"Like most companies we see a lot of benefit in making our interaction with customers more relevant to their needs, and shifting towards more of a 'sense and respond' relationship with our audience," he says. "The main barrier for that is consideration around privacy. This is a really great example of where technology, and maybe even audience sentiment, has outpaced the legislation.
"As a financial services company we need to be very sensitive about how we use our customer data, because it is at our core and customers have a lot of trust in terms of what we do with it."
Unstructured social data is not the only type being used to drive outcomes for customers. The not-for-profit health insurer, HCF, uses health statistics data provided by the federal government to better understand its customers.
According to HCF's chief information officer, Patrick Shearman, this is important for HCF in terms of product development and determining what clients can claim for, and how much.
"You can start to tell how many HCF members in a particular postcode have had a disease, or what age they are," he says. "That feeds into the overall claiming process and calculation of benefits."
Much harder still though is the notion of integrating discrete social data with specific customer records. Even many of those organisations actively monitoring social media are doing so for sentiment analysis and ad hoc responses to questions and complaints, rather than proactive marketing and customer acquisition.
National Australia Bank for instance is an extensive user of social media, having established its Social Media Command Centre in late 2012. A team of up two dozen staff monitor different social media channels and use analytics tools to deliver insights into the conversations that are happening.
NAB's general manager for technology strategy and innovation, Denis Curran, says most data analytics efforts right now are directed to creating business benefits, such as better risk weighting. "The holy grail is about creating new valuable product and service propositions," he says.
"The new propositions come about when you look at things that can take richer sources of data, and that's things like text analytics and voice analytics we're experimenting with, and understanding more about customer s' attitude and behaviour to things.
"You can see different aspects emerging. The challenge with many of those is the ability to turn them into valuable products for customers that they will appreciate and pay a premium for."
One of the greatest difficulties for marketers is in matching up external data from social feeds to internally-held customer data. How for instance can a company know that 10-year customer John Smith is also complaining about customer service via Twitter as @johnnysmith77?
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