More news in the Social Intelligence world today, as Nielsen and McKinsey launched a joint partnership to compete deeper in social media. Through "NM Incite," Nielsen combines its Buzzmetrics listening platform technology with McKinsey's management consultants, to offer a broad range of social consulting influenced by social media data and analytics. I spoke to the team earlier and learned that this venture is both a response to growing customer demand for social business consulting and a proactive step in building up offerings that will meet enterprises' future needs, as social media spreads inside and outside the business.

My quick take on this is that I see the announcement as a good leading indicator of the social media market: Many businesses want to harness the power of social media data, but few are currently prepared to make those steps on their own. Businesses need help turning social media data into action. This year many listening platforms have ramped up their consultancy staff and offerings in efforts to keep up with this growing demand. As I'll profile in an upcoming research report on listening platforms' consultancy services (in editing now, likely publishing in a few weeks), successful vendors have a strong dashboard for self-service customers along with professional services teams for data analysis, custom reporting, strategy guidance, and overall support. Now, Nielsen and McKinsey's joint venture ups the ante of the level of consulting services listening platform vendors provide.

What it means for CI professionals: NM Incite is one of many vendors offering social consulting, but the McKinsey name brings increased business credibility to Social Intelligence. The practice of listening to and learning from customers' online discussions is making its way into the spotlight and with McKinsey putting stake behind Social Intelligence, expect more businesses to start taking it seriously, adopt a Social Intelligence strategy, and ramp up their ongoing listening initiatives.

What it means for listening platform vendors: Prepare for a growing demand of services and a new series of competitors. As more companies take on Social Intelligence practices, they'll need your help getting there while they scale internally to address the management and analysis of social data. And in case the industry weren't fragmented enough, expect to see a new angle of competition coming for the business consulting world. Where McKinsey goes, expect its peers to follow.