McKinsey Quarterly article: How ‘social intelligence’ can guide decisions

Social media is giving companies fresh strategic insight


In this article, which I co-published yesterday with Martin Harrysson and Hugo Sarrazin in the McKinsey Quarterly, we discuss how social media is opening opportunities for companies to collect and hunt fresh strategic insight from social media and how social technologies can play a surprisingly central role in how information is sourced, collected, analyzed, and distributed. Social Media is not displacing current methods of intelligence gathering, but emerges as a strong complement. As it does, social-intelligence literacy will become a critical asset for C-level executives and board members seeking the best possible basis for their decisions.

Here are some quotes from the article:


Social technologies can play a surprisingly central role in how information is sourced, collected, analyzed, and distributed.

The costs of navigating without a social-intelligence map can be substantial.

Curating a variety of perspectives from multiple social-media sources should help internal checks and balances play out more freely and, in some cases, lead to necessary whistle-blowing.

Competitive Intelligence professionals must become hunters of information rather than gatherers.

Companies may have to seek talented people from outside the organization who are familiar with the new methods or to invest heavily in upgrading the skills of current intelligence analysts

More sophisticated users of social media should be able to rate the relevance of information, permitting analysts to track the ripple effects of information bursts as individuals virally propagate those they find most useful.

Information maps highlight particularly strong knowledge relationships within companies and may provide clues for new organizational designs that optimize intelligence.

The information that companies need to meet competitive challenges is moving quickly from published and proprietary sources to the open, chaotic world of social platforms.

Social intelligence will sharpen strategic insights, and leaders must be immersed in the new information currents.


These new technologies allow competitive intelligence analysts to update their skills as they integrate new sources of information and new techniques. In particular, we explore four distinct ways social technologies can augment the competitive intelligence gathering process:

  • From identifying data to mapping people and conversation
  • From data gathering to engaging and tracking
  • From analysis and synthesis to structuring and mining
  • From reporting to curating and embedding



Case studies include General Electric (GE) in the Unites States, Servier in France, and the Mouvement Desjardins in Canada.

To read to full article ( signing-in might be required if you have not done so), go here.


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