“The world is now awash in data, and we can see consumers in a lot clearer ways.” —Max Levchin, co-founder of PayPal
The advent of big data has been a game-changer for business intelligence and, to an extent, sales and marketing efforts. Businesses today have more information about their customers than ever before. However, it’s primarily one-dimensional, gathered by the company for the company—little insight is provided by the customers themselves.Social media, on the other hand, holds vast amounts of customer-generated information, ripe for collecting and analyzing. Unfortunately, most companies use social networks as just another marketing channel. They market to their audiences, and then analyze the performance of those efforts in terms of clicks, views, and shares. Though valuable for guiding content strategies, this type of analysis offers limited contextual insight into customer behavior, sentiment, and future actions.
It, too, is one-dimensional data.
A truly 360º view of your customers requires more than just one-sided, superficial insights. Knowing how many times an infographic is re-tweeted helps the content team. But does it help personalize the customer experience?
To unleash the true power of your social media analytics, leverage big data to build what Forrester calls a “database of affinity”—a catalog of people's tastes and preferences created by observing their social media behaviors.
Multiple methods exist for building such a database. One way is to use your internal data on the social platforms directly. Facebook and Twitter have tools that use first-party data—information from your CRM system, visitors to your website, etc.—to segment customers and deliver content based on their likes, posts, and other actions on the platform.
You can also implement a social login on your company website. In exchange for the convenience of not having to create a new account (and remember another password), customers give you permission to observe their profiles, friends, followers, and activities. Combine this information with your enterprise data for a multi-dimensional view of your customers.
The rich, deep psychographic information available via social media has virtually limitless potential. Pairing it with your internal data opens up new levels of customer experience personalization:
- Optimize segmentation and targeting. One global beverage corporation used both their internal and their customers’ social data to improve segmentation and, thus, the customer experience. The result: a 25% decrease in people opting out of emails.
- Monitor your customers’ posts, shares, comments, reviews, and other online activity, and use predictive analytics to anticipate their needs and deliver targeted ads and relevant social content.
- Analyze social data in real time to identify trends, respond to events, resolve issues as they arise, and monitor sentiment about your company, your industry, and your competitors.
Building Customer Experiences
Incorporating big data with your social analytics can increase your profitability in big ways. But savvy marketers are realizing that social behaviors aren’t always an accurate predictor of purchasing decisions. According to Forrester, in a 2016 report: “We understand why brands want to use affinity data to directly increase sales (Let’s be honest: marketers will try to use any tool to do that). But...the database of affinity will be much more effective when used to power brand building.”
The key, then, is to get to know your customers and add value without expecting a direct correlation to purchase. Cultivating a long-term relationship with your audience establishes your brand as trustworthy, helpful, and top-of-mind come buying time.