Intelligence People: Seth Grimes of Alta Plana and CX Emotion

In this week’s Intelligence People we sit down with Seth Grimes President and Principle Consultant at Alta Plana Corporation, and founder of CX Emotion.

When did you first become involved in the ‘social intelligence’ sector?

I’ve been a social media user since before there was a Web – I’m sure there are others in SI Lab’s audience who were also active on bulletin boards and Usenet – and I’ve been involved in data analysis for almost as long, so combining the two was a natural for me.

I just looked to see when I first wrote about social media. It was over 15 years ago, an April 2004 article in Information Week titled “Matchmaker, Matchmaker”. I wrote, “we’re in the early, ‘let 100 flowers bloom’ stage of a cultural revolution in which technology is transforming previously informal networks.” That was in 2004. The revolution has only accelerated, and social intelligence has been a major focus for my consulting work and writing since. That includes at a London conference I ran this last June, CX Emotion. I’m organizing another one to be held in the spring of 2020, once again with social intelligence front and centre.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I was asked that question when I was a kid. My answer was a philanthropist, the idea being that you have to have money in order to give it out. I’ll clue you in however that the real answer was an astronomer.

  • What, in your opinion, are the key benefits of social data analysis for organisations?

Social is a unique source of unprompted opinion and also one of the few media where you can study not just content – facts, opinions, and emotion and how they’re expressed – but also connectedness, influence, and how news and opinion spread. You can’t get these insights from any other easy-to-get-at source.

What aspects of your work do you most enjoy?

Connecting with businesses and individuals – analysts, technologists, researchers, and industry authorities – and learning what they’re up to and getting involved when and however that makes sense. That’s what I most enjoy.

What are the biggest challenges in your day-to-day work?

Keeping up with pop culture is one. It’s hard to be part of the conversation if you don’t understand the language and the references. Keeping up with tech innovations – machine learning especially and how it’s best applied – is another. Two extremes, but they meet up in my work.

Are you worried about regulatory restrictions impacting on your work in the future?

Regulations can be a good thing. They aim to keep us ethical and honest and ensure a level playing field, so anyone who’s doing the job right will be affected by them. They do create extra work and add friction to interactions – I’m thinking about GDPR and the like – but they’re the rules of the game and if you do play by the rules, the impact is unavoidable. Plan for it.

Which social data analysis tools do you use? Do you have a favourite?

I do advisory consulting, I organize conferences, and I write, so I shy away from naming favourites. Besides, there’s no one-size-fits-all. The best tool for the job is one that can produce insights that support your decision needs, with the analyses, interfaces, and data capacity that’s right for the job.

Do you think the ‘social intelligence’ community needs its own professional body?


I’m on the advisory board of a professional body with a focus somewhat different from “intelligence” (which implies “real time” or close to it), the Social Media Research Association. I’ve interacted with industry organizations in areas such as digital marketing and digital analytics, and I was part of an ESOMAR (research consortium) committee setting standards for social media monitoring tools. Centering on “intelligence” centres insights on business drivers and outcomes and that’s important, as is concentrating on social as a primary source instead of diving into the “omni-channel” deep end when social eclipses contact centres, surveys, online media, and chat as the best source for your needs.

Name a book you would recommend to others.

I’m afraid I can’t recommend a business book – I don’t read them. I prefer articles and reports. They’re are generally more current and definitely quicker to digest.

This response begs the question: are there articles and reports I’d recommend? No. Most of my reading is driven by Twitter and LinkedIn shares although I do also follow a few sites such as and The Social Intelligence Lab (of course).

Name a social account that everyone should follow.

Your spouse’s or significant other’s – I follow mine – or your mum’s. If you have children, however, stay away from their feeds. You might not like what you see.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to follow you on social?

@realDonaldTrump. Seriously. Twitter is one of the few things he reads, and I suppose I have a lingering hope that there a few shreds of reachable rationality lurking in his head.

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Jillian Ney
Jillian Ney
I'm the founder of The Social Intelligence Lab. I champion the growth of the social intelligence industry by helping the professionals and businesses working in it to access best practice, accredited training and peer networking. After working in the industry for 12 years I believe social intelligence should become a recognised discipline - and, I'm working towards making that a reality. More content by

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