When ‘likes’ and emoticons drive business decisions

(Editor’s note: This blog originally published on  March 3, 2015. Over the next weeks, CSC Blogs will be highlighting top content from the past year.)  

We all know how social media can take a story – or create a story – and have it take on a life of its own. Something that seems innocuous enough can become a global storm of fury in the span of hours. Companies are now building social crisis planning teams to handle this activity and to mitigate any possible brand disasters.

But social is now driving success or failure of a venture through sentiment. Sure, a business can always do its market research, run online surveys, call consumers, send emails and generally pester everyone in their potential demographic, but the real barometer may just come through social media sentiment.

The insurance industry, for example, has shown an uptake in enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – proven by social media sentiment.  According to InsuranceNewsNet.com, research at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and published online in the Journal of Medical Internet Research determined that a 10% increase in the sentiment of tweets was associated with a 9% increase in state-level ACA health insurance enrollment.

Sentiment has been a tool of marketers in the past to gauge market acceptance of a potential product, and it has been used by customer-care organizations to assess levels of satisfaction among consumers.

The process of understanding sentiment and building analytics from it is not new. But using social media coupled with sentiment to determine buying patterns is new.

This brings an opportunity for many organizations that are still unsure how to tap into the social media landscape. It clearly requires some brand presence – and social presence. But the latter can be generated pretty quickly with a solid social team in place. And with a social presence, and subsequent social network, the groundwork can be laid to tap into sentiment.

Want to release a new version of your product? Or maybe you’re thinking of opening a new location? Or how about releasing a new capability on your web portal? The implications and applications of sentiment apply to consumer-based and B2B businesses alike. No matter the issue at hand, the sentiment can be gathered and assessed, using big data analytics and social sentiment capture tools.

The University of Pennsylvania researchers believe Twitter holds the potential to provide real-time monitoring for future enrollment periods, which would allow officials to quickly identify issues and respond as needed.

And in an on-demand world where minutes mean money, social media offers a whole new meaning to the concept of real-time customer-driven product and market development.

As author Charlene A. Wong, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar and Fellow in Penn’s Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, said, “This would be especially valuable for quickly identifying emerging issues and making adjustments, instead of having to wait weeks or months for that information to be released in enrollment reports, for example.”

And, if I project even further, what this also means is that business decisions on product, market, or customer service can be emoticon-driven. Think about that next time you insert a smiley face into a post online.

How does your business use social media to make decisions? Tell us in the comments section. 



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