And yet, in the rush to social media it appears that the most basic skills of the direct marketing profession are being forgotten or ignored. The critical omission being to ask "Who are we listening to?". Without any reference points, any context or any filters - it is just the human menagerie in all its glory. All customers are not created equal after all.
In the online environment, the real customer insight opportunity lies in knowing identity - who's voice is it? In all the clutter, which voices should I pay attention to most?
I have just completed the Net Promoter accreditation course with Satmetrix and in that course they talk of "Voice by Value" - weighting the significance of customer feedback by value. By virtue of the Pareto-like distribution of customer value for most markets, listening to the "average" customer is just listening to your low-value customers.
Similarly, in a B2B setting, if you do not filter voice by role (eg Decision Makers, Influencers, Users) you may have missed the one or two voices that really do make or break a $m deal.
Transactional data, for example is very good at providing the historic event view of 'who', 'what', 'when', 'where' and 'how' whereas user generated content will tell you more about 'why', about sentiment and about the likely future. Putting the two (types of data) together provides a far more comprehensive picture of the customer and a more calibrated and balanced view of an issue.
In the communities that we operate on behalf of brands, the brand will typically know the value of community members and their disposition towards the brand (Net Promoter Score) and what's popular and important for these key segments through polls, surveys and customer initiated ideas and comments.
Don't be fooled by the chaos of social media - when you know whose voice it is - "there's gold in them thar hills".