Andrew Dawson

Account Director, Partnerships


Winner 2023

Andrew Dawson

What does social intelligence mean to you?

I remember when Twitter and Facebook were born. I was in high school and was a VERY early adopter. And if websites and legacy advertising gave brands a face, social media gave them a voice. It radically shifted the relationship we had with brands and companies and allowed them to speak directly to us. That step forward also gave voice to consumers. For better or worse, communications shifted from being a one sided, brand led manifesto to being a growing and evolving conversation. Social Intelligence, to me, is the harnessing of that frenetic chaos. Brands and companies now have the moral obligation to listen and respond to consumers. Not just their tweets and immediate needs but their long term wants and requirements. Brands who don’t can have their license to operate stripped from them.

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

Social media and social intelligence is the Wild West. Every day new platforms sprout up, old ones shift their structures and algorithms, media evolves and it’s a ballet of never ending updates and changes. It’s beautiful chaos. I am motivated by my curiosity and need to solve problems. Social intelligence ensures a never ending stream of complex problems to solve. And what keeps me working on it is the constancy. It is rapid, high paced, and no two days are the same allowing for creative problem solving.

What do you think makes you successful in your work?

I challenge you to find someone more curious than me. Go ahead, I’ll wait. I am driven by curiosity and that curiosity drives me to learn new things, push myself, and push others for success. But curiosity alone doesn’t guarantee success. I think my success comes from that curiosity coupled with a belief that the right answer almost always lives outside of the box and a comfort in exploring the unknown. We’re charting new waters that nobody has ever sailed in, that freaks most people out.

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

My mentor, Archie Smart, once told me that “in matters of feasibility, the answer is rarely ‘no.’” Sure there are things that are impossible, but what he was trying to say was that most things could be done so long as you think creatively and apply what you know. This belief has driven my career and I’ve developed skills to support it. Pertaining to hard skills this has manifested as an expertise in writing search queries, an in-depth understanding of social linguistics, a masters in communications from Columbia University, training and expertise in design/adobe suite, and a “try anything” attitude towards the plethora of apps and softwares out there.

What makes social data special compared to other data sources?

The world moves at the speed of now. Brands and companies no longer have the luxury of time. There was a time when moments of feast or famine were only discussed on TV and print. The democratization of voice and birth of the citizen journalist means that everybody now has a voice and social media is the vehicle for those conversations. Social data is special because it harnesses the ideas, beliefs, and values of a culture in realtime. Thus the new social contract is born; brands and companies want to speak directly to consumers and in exchange consumers and communities expect brands and companies to be listening and actioning in realtime. Traditional brand focus group or survey, while brilliant, only represent a small group, at a certain time, motivated by a select group of questions. Social data is unsolicited, realtime, and evolves at the speed of now.

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

Being called a pioneer is an honor. For me, being a pioneer means making choices today based on the decisions of tomorrow. For social data that usually means making predictions on how we think conversations will evolve or pushing the boundaries of our software and applying meta data or outputs in non-conventional ways. Social intelligence professionals should always choose to be relentless in the pursuit of the unknown.

Get Social with SILab