A 3-Step Plan for Social Media Data Integration

Social media is a rich source of data. These three steps will help you make the most of it in your environment.

By Elias Terman, Director of Product Marketing, SnapLogic

According to Gartner Research, 74 percent of organizations are relying on social networks to guide purchase decisions. Therefore, it is not surprising that 25 percent of respondents to a recent SnapLogic survey expect to integrate social media data during 2012.

Integrating social media data into enterprise applications provides new opportunities for developers to gain feedback into features, or for customer service representatives to be made aware of critical issues faster than ever before. Analyzing social media data can also reveal marketing intelligence for competitive new opportunities.

However, integrating social media data is not without its challenges. The quantity, quality and complexity of social media data makes integrating it with traditional enterprise applications challenging to say the least.

Processing real-time streams of social media data can lead to significant network performance degradation. IT teams must work to make sense of unstructured social media content, while ensuring its quality to avoid polluting the business applications it feeds. Finally, the complexity of working with social media data, both in pulling it from Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and in utlizing big data processing such as Hadoop, requires IT teams to develop whole new sets of skills.

Although these roadblocks may seem difficult to overcome, there is a huge untapped potential in connecting social media data with enterprise applications. Businesses that have the foresight to begin planning now will have the jump on their competition before the value of social media data becomes more readily apparent.

The following three steps will help you successfully integrate social media in your own environment.

Step 1: Qualify social media data sources

The first step toward successful social media data integration is to decide which data sources provide the most value. IT managers should discuss the various attributes of social media influencers with their marketing teams to ensure the data is parsed and prioritized in the most effective ways. Companies should also consider which sites its customers and competitors are most likely to frequent, as well as which keywords and phrases should be tracked across social media conversations.

Step 2: Identify enterprise applications for connection

The second step toward integrating social media data is to identify which enterprise applications could benefit from the information. Will social media activity be most valuable in the context of your CRM or marketing solutions, when it's combined with your sales or Web analytics tools, within your business intelligence or master data management systems – or all of the above?

Step 3: Determine a connection strategy

Finally, IT managers should carefully weigh the pros and cons of various connection approaches. Today's options include allocating IT resources to laboriously hand-code each connection, retrofitting a traditional data integration or enterprise application integration tool to accommodate changing integration needs, or evaluating new cloud-based connection technologies that were built with a modern data environment in mind.

A Final Word

Everywhere in Silicon Valley, companies are talking about the value of integrating social media data, yet few companies have taken the steps necessary to make these visions a reality. It may seem challenging, but with adequate planning and an understanding of the end goal, organizations can find a solution that will put them ahead of their competition.

Elias Terman is the director of product marketing at SnapLogic, where he serves as a cloud and SaaS evangelist. He can be reached at eterman@snaplogic.com