Towards Developing a Common Social Intelligence Taxonomy

Is anyone else confused over the language used in the social intelligence industry? We think it is time to create a shared taxonomy.  Make your voice heard in our consultation.

If you’re a researcher, marketer or PR professional, one of the first things you’re taught is to learn the language of your audience and talk like them.  The concept of mirroring has been widely discussed in sales and marketing as a tactic to build rapport.

Why not test it out yourself?! Next time you’re in a meeting, move forward, backwards, touch your hair, take a drink or hold your pen, and see if anyone is mirroring your body language or movements.

Mirroring in the Social Intelligence Industry

In the social intelligence industry, we have multiple business units and disciplines all using and analysing social data.  All these disciplines have their own language and this language also translates into how they talk about social data analysis.

Meaning there isn’t a shared language around the practice of social data analysis.  Talking about social data between disciplines can be difficult because of the various terms, definitions and descriptions.

For example, social listening, social intelligence, social media measurement, social analytics, and social media research.  Are they the same thing? Different? What are the actual definitions?

The language around social intelligence is further complicated as we’re going through industry maturity.

An Industry Gaining Maturity

The social intelligence started out its life as ‘social listening’.  While the practice of social listening was quick to be adopted, there is an argument to be made that the practice has not lived up to its expectation.   Overpromising the abundance of insights that can be gathered in a ‘self-service’ way and the users of social listening technology not being able to deliver insight.

The result?  A poor perception of social listening.

Interestingly, the term social listening continues to be used in industry communication.  But is the industry paying attention?

Testing Terminology

We recently tested the terminology around the social intelligence industry in the promotion of our State of Social Intelligence survey.

We created five adverts on Twitter.  The only difference between the ads? The terminology relating to social data analysis – social listening, social media research, social data, social intelligence and a general voice your opinion option.

The results? What do you think got the most and least conversion?

The social listening and social data conversions were so poor, we ended pausing those ads after one day.  The results below highlight the conversions for a three day period.

To be transparent, we did not put a big spend behind this test.  But, we can start to glean insights into what terminology is trending in the industry.  The trouble is that there is a big difference between social listening and social intelligence.  If we’re not careful the industry could run into more issues through overpromising and underdelivering.

We feel it’s now time to develop a shared taxonomy and define the key practices surrounding social intelligence.

We want to move into a place of shared meaning.  A place where we can clearly communicate our practice, where clients can share in this common understanding, and where we can easily highlight when overpromise and underdelivering is taking place.

Be Part of the Consultation

We can’t complete this work alone.  We need to understand the breadth of terms, how they are used, defined and discussed by the professionals in the industry – you!

As a professional who analyses social data, we want you to be part of this consultation.  This is your opportunity to make your voice heard and opinions noted to further the development of the amazing industry that we work in.

Email our team at hello@thesilab.com for more details.


Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

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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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