Technologies That Help You Scale Social Media Operations

Team Pulling Social Media Operations UpwardEngaging in dialogue with prospects or customers via social media at scale has historically required adding a lot of people at significant cost.  As a result, many organizations have been unable to use social media to the extent they would like.  Even those organizations who can afford to add the people usually feel challenged to filter, prioritize and respond to the masses of data flowing through social media, but help is on the way.

Technologies are emerging that will let organizations listen and engage at scale without adding lots of people. In addition, these new technologies rapidly accelerate time to resolve and respond to emerging customer needs occurring in the market.  Two of those technologies are (1) real-time enterprise search and (2) integration with internal systems (such as CRM and product development applications).

1.  Real-time Enterprise Search

As marketers work to create value from the mounds of data flowing through Twitter streams, Facebook status updates, and behavioral targeting tags, they need a faster method to sort, index and access the data. Emerging search technologies with natural language processing are making it happen. In addition, the most effective solutions are integrating sentiment analysis, taxonomy, classification and entity extraction in real time for structured and unstructured data. Joe Hughes of Accenture1 and others refer to this new capability as “integrated search + BI” and “unified information access.”

2.  Integration With Internal Systems

The only way for organizations engage in a dialogue with prospects or customers through Twitter and Facebook with the same consistency we expect from phone interactions will require organizations to get their social interaction data into their CRM systems where it can be tracked, measured and managed.

For example, call centers today gather information about product defects and route the information to product development teams who can prioritize and address the defects.  In most cases, call center agents use structured menus to place the information into well-defined databases, which allow downstream teams and applications to access the data in a consistent way. But Tweets, status messages and blog posts do not follow a consistent structure, so traditional call center tools are unable to store and route the information.  As a result, support agents typically interact in social media with lots of cut-and-paste, and limited ability to store customer information in customer records or product development tools.  Technology that can send feedback from customers or call center agents to other channels – with as much automation as possible – will be the only way to derive meaning and take action from all of the data.

As an example, Attivio has developed an engine that can simultaneously identify buzz around a topic (e.g., product bug or service issue) in Twitter, forums, and reviews, then connect with a CRM package to determine whether the topic is already known to Customer Service or should be listed as a new case or defect. That kind of process and technology integration reduces the time to resolve the issue and respond from weeks or months to minutes or hours.2

The chart below lists examples of emerging technologies that help organizations to scale their social media efforts:

Technologies that help you scale social media operations

Making it all Happen

Because the early adopters of social media have usually been the Marketing and PR teams, making all of this happen will require Marketing and PR to connect their tools and processes with sales, product development and customer support.  Doing that at scale will absolutely require thoughtful sharing of selected resources, such as listening, search and text mining tools.  It will also require new levels of cross-functional collaboration as departmental leaders determine the metrics, processes and potential cultural changes that tie it all together.

As always, remember that pulling customer data from web-only sources may not appropriately represent your entire customer base, so you may need to integrate additional sources, such as customer surveys and call center logs.

Finally, as you begin to think about using incorporating these technologies into your marketing, sales, support and product development processes, engage you Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing teams, as they are likely to have significant relevant experience to help you succeed.


  1. Source:  “Soothing Consumers on Social Media Sites“, Investors Business Daily, January 29, 2010.
  2. Source:  “How Search Works With Social CRM“, MediaPost, January 28, 2010.


I am an employee of Accenture and I work with Joe Hughes on client projects in Social CRM.

2 Responses to Technologies That Help You Scale Social Media Operations

  1. KPO India March 1, 2010 at 6:37 am #

    Thanks for sharing ! I'm sure this will be of interest to your web enthusiast readers. Will check back for more of your posts.

  2. Call Center Outsource April 23, 2010 at 2:45 am #

    Interesting and well-written article. This makes perfect sense. Scaling social media often requires mobilizing and empowering lots of people. Policies help to empower those people while also creating appropriate accountability. Unfortunately, most organizations’ policies simply mitigate risk. Social media policies can be important enablers of social media operations at scale by helping to provide the right levels of empowerment with accountability for business results. As organizations realize the role that social media policies can play in scaling social media operations, more and more organizations will evolve toward guidelines that differentiate, rather than simply mitigate.