The usefulness of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest remains a topic of significant debate.
Many businesses hail these networks’ utility as advertising platforms (with the exception of GM and some notable small vendors), and users claim daily or hourly postings allows them to keep tabs on what’s new in their world.
On the other hand, employers cite Facebook and its ilk as a prime killer of worker productivity, and tech pundits will argue endlessly about the true effectiveness of social marketing.
All that being said, social networks do offer one source of unquestionable utility: tons of user data, which can be sliced, diced, sorted and mined in any number of ways. Even Pinterest, which allows people to cover a virtual space with “boards” plastered with images and bits of text, is a possible lode for data miners. That explains the rise of companies like Pinfluencer, which just emerged from private beta.
Pinfluencer is branded as a “data engine” for capturing and analyzing data related to the network’s “pins” and “re-pins.” It’s aimed primarily at retailers seeking to boost brand engagement, track performance metrics, and track the competition.
Interest in mining Facebook and Twitter for insights—and turning the networks to business use—has been on the rise. Salesforce recently announced its intention to acquire Buddy Media, which offers tools for managing customized content on social networks; that followed its acquisition of Radian6, a company whose services monitored activity on social networks.
Nor is Salesforce alone. Google bought social-networking-tools vendor Meebo in June. Not to be outdone, Oracle has snatched up Vitrue, a cloud-based social marketing and engagement platform; Collective Intellect, which builds cloud-based social intelligence software; and Involver, whose offerings include social-media management, including the ability to post from multiple social networks simultaneously.
With social networks cited as a major source of the data flooding enterprises on a daily basis, it’s no surprise that IT vendors are moving to secure the startups and tools that will allow clients to manage and analyze that flow. Whatever one’s opinion on social networks’ merits (or lack thereof), they’ve become a force to be reckoned with for many companies.