Consumer organizations are all over social media. Are OEMs missing the boat by hanging back from the Twitter and Facebook edge?
The usual response is that OEMs don't sell directly to the customer, so there's no real value to be gained from watching consumer-based activity. In a very narrow sense, that's probably true: the OEM customer is the organization that's going to be selling to the customer, so it's easy to take direction from your customer rather than theirs. In a broader sense, though, there is a great deal of information that can be gleaned from the ultimate customer's activity -- information that can help an OEM plan for growth and future development, or prepare for market disruptions and changes.
Let's say, for example, that your company makes left-handed framistats for a well-known retailer. If you monitor the social networks, you might get an early warning that one of its competitors had just introduced the micro right-handed framistat and that the reviews were incredibly good. Working with your design team, you could begin work on your own micro right-handed framistat while preparing your upstream suppliers for a change in orders to come.
In another case, you could watch areas in which your suppliers are located for potential disruptions caused by weather, politics, or natural disaster. Sure, you could wait for the major media outlets to tell you about a problem, but that doesn't give you an advantage over your competition. If, on the other hand, you develop your own version of the Waffle House Index, you could be ahead of your competition (or even your customers) in understanding how conditions might make it difficult to fulfill orders.
There's no real need to look at specific tools for analyzing social media data here; there are lots of tools available for various purposes and networks. The key is to understand that social activity can be an advantage to your company, and to begin acting on that understanding. All of this, of course, is in addition to the benefits that social network activity can have for your own users and their relationships with one another and with their counterparts at your customers and suppliers.
Over at EBN (owned by the same company that owns Enterprise Efficiency), Ford Kanzler has written about the data goldmine your company might be sitting on. His article is a good, thought-provoking place to start, but it really only hints at the possibilities a creative CIO could create when social activity is really approached from an analytical point of view.
When you, as the CIO, partner with your marketing and sales team, you can support their efforts with information drawn from end user activity. There are going to be questions about whether the CIO, the CMO, or someone else should "own" the social activity. I think that's the wrong set of questions. This is an instance in which the value of the activity is sufficiently great to make moving forward mandatory, and the data gathering and analysis can fall to IT without really stepping on other toes. So get busy, get social, and start mining some of the data that's out there. Your entire organization will be glad you did. Who knows -- you might even end up selling some ambidextrous framistats while you're at it.