Until very recently, so many business owners and managers have seen social media platforms as a place for kids, an online hangout for college students, a place where bored office workers go to pass the time, or where proud grandparents post adorable pictures of their grandbabies. While social media is all of these things, it is also an enormously important place for businesses to be, to be seen, and to interact with aforementioned sorority girls, cubicle jockeys, and delighted nanas.

But now that business owners are starting to take social media seriously, they are finding that understanding the information that is coming to them at lightening speed has a way of getting away from them before they can make any sense of it. This new form of big data means the creation of a new way of aggregating and breaking down data so businesses can understand what consumers and potential consumers are saying about them, who is buying from them, who isn’t—and why not.

As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. In the case of learning to manage social media big data, the story is the same. The fact is, the information that comes through social media isn’t just a part of how businesses market to customers and potential customers, it tells them a story about how people feel about their product, ways they could be bettering their product and more. Social media isn’t just a place to advertise via sponsored posts or other types of paid ads. It’s a place business owners and managers can go to see what people are saying about their products, good, bad, or indifferent.

Most people who are pleased with a product won’t take the time to write a review on Amazon, for example—but they may very well mention it to a friend or as a post in their newsfeed on Facebook or Twitter, or take the time to pin the product on Pinterest. These new forms of “reviews” so to speak, tell companies what they otherwise might not ever know, and certainly would not have been privy to in decades past. But in order to make good use of these reviews and make decisions about everything from advertising to product design, big data from social media platforms must come to decision makers in an organized fashion.

How can we do this as business owners or managers, especially when people aren’t tagging the names of our companies or hashtagging us in their comments or tweets? We have to turn to a system that allows us to look into their world, and one of the most powerful systems that does this is called latent semantic analysis, or LSA. Oracle Social Engagement and other LSA systems use a cloud to monitor the “language modeling” arrangement that understands both long and short tail keywords and their classification. Perhaps more importantly, LSA systems also pick up on the use of language that is not precisely the keywords a company may be looking for to see how they’re doing on social platforms. The use of latent semantic technology helps to search and find other keyword phrases that closely match the same types of mentions of a company, a brand, a specific product name or model number, and so on.

Having a tool like Oracle (of which there are many others offering the same or similar specs) allows companies and their IT teams to understand and exceptionally forecast what the needs of the consumer are, what makes them happy, what they would like to see changed, and more. The big data that trickles from the IT office to the managers and ultimately to whomever is at the top of the company’s food chain allows for changes to be made quickly, but more importantly, it can derail future ill planning. For example, finding out a month before Christmas that those on social media hated last year’s version of a model planned to be rolled out again this year can help a company reroute their efforts—either change what consumers didn’t like about the product, or focus more time on other products to make them game changers in their respective categories. When translated by latent semantics tools, social media big data is almost as good as having a magic wand or a time machine.

Images via: Social Media Marketing By the Numbers | Mashable