Guest post by Chuck Hemann, director of analytics for WCG.

My boss, Bob Pearson, is fond of talking about integration in communications. The reality, as he sees it (and I agree), is that it doesn’t really matter where social media falls within the organization. What’s key to the success of the organization’s communications efforts is that social media is integrated with PR, marketing, investor relations, or whatever business unit communications touches.

When we have the integration conversation, we’re most often talking about just communications. We can save whether or not integration is actually happening for another day. My quick take is that it isn’t happening nearly as often as we say it. Anyway…. onto the real point of this post…

The explosion of the social Web has led to an abundance of available data for marketers/market research professionals. As someone who plays in the latter sandbox, this is very exciting. However, there are some who are arguing that too much data is a bad thing.

Hogwash! As I noted in a recent blog post, there’s no such thing as too much data. What we have too much of is data without actionable insights. I’ll grant you that deriving insights from data is not a skill many people have, but I think that’s mostly because they are dealing with only part of the picture.

You see, for quite some time (about the last two years – in social media years that’s about 400 years) we’ve been making social media marketing decisions based on what we’re learning from listening. However, the social Web has created a 360 degree experience for most consumers. Social media conversations impact search, which impacts Web traffic, which impacts offline behaviors/actions.

Sure, the online experience isn’t nearly as linear as I laid it out just then but you get the point. As much talking as we do about communications integration, we need to start talking about integrating research disciplines as well. Far too often, offline market research isn’t talking to online market research. Oh, sorry for the new term there… Yes! Social media listening/search analytics/Web analytics DO constitute market research. That’s where it should be housed!

Anyway, if you wanted my advice on how this market research function of the future should look:

  1. Cross-functional team including Web analytics, search analytics, social media listening, and primary market research.
  2. There should be one research agenda. We all work for the same organization and the same marketing function. There should be one agenda for all of those disparate parts.
  3. TRUE integration with more than just marketing. Yes, the term says market research, but there are plenty of insights that this cross-functional research team can come up with that would be useful for PR.
  4. Regular reporting structure. Instead of just winging it, determine how often you are going to be reporting out to your counterparts in the organization.

The time when we integrate data gathering functions is here! Have you experienced anything like this within your organization?

Chuck Hemann is the director of analytics for WCG, a global media services company focused on the corporate and product marketing and communications needs of leading healthcare companies. He can also be found blogging at Analytics Is King.