Social Intelligence Stack

By Rebecca Carson, Global Director of Research Services, Brandwatch

Rebecca Carson, Global Director of Research Services, Brandwatch

Go beyond social listening - incorporate the full social intelligence stack into your research workflow

Your company has just devised a plan to integrate social consumer insights into the research mix. But now what? While most CMI professionals recognize that gathering data through social listening is the first (and a vital) component of generating social intelligence, there are three other key areas consumer insights professionals must consider when implementing a social research plan that can be used to uncover valuable insights and impact business decisions. The social intelligence stack is a holistic guideline to maximizing the effectiveness of a social market research program.

Social Listening

Social listening is the foundation of the social intelligence stack. This is the process of a social intelligence platform scanning and pulling in data from a variety of online sources, including but not limited to; news sites, forums, blogs, review sites, e-commerce destinations and also niche, industry-specific, regional or obscure social media platforms.

"No matter what your specific need might be, following the four stages in the social intelligence stack will enable you to transform raw social data into actionable insights"

The initial data collection task involves gathering together as many potentially relevant sources as possible to find the subset of data that is most relevant to the researcher. Choosing the right dataset is fundamental to gaining quality and actionable social intelligence.

Additionally, the foundation of any impactful research is a strong question that links to a specific need, decision or problem. A clear understanding of your goals and how they translate into a dataset is key in laying a strong social listening foundation to your intelligence stack.

Data Enrichment

Now that you’ve gathered relevant social data, it’s time to start understanding the themes and drivers in the conversation. This can often be referred to as classification, categorization or segmentation.

There are two broad ways in which segmentation can be undertaken. The first is automated/top-down classification, which involves segmenting the data by known themes using keyword searches. The second is manual/bottom-up coding of a sample of relevant conversation; each sampled mention is read in detail and coded for themes as they naturally emerge. The best, most impactful social intelligence projects incorporate elements of both kinds of segmentation at the data enrichment phase.


The analytics stage of the social intelligence stack is where data is transformed into actionable insights to be used across the enterprise. Analysis is fundamentally the process of noticing significant difference between variables. Once your data is enriched and segmented, it’s time to start making some comparisons; any two or more data points compared for any piece of metadata or segmentation.

Noticing significant difference does not in itself generate “insight” that can be actioned. So in order to move from your list of differentiated data points to something you can action, you need to link back to the needs of your business and the goals of your research.


The act of sharing social insights is often neglected, but is an equally important stage of the social intelligence stack. If the insights don’t make their way into the hands of a decision maker, there is no chance of them being acted upon and all that hard work will not generate ROI for the business.

CMI professionals should tell a story when presenting data. Make clear links to what the insight means for the decision maker and what they should do next, and then present the data that supports that story. Use clear visuals to guide the viewer through the data and make it clear to someone who may not feel so comfortable reading data from a chart. Only present data where it supports an insight and an action; anything else is a distraction from the true value of the social intelligence you’ve derived.

The complete social picture

Conducting social research requires far more than simply monitoring interactions on social media. No matter what your specific need might be, following the four stages in the social intelligence stack will enable you to transform raw social data into actionable insights and distribute them to the right people to inform better decisions. Done right, its impact can be felt far beyond the confines of optimization activities in the marketing team, and add unique intelligence to all corners of your business.

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