May 17, 2023

Three Misconceptions About Social Data and What to do About Them

Date & Time (GMT):
May 17, 2023 12:47 PM
Date & Time (EST):
May 17, 2023 12:47 PM

Community contributor, Julien Goretti shares his opinions on the lack of leadership understanding of the objectives and outputs of social media intelligence. He believes a fundamental lack of understanding of what social media is itself contributes to leadership disconnect.

Research from The Social Intelligence Lab recently highlighted that: “52% of respondents say that senior leaders do not clearly understand social media intelligence objectives or outputs".


No. Not really.  Especially if you’ve been working in social media intelligence and consumer insights for years.

I say this from experience.

The years of conversations, projects, conferences and interactions with marketing, media, consumer insights and PR professionals – both corporate and agencies.  In the last ten years, I’ve faced too many challenges to mention, but here are three of the most obvious (and quite scary) examples that would explain the high lack of leadership understanding.

Interestingly, three examples that all stem from one truth:

The objectives and outputs of social media intelligence are not understood due to a significant gap in the basic knowledge of social media itself.


Although it’s social media 101, a very common myth among agencies and corporates is that you have access to all demographic data*.

Yes, you can access demographic data through admin option on owned social media profiles, if people openly display it on their social handles or if you create a dedicated social media app.  However, generally, demographic data is missing from social data.

Companies usually try to replicate whatever is done on the media and traditional market research sides, highlighting the alarming absence of basic knowledge to work with social media.

I believe we should focus on analysing consumer conversations online through contextual search, interests or themes (automotive, health, leisure, mums) with a demographic lens when possible. But it needs to be a smart contextual search because I have to admit I had troubles keeping my cool when I saw Millennials in a social media intelligence brief consumer target.


The majority of senior leaders I encountered are familiar with max four major platforms (such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube).

When I say familiar, I mean they know pretty much how it works but still have a lack of understanding of what type of information, conversations and limitations you can get from those. Above this number, they have a vague or no knowledge of other platforms, including critical ones such as Reddit, Pinterest, TikTok, Wechat, Twitch**.

Meaning companies tend to use the same strategy with the same platforms over and over...


ALL companies have at least 1 social listening tool from a major supplier, but the majority don’t know how to use it as they don't dedicate specific resources for it.

I’ve found that companies with 1000+ employees and a global reach will only have a small team of social analysts for the whole company – this may be a maximum of five people. But as senior stakeholders don't know what to do with social media intelligence, this team is slowly being decimated and it ends up being the marketing team responsibility.

Considering social intelligence one of a hundred other priorities, social media intelligence is left aside...

While it’s not easy to get insight from these tools, the tools are what they are, tools.  And, as long as social intelligence is an afterthought, it will continue to be a useless word cloud graphic on a fifty pages presentation to show what was associated with the last hashtag campaign.

The Biggest Misconception of All

The three points above are bringing us to the biggest misconception for social media analysis and intelligence:

“Nothing of value can be produced by social listening tools and social media intelligence teams beyond dashboards with tons of non-actionable quantitative data about the latest trending hashtag or engagement numbers.”

In fact, insightful, actionable and qualitative analysis of social media is possible if you know where to look and have the right resources to interpret it.

It is a significant challenge and I don’t have a magic solution to fix it. I believe the first step is for organisations to really look at themselves and honestly assess if they observed one of those three examples.

Where to Start

IF you want to invest in social media, it is time to change. I would recommend starting with two steps:

  1. 1)    Train all your staff and the senior leaders/ stakeholders on those basics to make sure everyone is aligned on what you can and can’t do with social media.
  2. 2)    Regroup on how you want to include social media and social media intelligence within your overall strategy and review resources associated with it.

*yes, I know you have gender filter in social listening tools (also age, location, interests etc...) but I would question its accuracy and more importantly, its usefulness considering it's mostly Twitter data and based on what people declared on their profiles. Again, go for contextual search, it's much more insightful
**I did not mention Messenger, Whatsapp or Snapchat as they are messaging app first

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