Is it worth investing time and money into Social Media Intelligence? According to Guilhem Fouetillou, the co-founder of Linkfluence, knowing what your customers are saying about you on social networks has become a really strategic tool.  But getting the data you need is difficult, and analyzing it in order to help you make decisions is even more challenging. The good news is companies such as Linkfluence now help you to create a business opportunity by collecting conversations about you on the web.

During the webinar he hold a few weeks ago, Guilhem made an insightful chronology of web-listening, showing that it only matured in 2013 with a shift towards Social Media Intelligence.

As he explained, the economic crisis in 2007 persuaded companies to pay attention to their e-reputation within social networks, in order to identify in real-time specific threats or boycotts. In 2009, companies started to understand that their customer base was no longer giving their point of view through traditional channels (email, hotlines, etc…), so they integrated social media feedback in their Customer Relationship Management processes. For example, when a customer posted a negative comment on Twitter, brands were able to track their previous comments and adapt their answer. But it’s only in 2011 that companies became proactive in social networks in order to reroute conversations into their own Facebook or Twitter page. During this age of “community management”, companies started to create close relationships with ambassadors of their brand and engage customers, independently of any purchase process.

Social Media Intelligence is going one step further in the social “listening” solutions, as it delivers multi-dimensional insights on a brand. By streaming big data processing to filter, classify, and analyze billions of daily conversations across the open social universe, social intelligence can explain what drives any sentiments toward a brand, and can be used to guide decision-making.

North American social media firms are fully embracing this trend. Both big companies and start-ups offer various tools from basic social listening to highly specific insights on a brand and its features, consumers, and competitors. Radian6, Salesforce’s social marketing tool for listening, and Sysomos, a subsidiary of the Toronto-based firm Marketwire, are often referred to as the most complete tools for social media intelligence.

In the Silicon Valley ecosystem, Meltwater and Jive currently appear as leaders in this market. They propose a general offer, including social marketing and customer engagement alongside with social media monitoring. Meltwater launched a mobile app in January to deliver real-time information in addition to their service.

Numerous innovative startups like NetBase, Flowics, Lithium, and Biz360 are also key stakeholders in the market. NetBase just raised $9 million in funding a few weeks ago, to expand its sales and services globally.