When you ask people who’s running the United States, you will get many answers. The most common one is: “The President”. A popular one will be: “Wall Street.”

There’s no wrong answer. The first answer provided me a data point/a fact, the second offered me an insight.

Brands don’t care about data. They want insights.

Brands are clamoring for insights. They built their own CRM systems, work with media companies that add more data sets and are starting to tap into the social conversations. Just to get more data. And no insights. Brands spend millions on surveys, research, data mining, data analysis, focus groups, brand experts – and what they get are facts. Self-congratulating facts to keep things the way they are, rather than mind-boggling, enterprise-changing insights.

The false promise of Social Marketing

We just analyze social conversations about our brand as well as the competitive space and we finally get the insights we were waiting for, right?


Mining social conversations will get you a lot of data. A lot of sentiments. A lot of analysis. But when the agency or technology provider comes to the conclusion slide, you’ll only get facts. Interesting facts, maybe. But not insightful or valuable enough to transform your brand. To steer the brand ship into a new direction.

How to get real insights

The likelihood that pure observation and analysis of social conversation will offer actionable insights is extremely low. I’d rather invest $50,000 in the California lottery than investing $50,000 in research based on that premise.

You have to start out by asking the right questions, go way beyond pure observation. Why do have people stronger relationships with vertical A and not your vertical? What drives them to fall in love with a brand, what are the emotional drivers? Can we transfer those drivers to our brand? When do customers fall in love with your brand? When do they fall out of love, divorce or write threatening letters? What part of your mission and vision connects with people? Insights come from an open mind.

Agencies and technology providers have to listen to people and the brand. Be empathetic to the truth of who they are. Understand the soul of the brand and then make that soul more relevant to a greater number of people.

If you want to transform your brand, you need to step away from the data pile.

Nobody has ever discovered an insight on a spread sheet.

Expand the idea of what an insight is, ask the right questions and listen.

“Only he who can see the invisible can do the impossible.”

Open your eyes.