Data Driven: Social by the Numbers
The first thing that comes to mind when considering data's role within social marketing is Web analytics. Social marketing, as a new marketing term that has evolved during the past decade, can be defined as "communication opportunities between consumers and businesses that use the Internet as a platform." As all this communication is taking place between Internet URLs, it makes sense Web analytics would form the foundation of data's role in this powerful medium. So let's discuss three actionable opportunities for data's role in social media:
1. Guiding Investment Decisions
The most interesting thing about data's role, relative to investment into social media, is most of the data evolves from clickthroughs for each social media site and how the key performance indicators (KPIs) that are important to your brand compare between the various sites.
Social media sites are still primarily awareness and acquisition tools—where traffic is driven to them, as well as through them to other links.
Here are some of the fundamental metrics to measure both into and out of social media sites:
• Visitor Summary: unique visitors, percent of new visitors, average time on site, pages per visit, page views, bounce rate and conversions.
• Traffic: search engines, top URLs, branded search, non-branded search, paid search, organic search, bounce rates and conversions.
There are already many social media sites and more are arriving every month, it seems. Data's first role is to provide a science around which sites should be the focus of your marketing budget. Objectives must be set, establishing priorities, and then social site performance can be measured. Review the chart below for examples of the above data points and how different objectives can support investment into social media.
When working on figuring out your data's role in social media, be sure to assign your own objectives to the various KPIs.
2. Connecting Social Media Engagement to Customer Records
A more challenging role for data as social media matures is finding ways to connect customer records with social media engagement. The objective is to be able to tag customer records with known interaction with a social media site or program.
Let's look at Facebook or LinkedIn as examples. When your customers interact with these social media sites in connection to your brand, you do not usually have a customer number or email address that would allow you to link the URL activity to a customer record, unless they complete a transaction of some kind. At that point, the reference code that has been attached through your analytics program can be connected to an email address or customer number.
There are other opportunities "under-the-hood," like cookies, that are actionable. Cookies track machines, not people, so there are realities to adjust for relative to linking IP addresses and URLs to names/addresses. Connecting cookie data to customer records is pushing the limits of both technology and privacy.
Here is an example of the URL when I sign in my LinkedIn profile: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=4393277&trk=tab_pro
The easiest way to start down this path is to establish a simple yes/no flag in each customer record where you have the data to support it. This measurement is not scalable for most brands yet. The role for data now is to simply prepare for the future and get the data capture processes set up. Over time, this tracking will become more visible and we all need to position our data capture/reporting processes to be ready for this. Where the connection exists, it can then be used to make decisions within a contact strategy. For example, should a record with a "yes" flag receive more or less direct mail contacts or lead generation phone calls?
3. Data and Crowd Behavior
The most challenging role for data within social marketing is yet to be discussed much within the industry, but is happening now in very advanced programs and lurking on the horizon for the rest of us. Consumer behavior has been moving with what is called "Crowd Behavior." An example of this was this year's Super Bowl, when millions of people instantly began communicating via Twitter when the lights went out at the stadium. Data has a very exciting role to play going forward in finding ways to gain visibility of this behavior in real time and then linking it back to customer data records and tables, as well as marketing strategy.
We have discussed three roles for data in the world of social media. The most fundamental one is tracking traffic into and away from social media sites to gain visibility of the key performance indicators that drive your specific brand objectives. The second role involves learning how to connect social media engagement to customer records with a simple yes/no flag to help make contact strategy decisions. And finally, there is a role for data to play as crowd behavior becomes more mainstream as a marketing element and, eventually, a priority.
Geoff Wolf is executive vice president of client strategy at the Mission, Kan. direct marketing agency J. Schmid & Associates. Reach him at email@example.com.