How to Use Social Media Data for Customer Insight

Social media data helps you understand your customers and the more detailed, the better. Before, traditional data collection techniques like web analytics and purchase behavior would be time-consuming and challenging for uncovering these insights. So I sat down with someone who really knows social data to understand more about it from a customer insight perspective.

Meet Bill Piwonka, Vice President Marketing at Janrain. Janrain provides a software-as-a-service user management platform with solutions for social login, social sharing, and social profile data collection and storage to help companies improve user acquisition, intelligence and engagement.

Thanks for your time today, Bill. How is social media data a key element for connecting with customers?
To answer that question, I think it’s important to distinguish between what I see as two very different types of social media data. To date, when most people have written or spoken about social data they have meant data coming from the “stream” or sentiment data. That is, “what are people saying about me/my brand?” Of course this is a hugely important channel for connecting with customers and there has been a lot written about best practices for utilizing social media for customer support, gaining product feedback and connecting with customers and prospects in channels where they congregate online.

But there is a second type of social data that innovative brands are just beginning to tap and that’s data available in a customer’s social profile. Data in our profiles is incredibly valuable to a marketer because it’s declared, first-person data and thus, highly accurate. Instead of having to infer characteristics about a person based on their behavior (pages viewed, products browsed/purchased, etc.) brands can gain access to demographics and psychographics that can help form a more rounded view of the individual.

For instance, my Facebook profile contains my birth date, marital status, location, interests and more. My LinkedIn profile contains my work history, my Paypal profile contains my shipping address, and they all contain a verified email address. Using this type of information, marketing professionals can better segment their customers and prospects, and offer more relevant and personalized offers, promotions, and experiences.

And this data is fairly easy to collect, as it can be accessed – with permission from the end user – when he/she uses an identity from one of these networks to register or login to a website using social login.

What are some tips marketers should keep in mind when mining social data?
From the work we’ve done with our clients, I think there are a couple of things that should be at the forefront of any data collection strategy. The first would be to realize that there has to be perceived value returned in the mind of the consumer before they will share personal data. Marketers need to be clear as to how the data will be used and how that benefits the end user.

The second part would be to consider a strategy of what we call “progressive permissioning.” Think of the relationship you have with your online visitors and customers the same way you would if you were beginning to date someone. On the first date, you’d probably only ask superficial questions as you both start the process of building trust in one another. By the tenth date, topics that would have been out of bounds early in the relationship may be appropriate.

It’s similar with your customers. At first, you haven’t earned their trust, so asking for full access to all their social data will often be rejected. Start slowly, perhaps just asking for their name, email address and native language. Over time, as they continue to come back to your site, you can ask for more data to help you personalize their experience more.

How do you see the future evolving with marketing, social media, and data?
I think we are going to get closer and closer to the promise of 1:1 marketing over time. The winners will be those companies that demonstrate integrity and transparency and engender the trust of their customers. The data we are able to collect will help us all become better marketers.

Thanks again for your time today, Bill.

Bill Piwonka
Vice President, Marketing
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