Scott Brown, Member, SLA Competitive Intelligence Division and SLA Leadership Division, shares his insights on using social media tools for business insights.
I recently published an article in the latest issue of Business Information Research which reviews three of the top tools for finding company information: LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube. You may be pleasantly surprised by how much information is available through these tools about organisations in the UK, Europe, and other countries.
For example, let’s look at Royal Philips Electronics of the Netherlands (known widely simply as Philips). On the Philips Company page in LinkedIn, you’ll see a brief description of the company, as well as a short list of the industries associated with that company. In addition to seeing Philips employees, you’ll find recent Tweets, blog posts, and LinkedIn activity for Philips employees. Through this information, you have a view of the “buzz” among Philips employees on LinkedIn. What are they talking about? What are they doing?
You will also see a link to “Check out insightful statistics about Philips employees.” Here’s where things start to get interesting. You can see company information on job function composition, years of experience, educational degree, and university attended. On the right side of the page, you can see companies where Philips employees worked before coming to Philips, and then where Philips employees went after they left Philips. You can get a sense of the source of employees for Philips, as well as whether Philips employees go back to those same companies, or if they go elsewhere. Are those companies in the same industry or different industries? What does that say about the company?
You will also see other geographical groupings of employees. For Philips, the greatest concentrations of employees are in the Eindhoven Area in the Netherlands, the greater Boston (USA) area, China, the greater Seattle area, and other locations.
If we jump over to Facebook, we can see a lot of additional information on Philips. First, Philips provides Facebook pages specific to several countries: India, France, Poland, Russia, Turkey, and Brazil. If you’re doing business or competitive research on Philips in any of these countries, these pages will be valuable sources of customer sentiment for you. The Philips Facebook pages also provide a view into how Philips interacts with its customers. For example, on the main Philips page “wall”, you can see postings from Philips, as well as customer comments and opinion. To its credit, Philips responds quickly to customer questions – and customers generally seem to like Philips and its products.
These are just two quick examples of the type of valuable organizational information available via social tools. Knowing the right social sources for company information, and what you can expect to find in those sources, will provide a strong addition your ‘traditional’ sources and discover a richer picture of an organisation and its strategy – value that you can pass on to your patron and customers!
Scott Brown is owner of Social Information Group, an independent information practice that focuses on the effective use of social networking tools for sharing and finding information. He also is adjunct faculty for the library & information schools at San Jose State University (California, USA) and University of Denver (Colorado, USA). His forthcoming book on finding information via social media tools, Social Information: Gaining competitive and business advantage using social media tools will be published by Woodhead Publishing Limited in 2012. He has over 20 years of experience in library and information organizations, in public, academic and corporate settings. He is also a professional coach, specifically working with information professionals. You can or connect to him on LinkedIn.