Originally published in DMix Magazine (November 2011) www.dmix.be
Anything people do online leaves traces, can be tracked, captured, analyzed, stored, compared, morphed, pivoted endlessly in bulky spreadsheets and rendered in attractively colored pie charts. The live data of online visits, behavior and conversation gives brands and companies a coherent feedback that can impact their sales, product development, customer service and business intelligence big time, if used wisely.
When Gartner put out figures that more than 75% of Western customers are heavily influenced by their social networks in their purchase decision cycle, most marketers spontaneously started drooling all over their keyboards. There is data. Tons of it. But where is it? Who owns it? How can you use it and what exactly is it that you need?
Facebook is a continent
The first data you encounter are fairly staggering numbers: 750 million Facebook users, 200 million Twitter users, 7 million Foursquare users…So what are you waiting for? You should be updating all kind of statuses out there. But every marketer knows: it’s not because there are millions of people out there, using a shiny thing, that your customer is using it. It’s not because an online media platform is heavily popular, that it is used by your buyers and that it is even remotely interesting for you. There is no such thing as one size fits all.
So now that the cold sweat of data everywhere and multimillion user platforms evaporated, we can get to work. Start with the obvious:
Where is everyone?
Who are our customers? When are they online? Where are they online? What are they talking about? What tools do they use? Who are they connected to? Who do they interact with? Who influences that community?
Good marcom agencies, analysts (Forrester, Altimeter, etc) or data crunchers can help you determine that. This narrows down your playfield to something concrete and useful.
Data is in the cloud
As marketers and communicators we’re so used to have our data in fat, heavy, protected SQL databases on a turbo powered, bulletproofed and shiny server in an air conditioned IT room. We want to be able to caress our precious, and feel better at night knowing it is live backed up on a secret data center in Timbuktu. Get over it. Most of the new data is in the cloud. There is tons of data online. Keep it there. Get over the fact that while you will own less data, you will be able to use way more relevant data going forward…cloud based live data.
What Facebook cooks, you eat
Let’s take a look at Facebook. Facebook knows, bluntly, everything about your target group. Who they are, where they live, who they are connected to, what info they click on, when are they online, are they single, do they have kids, etc. Your agency is the ideal interlocutor to work together with Facebook. Go real detailed: you want your ad to pop up on every single account, owned by a music loving 17-year old from Ghent, online after 10pm? Facebook can help you do just that.
What Twitter shakes, you drink
Twitters data feed is equally impressive: giving the possibility to target on gender, location, age, profile, type of user, influence level, reach…you name it. You can use free software to help you through the weeds (just type what you’re looking for in Google’s toolbar, and some freeware will pop up). Sharing content through Twitter using smart short links (bit.ly etc) gives you direct info on click through rates and reach. Trending topics pop up in a heartbeat.
Who has Klout in the Cloud?
To determine who is influential online, you need to set some parameters: influential on what, calculated on what axis? Reach? Popularity? Credibility? Here again, a good agency can help you identify your key influencers based on rock hard data. If you want a quick glance, Klout.com can give you a quick indication (and no more than that).
The cocktail effect
A plethora of tools, ranging from Netvibes keyword dashboards, Radian 6 mentions, Crimson Hexagon sentiment analysis and tutti quanti can give you all kinds of data on what people are saying when they talk about your brands. Mind you: you will need a trained analyst to sift through the data. Here at Porter Novelli, we have several on file. Hope your agency does as well.
Keep it social
Do not go and file that data. Don’t lock it away: use it. On the spot. If your conversation tracker detects someone needs info, act upon it. Become part of the conversation. Become a data driven net influencer, as a brand.
Data just became active. It became a datastream, rather than a database. You’re either in…or out.