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Understanding what’s happening in your category RIGHT NOW can be helpful knowledge to have in order to drive growth and focus campaign efforts.

For instance knowing when something game-changing is happening. Knowing where, why, and who is driving it – and then taking actions ahead of a competitor can really make a difference.

As a social savvy operation, with a marketing or digital team in charge of your social sites, you’re probably already thinking along these lines. You may be operating with limited resources, but do recognize the potential and you are starting to carve out a solid digital footprint for your brand. You’re not measuring ROI just yet and there isn’t a formal social strategy in place, but you’re there! This would make you a Generation 1 business, a.k.a. “First Generation” – and this puts you ahead of many companies on a growth curve to valuing and deploying within the social space smartly.

Progressing to GEN 2 means adding more method and sophistication across extra departments. There’s definite strategy involved here, with social data being used to support operational decisions through more regular reporting. Gen 2 teams have progressed beyond free starter tools to more robust paid options that can handle data and conversation at scale, with greater accuracy, and often offering integration with other company systems. Most likely, a number of teams are engaged with social across Marketing, Customer care and PR/Communications – and in Gen 2, digital marketing teams are seen to expand their remit from web driven analytics and actions to now including social within the digital framework. A lot of testing is happening, the team ‘gets’ it, but the path to real-time action, and business value might still appear fuzzy.

Which brings us to GEN 3 – a new generation in capabilities driven by faster and more accurate social platforms that in return give your company both the confidence in insights, and the speed by which to take action when it matters.

Gen 3 is where companies are starting to deploy Social as a single source of truth across every business team, acknowledging that it is the fast source for consumer voice, campaign reaction, competitive read and crisis detector.

Operating in real-time, business value driven environments – fuelled by social affluence, does require a strategic commitment to resources, teams and systems in support of the company goal. Businesses are starting to go there now – some are already Gen 3, and can prove the ROI and value that they are deriving from Social. It is becoming the ‘secret sauce to growth’ for those that dared to test, learn and perfect in the space. The paid tool options here are enterprise-grade and so is the management of it, with each team member enmeshed in strategy, analytics, and all around awesomeness. And THIS, GEN 1 and GEN 2 readers, is where you can also move to. And here are some ideas on the how:

Beyond knowing what is happening right now (and the who, what, where, and why referenced at the start of this post), smart strategy is born of two key factors: historical data and insight. Let’s break down how this might look:

Audience-based. Responding ‘when influencers attack’ on social is too late of a response to divert that next potential crisis. Having customer care that anticipates problems by monitoring and tracking chatter (and the sentiment behind it) becomes essential to managing brands. But ‘audience-based’ isn’t just about crisis communications, it’s about providing superior products and services that current and potential clients seek before they’re clamoring for them – and this mind reading of sorts will soon be the standard. If you aren’t able to get out ahead of these desires, you’ll miss out on the next pet rock.

Trend Analysis. Taking that mind reading ability a step further, spotting trends, and putting them in context using historical data is particularly useful when designing a marketing strategy. Uncovering optimal activities and groups to target at specific events or innovative new ways to interpret customer habits are all made possible through trend analysis. It’s crowdsourcing with the ability to drill down to the individual.

Personalization. Great content marketing can be derived from knowing as much as possible about consumer’s spending habits, social networks, likes, dislikes, hobbies, and emotions, with company engagement delivering a more personal experience that matters, leaving competitors scratching their heads as they cannot achieve similar engagement.

Mobile. How are you collecting and then pushing out all of this personalized, audience-based real-time insight meaningfully? Much of your audience is likely accessing your business via mobile, so you need to be able to respond in the same language. This goes beyond making your site mobile responsive – this is being able to take respond via mobile when you receive an alert.

Alerts. Having all of this data readily available is great, but it’s useless if you don’t take action. Alerts are amazing for automatically surfacing what you need to know 24/7, so that you can take action when it matters. Who has someone who can manually pay attention to all things social web day in and day out today? The new Gen 3 tools are driving significant behavior changes from alert to action already today.

Real-time. And all of this must happen in the moment, naturally. The speed of social is faster than anything we’ve experienced before and this “Internet of Everything” we keep hearing about takes our concept of vast quantities of data and quadruples it. Curating a few posts on your Facebook page each week will not cut it any longer.

It’s an exciting time for businesses ready to adapt and take advantage of these opportunities, don’t you think?

We’ll be exploring every aspect of GEN 3 in upcoming posts, along with ways you can – and MUST – build GEN 3 analytics into your workflow. Be sure to check back often!

In the meantime, watch our webinar of “How Trusted Brands Do Social: The Secrets of Next-Generation Analytics”.

This post originally appeared on Commpro.

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