LONDON—People no longer wake up and say, “I wonder what The New York Times is saying this morning”; instead, they wake up and say, “I wonder what other people are talking about this morning,”—a change that dramatically impacts how public relations people need to think about the media.

That was the key message delivered by BuzzFeed vice president of advertising for Europe, Will Hayward, at the W2O Social Intelligence Summit in London this week.

Hayward was one of a number of panelists from the digital world discussing the importance of social intelligence, and he kicked off the meeting by suggesting that the Internet has “fundamentally changed” over the past few years.

“The first Internet era was about online destinations, about websites,” Hayward told the audience. “The second era was about search, and SEO. It was dominated by Google, which established itself as the biggest online media company. The third era is the age of social, and sites that started as destinations have morphed into a layer that exists across the entire web.”

Significantly, BuzzFeed and its media partners now see more traffic coming from social media sites such as Facebook than from search engines such as Google. People are finding content based on the recommendations of their friends and conversations between consumers. As a result, he says, it is now critically important for brands to be part of the conversation.

One implication is a move away from banner advertising toward more content-driven campaigns: “No one ever starts a conversation with ‘have you seen that great new banner ad.’ Campaigns need to be content led to have an impact.”

Another focus of the Summit was measuring that impact, with Toby Potter, RVP of sales of Datasift in Europe suggesting that companies are going beyond social listening and engagement metrics to drawing real actionable intelligence out of the massive amount of data available online.

A single tweet, Potter says, can contain 120 points of data, much of it “messy.” Companies need to find more sophisticated ways to derive intelligence from that data, and traditional analysis of tone—positive, neutral or negative—is no longer enough.

So an analysis of social media buzz about airline companies found that American Airlines and British Airways dominated share of voice—but by breaking down the tweets into categories (rants, raves, queries, feedback, and urgent messages) it was clear that much of the discussion required a response. In American’s case, a high volume of posts dealt with cancellations and the need to find a new flight; for BA, there were customer service complaints. In such instances, listening is not enough and action—often immediate action—is required.