The Power of Social Data in Marketing

by Greg Cangialosi on May 21, 2010

As I write this, I am attending the Social Graph Symposium in Silicon Valley which I am super excited about. The event is centered around “the social graph and the implications of the social graph in business, technology, and the community.” I’ve been looking forward to it because I have been thinking a lot about social data lately, and in particular how marketers can leverage it with their communications.

Earlier this year at the Email Insiders Summit in Park City, UT, I was on a Social CRM panel with some great folks, where we were discussing in free form, the aspects of the effects of social data on customer relationship management (CRM). I wanted to expand on one of the interesting points that we only touched on in the panel, which was defining the types of social data that are available to marketers. As you can imagine, this could easily have been the focus of the entire panel. Since social data has been a focus of mine over the last few months, I wanted to put down some thoughts on how I view it’s relevance to marketers.

Social Data Defined

The idea of social data is relatively simple. With the growth of social mediums (social networks, micro-blogging, location based technologies, etc), individuals are generating out an incredible amount of activity, content and behavior on the web. This data is propagated and distributed through many channels (web, email, mobile, etc), and at the same time, a market has been evolving that aggregates this data, organizes it, and in some cases analyzes it. This type of data, albeit in some cases, data overload, can bring to bear some interesting opportunities for marketers. Lets look at the two types of social data that encompass the root of these opportunities.

Social Data Attributes

The first, is social data attributes. This is the broad aspect of defining the social graph within a given audience. Lets say for example that the audience is your customer base. Clearly, this is one of the most valuable assets to any business.

Social data attributes allow you to add specific data points to your given customer database, in particular the social graph layer. For example, maybe on average a marketer would have some basic data attributes on their customer list:

1. First & Last Name
2. Company
3. Email Address
4. etc… (the more sophisticated the marketer, the more data fields included in a customer database).

Social data attributes come into play when you can also identify where your subscribers are on the social web. What percentage of them are on Twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, etc.. ? Beyond where your customers are on the social web, there are also attributes like “influencer” data – this is where the number of “friends” or “followers” can be aggregated, and you can identify who in your customer base is a potential “influencer.” These data points can also be aggregated and appended to your database. This is the base foundation of adding the social graph layer to your customer file.

Social Data Activity

The next, and perhaps more challenging social data marketers now have at their fingertips is social activity data. What I mean by this is, what kind of conversations, interactions, posts, updates, check-in’s, etc, are your customers generating online?

This type of data, which is almost always in the public domain, truly is the “real time” heart and soul of your customer base. Aggregating, analyzing, and responding to some of this data has the potential to completely transform traditional CRM, and in many cases already has.

Just think of how much more relevant your customer interactions can be when you’ve read their latest blog post, tweet stream, viewed the flickr pix they posted from an industry event they just attended, etc. On the human level, this is social CRM. Deeper, more meaningful interactions.

From the sales & lead generation perspective, acting on social activity also helps fill the top of the sales funnel. Think about it, with the right approach, people are having more meaningful relevant conversations that start online with some kind of social activity, but are quickly brought offline for deeper discussion. I know many companies who are having great success leveraging this, mine is one of them. With these small examples, I am just scratching the surface of what is possible.

Socialize My Database

From my perspective, email and social are a beautiful marriage. When you think about where to start with all of this, your customer email database makes the most sense. Since email offers one of the most targeted, efficient and measurable mediums available to marketers today, it would make sense to build your social graph around the email address, hence why you always hear me and the folks at Blue Sky Factory touting email as “the digital glue.”

Think about it, if all of the other social mediums went away, there would still be the email address. Recent research data from Merkle’s “View from the Social Inbox 2010″ report also suggests that many people use the same email for permission-based emails as they do for social networks. This makes even more of a case to leverage your email database first.

I’ve Got the Data Now What?

Many marketers I speak with are not so much struggling with where to find this type of data, they are struggling with how to use it. This is the beginning of a new era of marketing strategy and tactics. When combined with email, some of the basic social data elements described above, the following are just some of the tactics a marketer can leverage:

1. Identify, and target influencer’s within your customer or subscriber file.
2. Create accelerated loyalty & retention campaigns.
3. Jump start a social media presence (cross pollinate your customers to your social properties).
4. Convert community into new email subscribers – build your list!
5. Build your sales pipeline by active social web participation & engagement.

Again, I am just scratching the surface of whats possible. I would love to spark some additional dialog on this topic. What are your thoughts on social data? What did I miss? Do you agree?

Feel free to comment and continue the conversation below. Thanks for reading.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe Mechlinski May 22, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Greg, this is GREAT news. As we enter this "trust based economy" people are going to ignore even more the irrelevant marketing tactics. The smarter companies can be about what you want and when you want it the better.

Past all of this… you know how much I LOVE metrics! You will have to tell me more about this over a beer.


Greg Cangialosi May 23, 2010 at 1:12 am

Thanks Joe, I appreciate the comments and thanks for reading! Beer time is soon! :-)