The ability to collate and act upon enormous volumes of information is becoming crucial for customer management and marketing, yet the ability to make use of newer types of information remains out of reach for many.

Businesses around the world are amassing multi-petabytes of data from data warehouses, sensors and mobile devices, e-commerce processing and geospatial information, but integrating all of that as well as pulling in social media feeds is beyond the capabilities of many current IT systems.

According to technology analyst Gartner, 85 per cent of enterprises will fail to adapt their infrastructure for big data, socially mediated content and new connected devices. This is posing a growing big data challenge for businesses across multiple industries.

Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn house a massive amount of valuable information about how customers feel, not only about your products and services, but your competitors’ too. Social data presents a big opportunity for businesses, and organisations are increasingly looking to make the most of these social networks to better understand market behaviour, make better decisions on product development and marketing, and improve customer service.

Moreover, social media increases in value when it is combined with other sources of interactional and transactional data. Integrating intelligence provides a more complete and trusted view of the business and its customers.

Social data presents a big opportunity, but harnessing the power of that data social media data requires integration, and that integration can be lengthy and complex, with such huge volumes of social data out there. Organisations need to be able to leverage the power of social data using their existing IT infrastructure and resources, so that that they can access and integrate social media data swiftly.

There’s no doubt that leveraging social data is going to become an increasingly important consideration in building customer profiles, but it does come with its challenges. Incorporating this information can be tricky, depending on an organisation’s customer data management system. Technologies like Master Data Management (MDM) can be of real value here, consolidating and reconciling customer data from disparate applications to give a trustworthy single view.

Data from social media and other new interactional sources can give you a whole new perspective on your business, with social data enabling new insights into consumer relationships, behaviour and even their location. But, in order to gain a complete view of your organisation and gain new insight into customer relationships and behaviour, businesses need to consider how they draw on sources such as call detail records, image files, scientific and other sensors, and mobile devices.

To truly take advantage of social media data, businesses need technology and processes in place that can generate a complete customer view that covers accurate name, address and contact information, products and services bought, extended business and household relationships and interactions with the company.

Social data can then enhance that customer profile with vital information on what customers like, what they don’t like and more. The better you know your customers, the more effective you’ll be at tailoring services to customer value and improving the productivity of sales, marketing and service teams.

Over the coming months we may well see changes in the way that social data is accessed, with governments worldwide caught up in discussions around tackling data privacy. In the UK alone, businesses have been given one year to make sure that their websites comply with new rules on the use of cookies.

It will be interesting to see how the issue of data privacy develops and impacts the way both businesses and customers access and interact with new types of data, but for now the opportunities that social data presents are clear and organisations should be striving to make more of it.