On this blog I write about the importance of social media channels as a data source for Customer Intelligence professionals. Although that topic may be a bit esoteric, the concept of using social media data to inform business decisions spans well beyond just Customer Intelligence. Today I'm going to diverge from the CI pro because in today's Web driven world of vast amounts of metrics and analytics, more and more businesses turn to data-driven decision making. One of the business lines benefiting most from this today is Public Relations.

PR's gone through a dramatic evolution over the last decade and has been reinvigorated by social media. PR teams' day-to-day tasks shifted from news clippings and phone calls, to online media monitoring and emails, to today's social media monitoring and tweeting with influential sources. Social media, and the wealth of data it holds, provides PR professionals with more information to better conduct their work. Through social metrics they can identify and track influencers, better measure the spread of their company's coverage, and more quickly track potential crises before they spread. This should be no surprise to most, as many of social media's early mavens are also some of PR's leaders.

Now, as PR teams continue to push the edge of social media, PR technology vendors have arrived at the party to help further the value of these channels. Yesterday I attended the Vocus User Conference, to see the new social media module of its PR dashboard. I saw a demonstration of how Vocus delivers PR professionals a suite of tools to take on their traditional media monitoring tasks and PR outreach needs, all with a database infused with social media. By pulling in social data, users can view influential media sources and track their brands' relevant coverage through social channels.

PR professionals use a variety of technologies to drive their social media actions – many partner with listening platforms for social media tracking. The savvy PR professionals require social media tools and as a result Cision, a competitor to Vocus, has an ongoing partnership with Radian6 to offer the listening platform's social media features along side Cision's PR dashboard and media monitoring tools. In further indication of the importance of social technology, CNW (the Canadian News Wire) recently purchased the social media monitoring company dna13 to ramp up its social offerings. With the help of these technologies, more and more PR teams will take on social initiatives and use the power of Social Intelligence.

What it means for PR professionals: emerging channels provide huge opportunities and you must use social media and learn from social data.

What it means for vendors: to be a successful PR technology vendor, you must meet customers' growing social media needs.