Being a BA in the Screen-Scrolling Economy: Business Analyst as Stakeholder Advocate

Social Media Emoji Masks Over People's Faces: Surprised, Smiling, Happy, Hearts
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There is little doubt that social media platforms have created new ways for people to interact with each other. Whether it’s staying in touch with friends, exchanging holiday snaps or “debating” the day’s hot political issues with strangers, there’s bound to be a place for it somewhere in the social-mediasphere.  In fact, if you are ever feeling brave, scroll down into the comments sections of most news articles.  Often there is a treasure-trove of opinion, ranging from well-considered and well-considered arguments and counter arguments, right through to knee-jerk assertions from people who have done little more than read the headline. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion, and this type of forum provides a useful space for debate.

I was recently drawn into reading the comments section on an article about snow (a relatively rare occurrence in the South of the UK, and one that tends to hit the transport infrastructure fairly hard). The comments ranged from constructive ideas, through to moral outrage, through to individuals expressing clear objection to certain political ideologies.   To a certain extent, this makes sense, but I suspect that of the hundreds of authors of those comments, precisely (or nearly) zero:

  • Wrote to their Member of Parliament/elected representative 
  • Wrote to the service involved with their suggestions 
  • Went to the relevant local council meeting to give a verbal deputation about weather preparations 
  • Looked for a charity, or other type of non-profit organisation, that shares their views and volunteered

I’m not for one moment suggesting everyone should do these things, the choice on how, whether and how much to engage with issues is always a personal one and nobody should feel under any obligation or pressure.  However, I wonder if the ability to “share” and “like” something on social media reduces the propensity to take other action.  In our economy of endless scrolling, rewarded by an occasional dopamine hit when somebody “likes” our post, are we at risk of being fooled into a culture of inaction?  Sharing that video of the poor polar bear on the shrinking iceberg feels like the right thing to do, but is it the most effective way of creating change? Are those that are able and prepared to make a change even watching?!  

What This Means For Business And Business Analysis

We might logically argue that this phenomena is nothing new, I’m sure people have been exchanging views and debating in coffee shops and bars for hundreds of years.  And the wider ethical, practical and policy effects of this possible phenomenon are far beyond the scope of this article.  However, if we accept that people express opinion via social media, then it follows that people are expressing opinion about your company and its services on social media all the time too.  

This is hardly surprising, is it? Yet how often do projects and other initiatives tap into this source of insight? I suspect the answer is “not often enough”.

Too often, corporate social media teams appear to exist for two main reasons:

  1. To broadcast corporate messages and press releases that nobody really wants to read
  2. To placate complaints

There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach, but if the scope really is set this narrow, we miss a golden opportunity to solicit and analyse feedback.  People often tweet, share or rant during “moments of truth” that we’ve got wrong.  Of course, solving the issue for the individual customer is crucial.  Adapting the process or service so that it never happens again is a much bigger win.

I’ve written before that complaints can be a useful form of insight.  Social media is another often untapped treasure-trove.  Each of these sources will represent only a subset of our customer base, and we need to ensure that no voice is marginalised, and of course not every idea is going to be desirable and feasible. Yet with careful analysis and planning we can use this insight to make a range of relevant testable hypotheses for change.  There is a crucial role for us to play here as business analysts: we are well placed to understand different stakeholder perspectives, consider and advocate different views and ensure that any intervention proposed will maximise the potential value across our stakeholder communities. 

By building the capture and consideration of feedback into the very fibre of our organisation, we enhance our ability to understand these perspectives, learn, adapt and stay relevant.  By empowering operational teams and those that are responding to social media and other enquiries to capture and escalate trends, we create a new “listening post” for customer insight to flow from.   By consciously ensuring projects and other change initiatives tap into this information, we can assure better customer alignment.

In our economy of seemingly endless screen-scrolling, we would be crazy not to consider the direct feedback our customers are giving us. Wouldn’t we?


What are your views? Please add a comment below, and let’s keep the conversation flowing!

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About the author:

Adrian Reed

Adrian Reed is Principal Consultant at Blackmetric Business Solutions, an organisation that offers Business Analysis consulting and training solutions. Adrian is a keen advocate of the analysis profession, and is constantly looking for ways of promoting the value that good analysis can bring.

To find out more about the training and consulting services offered at Blackmetric, please visit www.blackmetric.com

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Steve McIntosh

Good article Adrian. One thing I’ve been “wrestling” with for some time is the psychology of social media – and how to generate meaningful discussion – as opposed to “knee-jerk” (or maybe it should be “finger tap”) reactions. My response to your statement “I wonder if the ability to “share” and “like” something on social media reduces the propensity to take other action” …. is that yes it most definitely does. But I admit that I’ve yet to come up with a solution! But turning to the other side of your article ……

Steve McIntosh

…… I’ve been banging on for some time to businesses (mostly small / SME) that I work with about how they can make much better use of social media. About how it’s a two way communication process – and some are now beginning to “get” it. I fully agree with your point that many corporate social media teams only appear to exist to broadcast corporate messages. Not sure about “to placate complaints” as many seem to ignore them! One specific way that BAs can help with this is maybe under the heading “Stakeholder Analysis”. Maybe we should be suggesting that businesses should not leave their social media solely in the hands of their PR / Marketing function. They should bring in people from the “front line” of sales and operations who deal with customers day to day. What does everybody think? Comments welcome!

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