For Starbucks, read also Nike, Apple and McDonald’s, the latter of which recently appointed its first social media chief. These global brands have made social media activation an integral part of their advertising and marketing efforts, for its cost-effectiveness and ability to generate deeper customer engagement on consumers’ own terms.
For marketers, that one-to-one relat-ionship with customers is so vital. While a few short years ago, social networking was a relative unknown, now we spend the majority of our internet time on the likes of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.
A new way to connect
Social media presents an enormous opportunity to reach people in a new way and, more significantly perhaps, to garner previously unavailable information about customers. The challenge is how to do it.
While consumers have taken the opportunities afforded by social media and run with them, the marketing world has been slower to follow. So far, brands have effectively taken this new media and applied traditional advertising methods to it, often simply putting up a banner ad.
Yet we know people see thousands of ads a day and have learned to shut the majority of them out. To overcome this and get that sought after one-to-one relationship with customers on social media, brands need to revolutionise how they talk to people.
This means applying new methods to the channel combined with traditional DM principles. A few brands are leading the way, noticeably Dell, which has reportedly made more than $6m in revenue from its Twitter activity alone. It uses the channel for customer service, as a way of receiving vital feedback and of sharing exclusive offers with its customers, and it is not alone. Travelodge uses Twitter to share offers and communicate with customers, as does American airline JetBlue.
Facebook has also helped numerous brands build their fanbases – Coca-Cola currently has more than 5m Facebook fans, while clothing retailer H&M has more than 2m, using the website to promote its fashion ranges and interact with customers; it also has more than 35,000 followers on Twitter.
As these brands are clearly aware, the most powerful marketing channel any company has is customer advocacy, because people listen to and trust what others say most of all. The challenge for brands, however, is how to recruit influential advocates and leverage them, something that can be very difficult to achieve through traditional media.
Social media already provides a channel for a brand to learn how consumers feel about its products and services through the likes of forums and chat-rooms. That is valuable, but a step away from the ultimate goal: being able to identify which customers and prospects are active on social media and developing a one-to-one relationship with them.
Achieving this would enable a brand to develop advocates, while the information gathered would also help refine its targeting. Marketing is all about getting the right offer to the right people at the right time, and clearly what people do on social media is another component of consumer behaviour that needs to be factored into any one-to-one communications strategy.
But the important question is: how can you work out which of your customers are on social media, and track what they do there? It sounds like a difficult, needle-in-a-haystack operation, but it is now possible through Acxiom’s Relevance-X Social tool.
Its premise is simple: the tool enables marketers to identify which of their customers are active and have high levels of social influence on social media by using their opted-in email addresses to locate them. We take our clients’ opted-in email address lists and search social media sites for profiles registered to these addresses. Our technology allows us to link any opted-in email address to any publicly available data registered to it.
Through this, it is possible to build up a clear picture of these customers. If someone is on Facebook, for example, the data that can be gathered on that person includes how many friends he has got and how he interacts with them, the groups of which he is a member, and how often he uses Facebook. This information can be added to a brand’s existing data on each person to build up a more detailed profile, and used for analysis and modelling.
Adding social media data to the mix
This is just the beginning of what Relevance-X Social enables marketers to do. It can also be used to create campaigns to talk to these customers and to track the results of those campaigns. And, when integrated with customer and prospect database technology MarketEdge-X, which takes data from any source to provide a single customer view (see below), it is possible to use information garnered from social media in the creation of multichannel campaigns.
For marketers, being fully integrated is vital. In today’s multichannel media environment, all customer data needs to integrate with every single customer touchpoint. By its very nature, social media data can provide dramatic insights into customers, so imagine how much more targeted campaigns can become with this added to the mix.
As brands prepared for the World Cup in South Africa, knowing that a group of customers are into football allowed them to use that information to tailor messages and offers to this group. This is particularly powerful when recruiting advocates: with member-get-member activity, instead of offering generic rewards to tempt customers to recommend a product to a friend, brands can use social data to identify people’s interests and offer them rewards relevant to these, such as tickets to football matches.
This really does represent the dawning of a fresh era for marketers. Tools such as Relevance-X Social turn social media into a two-way street, allowing us to move into the world of proper targeting where we can understand customers’ social behaviour and communicate with them based on this, through any channel.
Steve Plimsoll is vice-president for multichannel marketing services, Europe at Acxiom
WE TRIED THIS AND IT WORKS...
When More Th>n asked Acxiom to increase acquisition, cross-sales and retention, its data was being managed in different ways by different groups of people. Bought-in data also tended to be used on a one-off basis, and had a lot of dupli-cates as well as high costs.
To solve this, Acxiom enriched More Th>n’s customer data by overlaying it with its own and third-party data to identify likely customers. Acxiom also created a single prospect pool, into which data from each and every source is now fed and from where More Th>n segments it, enabling it to create highly targeted multichannel campaigns. Work has also been done to understand the most cost-effective contact points.
As a result, the brand has been able to more than double acquisition, increase response rates by 150% and reduce costs by 40%.
The next move is to look at how More Th>n can best spend its money across the range of channels. While social media is exciting, it is just another channel; choosing the right one requires an understanding of what drives people to use certain channels.
THE STATS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
– More than 400m people are active on Facebook.
– Half of Facebook users log on daily.
– 500bn minutes per month are spent on Facebook, which is more than 0.5% of all internet traffic
– More than 75m people have signed up to Twitter, with almost 600 tweets sent every second
– There were 60m LinkedIn users in January 2010, up 5m in just two months