There’s a new anxiety threaded through corporate life today, particularly in the finance sector. Employees dread calls from the compliance people demanding to know why they’ve been using social media on the company’s dime.

Even digital marketers  can be asked to explain why they’re spending working hours on Twitter and Facebook.

It’s natural for employees to resent this but looking at it objectively, management isn’t being unreasonable in thinking that if non-marketing staff are tweetin’ they ain’t  earnin’.

In a 2012 Mashable report American workers wasting their time on social media cost the economy $650 billion per year!

On the other hand for a lot of workers outside the Marketing department, Social Media does have direct commercial value. Financial analysts who are trying to map out capital flows can benefit from the market intel harvested from the internet.

And the veins of untapped data gold are vast. The 2012 IDC Digital Universe Survey which projects trends up to 2020 reports that of the thousands of exabytes of data in the digital universe 23% will have commercial value if it is tagged and analyzed. As of 2012 less than 3% had been analysed. The only problem is many of the people who can benefit most from this aren’t allowed near it.

The Eagle Has Landed

Irish start-up Eagle Alpha has turned this operational gap into a business opportunity. The firm’s HQ is in Dublin where it runs continuous scans of global social media. In this ongoing process it “tracks, monitors and filters data” aiming to distill business intelligence that can be of value to their target client base who are corporate finance houses.

The end product is a stream of market intelligence Eagle Alpha hopes will give its clients “unique insights” into their business and keep ahead of the market.

Listening to and analysing social media offers enormous potential for the finance industry in other ways. Over the last 5 years the reputation of the industry and many brands within it have taken a battering. Finding out what the market is saying online allows brand managers to pinpoint where the damage has been done and plan a strategy to mend it.

And yet another opportunity was outlined in a recent Brandwatch report (you can read a PDF copy of it here). With the closure of  local branches, retail banking’s surface area of contact with consumers has been hugely reduced. The automation of services which brings convenience does nothing to re-establish the personal service local branch banking offered

With the digitalization of end-user services like banking,
convenience endures as a top preference for the consumer,

– a priority generally at odds with a personalized interaction.
Online and mobile banking usage continues to rise,

meaning the brand-to-customer experience is automated
and comprehensively dehumanized.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Brandwatch Report. Financial Services. 2014.

Social media allows retail finance organisations to engage personally with customers and rebuild those relations ruptured by the changes in the banking model.

Hitherto an awful lot of capital investment directed by the banking and finance industry was done so myopically the great crash of a few years ago confirms this. With social media and the new science of social analytics banking decisions might become sharper, more focused and more productive.