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Jillian Ney, founder, The Social Intelligence Lab

Jillian Ney, founder, The Social Intelligence Lab

How is your organisation using data and analytics to support the corporate vision and purpose?

 

At The Social Intelligence Lab, we help other organisations to plan, create, and deliver successful social data programmes. When we start working with clients, we tend to find that social data is being predominantly used tactically rather than strategically, so corporate vision and purpose isn’t usually part of social intelligence initiatives.

 

However, during 2020 we found that more mature clients have started looking at brand purpose and corporate citizenship projects. They are still early in the journey, but the projects are turning out some interesting and controversial findings, and I believe we will see more of these projects in 2021.

 

2020 was a year like no other - how did it impact on your planned activities and what unplanned ones did you have to introduce?

 

Oh, 2020...This was one of the most challenging but equally rewarding years of my career. Social data has always been the “black sheep” of the data world and pretty much every other industry it’s linked to. People used to find it hard to get an ROI from social data or get buy-in for social data projects. 2020 changed that on its head, the social intelligence industry gained more traction in three months than it had done in the previous ten years.

 

It was a crazy time for everyone involved in the industry, but the service providers who analyse and interpret the data had the highest increase in revenue. I suspect that’s because people found that you need more than technology and data science to interpret the data - it’s a niche and specialised skill. Luckily, we were able to track market changes and pivoted The Social Intelligence Lab’s services to include more training and development.

 

We created private online communities for the people running social intelligence programmes, we delivered panel debates and events to meet their needs, launched an online directory to help connect tech/agencies with buyers, and we also created and launched the world’s first certification in social intelligence. It’s really been a year that I’ll never forget, and thankfully the year that social intelligence started to be taken seriously.

 

Looking forward to 2021, what are your expectations for data and analytics within your organisation?

 

I suspect that more organisations will start to turn to social data as a credible research method, to manage risk, and understand changes to consumer behaviour. This means that we will be focused on delivering training and support to organisations to increase success and return on investment for social data projects. We’ll be tracking organisational maturity in social intelligence, and launching a maturity model and roadmap to help organisations get there quicker.

 

Is data for good part of your personal or business agenda for 2021? If so, what form will it take?

 

Most definitely. I’ve been talking about data for good for a while now, which is taking a couple of different forms. The first, developing a council for data standards and ethics in social data. The second, tackling the misconceptions about social data, it’s been really sensationalised in the last few years, so I’m looking to better explore social data for good. I’ve been lucky enough to be selected to speak at SXSW on Unravelling the Social Dilemma in 2021 with one of our clients at Listen + Learn Research to get this kicked-off properly.

 

What has been your path to power?

 

I never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, so my career has taken a few turns from a PhD in social media and consumer behaviour, to working as a consultant in social data analysis, to now founding a company that helps to connect and promote the social intelligence industry. It’s not been an easy journey and many people argued that social data analysis was not a discipline or even a worthwhile task. I’m glad I was able to weather the storm as throughout 2002 social data started to increase in credibility and find its place.

 

The thing that got me through all of this? The people. Making connections, listening, and collaborating has helped to get me there. In 2018, I nearly changed careers as my work felt misunderstood and isolating. It wasn’t until I made a conscious effort and started to find more people who specialised in social data analysis that I found my love for social data again. It was during this time that I had the idea for The Social Intelligence Lab, now we help others who are also feeling isolated and misunderstood find their peers.

 

What is the proudest achievement of your career to date?

 

Bringing the social intelligence industry together is probably the thing I’m most proud of. It’s hard to create a movement that brings people together to share, collaborate, and create best practice. Social data analysis is still regarded as proprietary which can make it tough for people to feel comfortable in sharing their approaches, but we need to in order for the industry to mature. Whenever I hear a story about our client and community coming together to bring about successful change, I feel a touch of pride that I’ve helped some way in making the connections.

 

Tell us about a career goal or a purpose for your organisation that you are pursuing?

 

I’d love to certify the first 100 professionals as social intelligence experts through our social intelligence growth certification. There has never been any accredited training and development opportunities in social data analysis, so we are excited to launch the certification programme. Personally, I’m also pursuing the launch of a council to tackle data standards and ethics in social data analysis. There’s currently no substantial governance in place to improve social data analysis standards and protect consumers – I’m taking steps to change this.

 

How closely aligned to the business are data and analytics both within your own organisation and at an industry level? What helps to bring the two closer together?

 

The Social Intelligence Lab was set up to link the social intelligence industry together, this means that my work covers both industry and organisational level. One of the bigger things we’re tackling in 2021 is to launch a social intelligence maturity model. This model will help to benchmark where organisations are in their maturity journey and allow them to see where they and compare it to other organisations. It will also help to promote best practice and outline a roadmap to maturity. Over the past year, we’ve found that organisations want to know more about where they are in their journey in order to get more buy-in and align their social intelligence programmes to internal objectives and in-line with external advances.

 

What is your view on how to develop a data culture in an organisation, building out data literacy and creating a data-first mindset?

 

We’ve found that there’s no one standard way to develop a culture for social intelligence. Even in the one company, different business units or territories are driven by different things. The one common thing between them is they want to know more about how people think about their brand – this is the starting point for a lot of social intelligence projects. More is needed to establish a culture; we find that internal champions providing “interesting” insights are the driving force into becoming social data focused.

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