Social media, like mass media, is designed to broadcast content in one direction. While in social media, for example YouTube or a blog, anyone can become a publisher, which distinguishes social media from mass media, two (or many) one-way conversations do not create a dialog. Looked at it from the perspective of communications flow, an ad shown during the Super Bowl is no different from a video uploaded to YouTube.
Social data, on the other hand, is raw information created and shared by individuals expecting to benefit from its socialization, aggregation and analysis. Geolocation shared by a woman via Google Latitude is not social media. It is social data because she is hoping to find out if a friend of hers is nearby, or if a store ahead on her usual route is having a sale on something she may want to buy.
As a result, a company’s social data strategy will be totally different from their social media strategy. For years, companies have tried to push tired marketing messages through new channels, viewing them just as additional entries in their marketing mix. Social media strategies that try to find better, cheaper, faster ways of drumming a message into people’s minds are doomed to fail given the plethora of alternate sources of information consumers consider when making decisions. The value to the customer must be clear, such as personalization and better purchasing decisions. Products and services of companies that leverage social data improve over time. In contrast, tweeting about your product does not make your product any better.
Social data is influencing everything from how leading companies create and sell products to how they acquire and lose customers. For companies with direct contact with consumers, the social data revolution changes everything.