, And Tom Crawford, Nokia

Esomar 3D Digital Dimensions 2012: Future Mobile Market Research – Mining Reality Through The Phone Francesco D’Orazio

Inside P&G’s Digital Revolution, Michael Chui and Tom Fleming McKinsey Quarterly

Now Every Company Is A Software Company, David Kirkpatrick, Contributor

In Marketing, People Are Not Numbers, Sam Ford, Peppercomm 

Six Social Business Trends To Watch, Dion Hinchcliffe, Dachis

Openness or How Do You Design for the Loss of Control?, Tim Leberecht, Frog Design 

How social intelligence can guide decisions, McKinsey Quarterly Martin Harrysson, Estelle Metayer, and Hugo Sarrazin

The Quiet rEvolution In Marketing Insights, Lenny Murphy Editor Greenbook

The Six Stages of Social Business Transformation, Altimeter

Big Data Goes Social, Andrew Needham, Face

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