If a tweet falls in the forest, does it make a sound? The answer is no. And yes.

Can You See the Forest for the Tweets?

In 2013 I posed the question, “If a tweet falls in the forest, does it make a sound?

From the perspective of a brand putting out that content and looking for engagement, the answer was – and still is – no. If nobody is seeing, hearing or sharing our content, our returns are negative. Engagement is the brass ring of the modern communications landscape. Out of that engagement comes the earned social media that gives us infinitely increasing returns, including the potential for earned traditional media. (For more on that, check out this post on the indirect pitch.)

And yet, if we ask question from the perspective of the everyman, the answer is yes: every tweet, status update, comment field and blog entry outside the firewall is a digital breadcrumb that can help inform marketing efforts.

Digital Breadcrumbs Make Us Smarter

Take your marketing self off the paleo diet: breadcrumbs are good for us! Being able to monitor what folks are saying in real-time and getting insight into both the channel and the person behind that tweet that fell in the forest is how we arrive at the valuable, timely insights that help us make better business decisions.

Media intelligence these days has evolved well beyond the traditional execution of a clipping service.  Traditional media intelligence stopped at monitoring traditional news outlets, and that monitoring was retroactive. I would in fact argue that the “media intelligence” of yesterday, while informative, wasn’t necessarily intelligent.

Today’s media intelligence is a whole different ballgame: we are enmeshed in an interconnected communications ecosystem wherein social and traditional media sources feed each other for stories and conversation, and those conversations are supercharged by social technology. With that in mind, there is an ever-growing real-time sea of data around us – and that is why Big Data marketing solutions that give us a combined view of both social and traditional media chatter are so useful.

If a Tweet Falls in the Forest…

As marketers, we can indeed hear the tweets that fell in the forest, as well as the ones that made a booming sound and caused the sort of message amplification we want.  The ever-growing trail of digital breadcrumbs helps us understand who’s saying what, where, and how – and that gives us the insights we need to craft smarter messaging programs that will resonate with our target social communities.

This sort of intelligence gathering is not only the first step of a modern, data-driven marketing program, but it’s also the last step: social listening is a cycle. The great thing about holistic media intelligence isn’t just that it makes us smarter before we start our programs, but it also gives us insight into what’s working for us and what’s not, where it’s working (and not), and who the people are behind those tweets falling in the forest (and not). That last is how we find the brand advocates to make up a smart, social influencer marketing program that furthers our message amplification.