Alejandro Garcia de Leon

Senior Manager, Social Listening & Insights


Winner 2023

Alejandro Garcia de Leon

How did you get into social intelligence? What was your career path to your current position?

I have always been passionate about understanding consumers and that has been the key driver throughout my career. I began working in a “traditional research” role, mainly conducting/analyzing primary research — concept testing, copy testing, product testing, segmentation, usage studies, NPS, customer satisfaction, focus groups…you name it, but have always been curious of finding new ways to enhance my understanding of what drives consumer behavior and was fascinated when I began exploring social data and started thinking about the many ways I could use it to drive insight. So, I was thrilled when an opportunity came up to work in social intelligence. My journey began at IBM working alongside some of the brightest minds in the industry and was followed by the amazing opportunity to join Hilton to build its social intelligence program.

What do you think makes you successful in your work?

I would probably highlight two things: 1) my efforts to truly understand the business problem I’m trying to solve and 2) a drive to innovate

First, understanding the business situation has always been important because it determines everything that follows; if I’m able to put myself on my stakeholder’s shoes and understand the situation, what’s at stake, and the position they’re in, I will then be much more effective at figuring out what will be the best way to gather the intelligence required and —just as important— craft the story I will be telling to help inform the decision that needs to be made.

Second, I mention a drive to innovate as this has allowed me to find new ways to solve very diverse sets of problems —some of them previously unthinkable (travel comes to a complete halt in March 2020 (!!); how can we find out when consumers will feel ready to travel again?)— and is something I personally find very motivating. I love experimenting with new approaches, trying out new techniques, thinking of new ways to integrate different data types…and in a line of work where our main source of data —social media— is constantly evolving (TikTok!) and where so many new technologies are becoming available for our use (AI, ML, custom classifiers, predictive analytics, video content analysis, etc.), I think having that crave for finding new solutions has been very helpful.

What are the key skills that have contributed to your success?

I would of course have to mention analytical skills — I think it is a must for any role that requires you to take large amounts of data and distill it down to ‘a story’ you can tell, but I think curiosity has been just as important. I was recently talking to a colleague at another company who asked for my input on what to look for on a social intelligence hire and I believe he was a bit surprised of how much I stressed this point. But I think it is that important if you want to understand what’s behind consumer behavior — being relentless about not stopping at the first answer and continue asking “why”, “why”, until you find out what is really driving that behavior.

What motivates you in your work? What makes you want to keep working in social intelligence?

Although I’m marveled of what we have been able to accomplish at Hilton in such a short time –from launching the program to being integrated into the decision-making process of so many aspects of the business—I think there’s so much still to do: new use cases, reaching out to other parts of the organization, integrating insights more tightly with other teams, expanding into other languages…so much opportunity 😊

The other big thing that motivates me is thinking about all the new things we may be able to achieve as we incorporate new technologies…can’t wait to analyze TikTok data and video, further leverage machine learning to get more relevant results (and do less query writing…), use better AI to surface new insight, apply predictive analytics…exciting times ahead!

What makes social data special compared to other data sources?

There’s so much to like about social data…it so rich, so intimate, social media is the only place where our customers (and prospective customers) go in an unprompted way to voice their opinions and give us a direct view into what they are thinking and feeling…and we can see that happening in real-time. I also love that it provides answers to questions I didn’t know we should be asking lol, surfacing insight into opportunities (or threats) that we had not even considered.

Oh…and the fact that the data is free is pretty cool too 😊

What does being a social intelligence evangelist mean in the context of your work?

When I received the fantastic opportunity of building the social intelligence program at Hilton, I knew I would be responsible of not only forming a team, identifying the best listening tool for our needs, or establishing new processes; I also recognized I would need to become a relentless educator and advocate to help the organization realize the many ways social insights can be used to help answer business problems.

Although initially many viewed crisis monitoring as its main use case, I’m happy to see the many new ways teams (within Marketing and else) are embracing social intelligence to make better decisions — whether it is measuring brand health, assessing competitive threats, surfacing insights for new content/new products, analyzing new markets/segments, capturing immediate feedback to new initiatives, evaluating potential partners/influencers or improving our audience targeting, I believe we are making nice progress in our evangelization efforts.

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