Why social intelligence could save you millions

Improving education outcomes with social intelligence — Propel

A $41.8 billion national challenge.

Earlier this month, Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham announced a range of VET FEE-HELP reforms in response to the growing trend of ‘dodgy private colleges’ misusing taxpayer dollars. Ballooning from $325 million to $2.9 billion in under four years, the system was being manipulated by those seeking quick profits, while taxpayers and — most importantly — students suffered.

But what does this controversial issue impacting Australia’s $41.8 billion education and training sector have to do with our approach to social? It represents one of the many real-world challenges social can help solve, and one we’re pioneering with our clients.

Delivering value through social intelligence.

We were engaged by a large state government department in early 2015 to help them make sense of, and deliver value from, the growing number of active customers across social media. At that stage, the opportunity hadn’t been fully defined, but the approach centred on intelligence and insight over broadcast communications: both parties shared the belief there was more to gain by listening than talking.

We designed and piloted a social intelligence capability to help this client make informed, real-time decisions to improve the service they provided to the community. We harnessed social technologies to better understand public sentiment towards key sector issues, knowledge gaps and potential risk areas.

Most importantly, through effective data capture and analysis we developed a range of business cases and hypotheses, and presented them to senior stakeholders to demonstrate the strategic role this intelligence capability could play. A more comprehensive, integrated social intelligence team would provide a range of customer experience benefits and department efficiencies which could not be accessed through other means.

And this is where we devised a solution to the multi-billion-dollar challenge facing Minister Birmingham and others at a federal level. We could use social intelligence to identify and respond to instances of industry malpractice to improve sector regulation and education outcomes for the community.

So we did. And within weeks we’d already uncovered several million in savings.

(Note: if you’re interested in this work, you can click to read more about our approach here, or contact us to talk it through in person.)

Social capabilities provide new answers to old challenges.

Of course, this opportunity doesn’t just exist for education and training, nor just social intelligence. The broader practice of building social capabilities (of which social intelligence forms a part) applies to all functions across all industries.

Social capabilities equip organisations to perform more effectively in the digital age, using data, technology and customer behaviour to drive improvements in the way they market, serve and sell. Social capabilities ensure time, money and resources directed towards social initiatives connect business goals and business strategy with business outcomes (as opposed to channel outcomes, as this diagram demonstrates).

Developing a whole new range of tools or posting to a host of new channels takes time, effort and resources away from existing strategy and project pipelines. On the other hand, social capabilities improve the way organisations operate to help deliver increased performance across the board.

In our case, the intelligence gleaned from industry and customer conversations across social media empowered our client to make informed decisions and, importantly, take action for the benefit of both internal and external stakeholders. Social intelligence provided new clarity to the convoluted world of industry malpractice and empowered an already existing governance and regulation function.

And what I love most is they did all this without a single post to Facebook.

Align capabilities with strategy to deliver best results.

Like our client, our interest isn’t in debating the political drivers behind the current VET reforms. Our interest is in making best use of the information, channels and technologies we have access to today to improve customer experience and business performance. This is where social capabilities have an extremely powerful, strategic role to play for all organisations, and why we will continue to emphasise their value over social media channels.

After all, if you could develop a strategic function that saves several million dollars for your organisation, wouldn’t you want to?

If you like what you’ve read and want to talk further, drop me a note via email, check out the Propel website or simply follow my thoughts here on Medium. Don’t forget to hit ‘Recommend’ to share with others!