Is Social Data The Best Kept Secret To Understanding Your Customers?

Zuzanna Pasierbinska-Wilson

Try to serve a few customers that love the product, rather than the many that just like it.

Airbnb’s founders got this advice very early on in the company’s history. Co-founder/CTO Nate Blecharczyk then shared it at a Y Combinator start-up event last year. Even though it was given to a company just starting out, the guidance applies to all companies, no matter the size.

And yet we all struggle to better understand our most important customers, segments and markets. According to the 2013 CEO survey from PWC, a CEO’s overwhelming goal is to grow their customer base. Almost 90% of CEOs in the survey indicated that customers and clients are not only significantly influencing their business strategy, they are also prioritizing strong engagement programs to better understand their customers.

For most companies, this means more investment in internal analytics projects, systems, big data projects and tools. Yes, this internal data can provide a ton of meaningful intelligence to help growth and monetize the customer relationship over time but it becomes mission critical when something goes wrong. In the case of BMW, this insight is now urgent with yesterday’s announced recall of more than 51,000 motorcycles due to a possible fuel leak. The best way for BMW to mitigate potential brand damage requires a coordinated campaign that both fixes the recall issues with a great customer experience and focuses efforts on brand enthusiasts, in order to keep them in the family and reinforce the entire community. These campaigns often involve multiple outreaches to the same audience including direct mail, email, and increasingly, social. BMW Motorcycles has more than 80,000 followers (@BMWMotorrad). Imagine the reach of a coordinated campaign that included a personal outreach via social to the most influential of those followers.

We see the challenge of customer targeting and focus increasingly from our agency and enterprise customers. When looking to crack the customer code using social data, they generally ask the question in two ways.

  1. Who are my most influential and most important customers? If you are a consumer brand like Kraft Foods with 89,820 followers on Twitter or Jeep with one of the most active sites on Tumblr, you know you have followers, fans, reblogs and tons of activity but can you identify which of those followers have the most reach or can provide the most value to the brand?

  2. Can you help us learn more about our loyal followers? These companies have identified a number of key influencers and VIPs but don’t know much of anything about them. It is not uncommon to have a brand come to us with a sub-set of users they have identified as important, and say, “we know 1,000 people are influential to us, we just don’t have any idea what else they care about.”

Building brand equity and customer relationships are critical to companies of all sizes, yet for all the spending on social, most companies don’t have data on their communities of fans and followers to decide who matters, what they care about and what the brand can do to expand their relationship. Accessible social data, extracted and sorted by it’s metadata can help CMOs, brand managers and marketing leaders get to the data across their social properties. Posts and shares become meaningful data on user behavior, interests, demographics and more.

In BMW’s case, the company could run a historical search on its followers to identify those who are affected by the recall, segmented by location then provide the lists to their dealers for individualized social outreach. In the same way, Jeep should be prioritizing the most active Tumblr’s and brand advocates of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee to amplify and extend their current broadcast campaign for the 2014 model.

Access to the social data that feeds your summary dashboards allows your company to take action when it’s most needed. Want to learn more about how to get started? Download Beyond the Hashtag: A Field Guide to Social Data Maturity for the next step.

Zuzanna Pasierbinska-Wilson

Written by Zuzanna Pasierbinska-Wilson

Zuzanna is VP, Marketing & Communications at DataSift. You can follow her @fattypontoonski.