Is Behavioral Targeting coming to the Social Enterprise?

Two interesting news items over the past week – one consumer related and the other, enterprise social computing.

First: this article on eMarketer titled: “Behavioral Targeting Misses Mark” quotes a study by  researchers at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of California Berkeley School of Law and the Annenberg Public Policy Center:

“Contrary to what many marketers claim, most adult Americans (66%) do not want marketers to tailor advertisements to their interests,” according to the paper. “Moreover, when Americans are informed of three common ways that marketers gather data about people in order to tailor ads, even higher percentages— between 73% and 86%—say they would not want such advertising.”

As important, the article goes on to show that close to 50% might be ok if behavioral targeting its used to surface deal and promotions. Take away: sort out the “what’s in it for me” incentive and you have a better chance at earning my permission to monitor my movements.

Second: SocialCast, a leading micro blogging and collaboration platform for the enterprise announced a user interface refresh and its new Social Business Intelligence Premium service offering that in their own words, helps organizations with “real-time feedback and actionable insights into the employees, topics and conversations that users are finding important and that spur active participation.” A detailed review by Alex Williams, the new ReadWriteWeb Enterprise blogger, here.

The Case for Enterprise Social Behavioral Analytics:

Enterprise Social Analytics can bring significant benefit towards performance acceleration through a better understanding of how individuals and groups behave in the context of business process. Some examples….

HR Performance

If you’ve moved up the ladder at work, you’re aware of 2 things: 1) Manager/Skip Level/ Peer Performance reviews drive progression BUT 2) Soft Metrics (i.e. how your boss and peers generally feel about you) often trump hard documented goals.

Enter Social Analytics. You now have the opportunity to fold in important behavioral data such as degree of sharing, helping, engaging, contribution and involvement, giving HR a broader set of data points about the employees allegiance to the firm and dare I say, employee lifetime (with the company at least) value. These important data points complement tradition performance metrics giving you a sense of how critical each employee might be to a business unit, a product line, a geographic territory and ultimately to the company as a whole.

Communications Performance

Moving beyond people monitoring, the organization gets a clear sense of what’s top of mind for employees based on participation as well as lurking trends, how well a news announcement is being received by employees in near real time or bubbling issues that they need to nip before they take a life of their own. And on and on.

I’ve yet to come by a large organization where executive communications pushed out via email and intranets gets acceptable readership rates. Thus, millions are spent getting people to listen and engage in a typical large enterprise. With social computing constructs, we have the opportunity to carefully fold in emergent structures to compliment traditional top down communications designs. Employees now can become crucial information brokers for these communications and social analytics gives exec comms a good idea of which pockets of influence to tap into to spread specific messages.

Line of Business Performance

Where this really starts to get interesting in terms of business objectives alignment is learning how the organization interacts in the context of known functions such as field marketing, product launches, customer pitches and support inquiries. Social analytics show how the teams as well as unsuspecting groups in the organization came together (or not) to drive performance at the activity or process level. There’s crucial lessons to be learned here in terms of not only identifying who the rock stars were, but also how to institutionalize well performing processes, simple hacks and interaction models going forward.

Its Not All Rosy Though….

Transparency is a two way street

Whilst employees are clamoring for more transparency and open work constructs, that really applies primarily to inbound transparency – seeing what management and peers are doing. The other form – outbound transparency, where the enterprise monitors their every move, might be another story. And the skeptics will consider that to be a form of behavioral monitoring. Design and communication is key.

Incentive

Similar to consumer behavioral targeting, if the what’s-in-it-for-me incentive is not clear, the naysayers will come out of the woodwork. Analytics need to be returned back to individuals so they can use it to perform better. Help individuals work faster/better by leveraging network relationship and usage insights beyond management insight.

Policy

Policy will cut both ways. First, there’s a whole slew of enterprises that won’t have any of this for policy and legal reasons. For those, social analytics will have a place but its going to be more about ‘what’ and not the ‘who’. For others, they will need insist on paper trail into every discussion.

Shedding the Perception of Behavioral Targeting in favor for Performance Acceleration

There’s a boat load of insight to be had from social constructs in the enterprise and the Socialcast release is a really commendable version one of where social analytics need to start. And its only a first release. But I hope Enterprise 2.0 vendors consider these older reporting- style BI constructs that were designed only for management, to be ground zero.

Mike Gotta of the Burton Group suggests that “Analytics may be the key to the long-term success of the company as well – social messaging is something that will become a feature within larger platforms from IBM and Microsoft.” I agree in general, though what we’ve traditionally known to be ‘BI’ is in for a serious revamping in preparation for the coming of the socially networked enterprise. True to the dynamic, in-the-flow nature of social computing constructs and tools, analytics need to unlatch themselves from line items in reports that no one reads, and re-appear as nuggets of decision facilitation data points that support individual and organizational performance objectives. If I’m a Financial Analyst writing a report about Pork Belly Futures, the analytics should be the plumbing that suggests who else I should be talking to and what documents I should be looking at for reference, across the network. Now that’s enabling performance acceleration.

The net net is that if enterprise social analytics are going to look like behavioral analytics on the consumer web, they’ll be likened to targeting engines. In the case of the consumer web, that means more ads or some yet-to-be-determined interpretation of my interests in the future. In the context of the enterprise, it means possibly targeting my career progression or paycheck. Contrast that with a model where its a balance between both organizational wide insight, plus in the flow, contextual insight for individuals and groups. Now you have the “what’s in it for me” data point covered and you might have secured some currency to gather organizational wide analytics as well. All up, extremely important considerations for overall programmatic design in the context of accelerating performance via social computing concepts.

This represents a sliver of the types of customer discussions I’m seeing around the larger issue of actionable insight. I expect more and more vendors to be announcing analytics in the near future and there’s no question about how valuable management level sight can be (as I lay out above). Though, I for one hope that analytics/BI is re-casted as raw ingredients to individual decision support for better product output, beyond pie charts.

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