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A current ad campaign for a financial services firm uses the tagline “Never mistake information for insight.” OK, but how do you avoid doing that? And what’s the difference between the two anyway? To find out, we asked an expert.

Defining Types of Social Media Insights

First, just to be sure we’re talking about the same thing when we talk about insight, let’s agree to use the definition from Wiktionary: “Knowledge (usually derived from consumer understanding) that a company applies in order to make a product or brand perform better and be more appealing to customers.”

Our own work at NetBase on finding insights for clients has led us to categorize such consumer understanding into these types:

  • Confirmational insight—Confirms something you already suspected to be true.
  • Intensity insight—Measures the intensity with which something is felt or communicated.
  • New insight—Represents a new, unexpected angle on the subject being analyzed.

All those types of insight are useful and actionable for companies. The trick is finding them in the huge amount of noise, chatter and random data in the online conversation. Here’s what one industry expert has to say about that process.

Eric Enge on Social Media Insights

To get more insight into insights, we interviewed Eric Enge, president of Stone Temple Consulting, an SEO consultancy with offices in Massachusetts and California. We asked Eric about the nature of social insights and how rare true accurate insights are.

What’s the difference between information you can get from social media analysis and a genuine business insight?

Genuine insights are where all the value resides. Too many people examine the results of social media analysis and look only for the warm and fuzzies, like “Did our audience grow?” That’s simply information. They need to ask different questions to find insights. For instance, they should be asking, “What specific types of content are working and how do we scale that? What content isn’t working? What relationships are the most productive?” Answering questions like those leads to insights that can drive high-value action.

How rare is it to get genuine business insights?

For the best businesses—ones with a strong process for deriving insights and learning and growing in the process—they’re not too rare. All businesses today are faced with constant change and competitive pressure. To prosper, they need to adapt and evolve ongoing insights provide a roadmap for doing that.

How is looking for and finding insights different from simply monitoring the online conversation?

Businesses should know by now that simply wandering through the available data isn’t going to yield game-changing insights. You can invest some portion of your time in staying informed about the status of your brand in social, but the majority of your time should be invested in formulating the right questions and engaging in a purposeful and focused pursuit of key insights.

How much effort should companies put into finding insights?

Quite a bit, because finding and acting on genuine insights separates winners from losers in the marketplace. In your social media analysis, you should keep asking questions until you arrive at a deeper understanding of your customers. With that insight, you can make the right types of changes to better satisfy customers and stay ahead of the competition.

Our thanks to Eric for sharing his thoughts on social insights. To find out more about how marketers use insights to get better results, download our paper: Sharpen Campaign Messaging with Social Insights.