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One of the questions most commonly asked of me (because I work at an analytics company) is what tools we use to manage all the data we have access to and how we make sense of all the that information.

Perhaps counterintuitively, I often suggest that thinking about purchasing sophisticated data tools may not be necessary, at least not at first.

With a few simple steps, data can work for you even if you don't have fancy tools. Here are three steps that can make the most impact.

1. Get to know the data

Take a look around your organization and see what is being measured.

Start with your own department, noting that what is reported is typically a culled down version of a larger set of data. See whether there are things being measured that can help paint a larger picture of customer behavior, or can be used across functions.

For example, a community manager who is looking at how many retweets one company author gets versus another may also help email marketing by determining the most effective "from" address for open rates.

For many organizations, there is a "brand account," such as Acme Corp. Within that brand there is at least one "evangelist" account (whether it's the CEO or a passionate employee) such as Wile E. Coyote. Knowing whose message is most likely to resonate with a particular audience increases the chance for conversion to take place.

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Raj Kadam is co-founder and CEO of Viralheat, which provides real-time social and Web analytics to businesses of all sizes. He has extensive experience in creating new ways to identify influencers for brands, including Viralheat's patented Human Intent technology, which identifies social leads.