Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Social Media Monitoring - Data Mining in the Digital Age

Long ago, in a conference room far, far away, company execs were formulating marketing strategies with a simple focus: selling more products. Little regard was given to identifying or even caring about what the consumer needed or wanted; in fact, the marketing strategies of old were formulated with a goal to sell as much as possible in the short term. We all know that generating revenue is good but what the 'old timers' disregarded was how to build relationships with their consumers that would equate to sustainable consumer loyalty.

As years went by with competition flooding the market, it soon became apparent that in order to retain market share and a loyal consumer base that marketing strategies had to evolve. Not only were industries, products and services changing/growing, so were the needs and wants of the consumer. The era of 'sell sell sell!' had ended and along with it, the complacent marketing tactics of old. The conversation in the conference room would now focus on creating marketing strategies that were formulated based on identifying and understanding the needs of the consumer as a foundation for a long-term marketing strategy aimed at building and retaining consumer loyalty.

Fast forward to 2012. Businesses who had once relied on traditional marketing strategies (TV, print, radio, door-to-door, telemarketing) are finding it hard to stay competitive. Don't get me wrong, traditional marketing methods are still useful but, in order to compete in the age of technology, businesses need a comprehensive digital marketing strategy to supplement those methods and data taken from social media sites and their users are helping to sculpt them.

Keeping Up with the Joneses

There is no denying that we live in a digital age. Consumers are inundated on a daily basis through the availability and use of digital communications. In addition to TV, radio, print and direct snail mail, people are constantly connected to digital mediums such as smartphones, tablets and the new marketing superhero, social media networks. In order to build a strong consumer base, companies must base their marketing strategies on what the consumer wants and needs and the best resource any company has is information that comes straight from the consumer through Social Media Monitoring.

Getting to Know You... ALL About You

On any given day I read at least half a dozen articles on marketing trends, research, analysis and view infographics that serve as a visual explanation of what you just read (think of an infographic as an instruction manual). Lately, it seems the most widely discussed topic is the use of Social Media Monitoring to compile
information on consumers to better understand their needs and use that info to create more effective marketing strategies. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are prime info harvesting tools for companies. Creating a consumer profile through what you 'like', opinions you express, links you post or what/who you follow. I had my first experience with this in December 2010. My husband had just proposed so of course, I changed my Facebook relationship status to 'Engaged'. From that point on, the sidebar of my FB page was filled with ads for bridal magazines, custom invitations, etc. Using what you share through social media to help companies better understand their target market makes perfect sense. After all, we share just about everything - where we shop, restaurants we like, businesses we patronize and on the other end of the spectrum, we share our gripes and complaints.

What started out as mediums to stay connected with people has turned into a valuable marketing research and analysis tool for companies. In addition to discovering that you prefer Applebee's over Chili's and that you are a huge Radiohead fan, companies are harvesting information that you may not realize is available, for instance:

- Email, physical addresses and phone numbers
- Professional history
- Screen names for various social media platforms and instant messaging services
- The # of friends or followers you have
- Videos you have viewed on YouTube, etc

A Good Reason to Understand Privacy/Sharing Settings

Last week, the investigative journalism website ProPublica released an article that discussed findings stemming from a congressional query about consumer data companies who harvest and sell consumer information mined from popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn, that include much more than your purchasing preferences. Companies like Intelius admit to using social media monitoring to provide employers with information used in background checks, which often includes private email addresses, blog posts and more. Read the article here. It's been said many times before but it bears repeating... Once you put something out into the world through the internet, it is nearly impossible to get rid of it. Some tips for protecting your private information:

- Visit the 'Privacy Settings' tab in Facebook. Here you can control who can see your posts, photos and who can tag you in their posts

- Beware of granting Apps permission to access your data. Every time you access a new App (Skype, Words with Friends, etc) they ask to access your 'basic' info which can include your profile picture, list of friends and user ID. Some even ask for permission to post updates on your behalf

It's easy to tell when your information has been harvested and sold. How many times have you received an email newsletter you never signed up for from a company you don't know or opened your mailbox to an avalanche of direct mail pieces from competitors of products or services you frequently use? Supermarkets paved the way for this by introducing shopper cards that provide discounts or gas points. When the cashier swipes your card, along with your receipt, you get a stream of coupons for products you frequently purchase.

For the most part, data mining is harmless to the consumer but educating yourself on how your 'public' information is being used is a good idea. Companies are using social media monitoring as an effective way to retain or attract consumers, improve products & services and devise successful digital marketing strategies - a perfect topic for the next post.

1 comment:

  1. Long ago, in a conference room far, far away, company execs were formulating marketing strategies with a simple focus: selling more products. Little regard was given to identifying or even caring about what the consumer needed or wanted; in fact, the marketing strategies. buy instagram followers


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