If brands and marketers aren’t excited about the leaps in technology that have transformed social data and the ways it can be used, then they’re not paying close enough attention. And they better hope their competitors aren’t either. The big data trend has given way to a new generation of social analytics empowering brands to move beyond info-gathering/reacting and into anticipating consumers’ needs and problem solving in real-time. This third generation (yes, third) of marketing analytics is going to leave all the others behind – along with any brands who think older methods are “good enough.”

Where do you stand? Are you ready to take that leap into Gen 3 of social analytics, if you’re not already there? Find out below by answering a few simple questions. But first, a little info about what sets each generation apart.

Generation Gaps

GEN 1 is where a lot of brands are probably stuck – without realizing they’ve fallen behind. Yes, you accept that social is a “thing” (which is more than some companies are doing – still, if you can believe it) and you’ve even got someone manning the marketing desk, using free programs to try and make sense of your customers’ habits – but strategy and measuring impact are lacking because first generation social monitoring tools are already outdated.

GEN 2 solutions take things to the next level. You’ve got a plan in place and a decent idea of ROI, but conversion is still a byproduct of luck as much as anything else. You’re further along than GEN 1 – using paid tools and taking things seriously – but there’s so much more you could be taking advantage of.

GEN 3 superstars are so in sync with consumers, they can virtually predict their needs and wants before they even know what they are. With the latest in social listening technology, brands know exactly what’s working for them and WHY, and can make adjustments and see immediate results. Take Kenneth Cole, for example. Using a GEN 3 analytics platform like NetBase, his brand was able to explore insights from the past year, identify brand influencers, and (the mind-reading ninja part) analyze consumer data to defuse potential negative backlash!

Can you do that? Don’t worry if you discover you are still working with GEN 1 or GEN 2 solutions. Upping your game and moving to GEN 2 or GEN 3 (and current) of social data tools isn’t as impossible as you think.

But now for the quiz so you can sort out your starting point and go from there:

Question 1: How is your reaction time?

When a customer complains via social channels you know about it when:

  1. A staffer pulls that month’s report and emails it to you
  2. You receive a daily, automated email report
  3. You receive an alert the moment the complaint is posted

Question 2: Who is your gatekeeper?

Social media concerns of all kinds are handled by:

  1. A social-savvy junior staffer or intern
  2. A dedicated social media department head, working within your communications department, with agency assistance
  3. A staff of strategic social experts working in conjunction with your PR/marketing/communications/customer care departments to keep everyone in the social/data loop

Question 3: How are you monitoring social activity?

You have an arsenal of social media tools that allow you to:

  1. Save simple searches, track limited keywords, analyze your own followers, and identify influencers for free or low money
  2. Save complex searches and topic bundles, access historical data, integrate with some social advertising, and manage some marketing campaign features for varying price points depending on platform
  3. Define/refine topics and themes, define audience by explicit and inferred data points and sentiment analysis, integrate company-wide with broad support using an enterprise-level platform

Question 4: How’s this social media thing working out?

With your social data tools you’re currently able to measure:

  1. Number of mentions and impressions
  2. Number of followers, where your influencers are, share of voice
  3. What customers want/crave/desire, how customers feel about a number of topics/brands/people, whether your social activity is picking up or slowing down – and why

Question 5: Are you wasting your time and/or money?

At this stage, measuring ROI is:

  1. Not your focus – and you don’t really have the means to assess well
  2. Evolving – you know it’s important, but it’s still challenging to calculate everything
  3. Crucial and streamlined – you know the value of every social marketing move, which allows you to make better decisions at every stage

The One Time You Want to Be Number Three

How did you do? As you probably guessed, if you answered most questions with “A”, then you’re still stuck in GEN 1; and, it’s time to move forward or choke on your competitors’ dust. A majority of “B” answers means you’re in GEN 2 – trying to keep pace with social data upgrades, but you’re not quite there.

If “C” was your answer throughout, then you’ve sought out experts to put you in solid GEN 3 territory. You’re able to make real-time decisions based on real-time data, basically kicking social butt and taking names.

So where did you land – and how do you feel about it? Are you ready to bridge the generation gap?

This post originally appeared on Comm.pro.

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