Brands no longer resonate the way they were designed. Consumers are fast-forwarding through multi-million dollar ads with their DVR-powered fingers, engaging with brands on demand. Markets have become increasingly cluttered, as have mailboxes, dwindling direct mail into a game of single-digit decimal place returns. The growing number of marketing mediums and connectivity between the virtual and non-virtual worlds are making marketing campaigns more complex, and messages harder to deploy.
And the very control that has eluded the marketer is going right back to where it has always belonged – into the hands of the customer. Customers tweet, blog, recommend, like, endorse and become fans of everything from Lady Gaga to the Lexus 400 Hybrid.
So what’s a marketer to do? Progressive marketers need to focus on three things:
- Create and deliver a really great customer experience (don’t give customers a reason to talk badly about you in the first place; earn their loyalty and endorsement).
- Listen to customers more, promptly address issues when they arise, anticipate their needs.
- Mine your data wisely.
Because the answers to what our customers want, how they really feel about our brands and how to engender loyalty and advocacy is in the data. And social media has data like we’ve never seen.
The volume of data transmitted through online channels – social networks, blogs, tweets – is massive. With more than two billion people online, 500 million Facebook users, 90 million Linkedin members, and over 10 billion video streams per month being uploaded in the US alone, this is no aberration, nor is it a young person’s game. In fact, adults are one of the fastest growing segments of online users.
Embedded in that barrage of data is the public sentiment of your brand, real-time reactions to your product launches and marketing campaigns, the response to that innocuous change you made to payment due days that you thought nobody would notice, the why’s behind your client satisfaction woes, and the early indicators of competitive groundswell.
In the wake of the global economic meltdown and Wall Street indiscretions, brands have lost public trust. At the same time, rapid technology advances have enabled people to connect, giving them a global soap-box from which their voices could be heard.
The implication for marketers is that customers are retrenching from the push of advertising messages and getting the real goods on companies and products from those they know best and trust: their friends. Those friends are inextricably bound through social media.
Data derived through social media is a gold mine of information, a feast for the marketer of the future. Setting up the systems and software to mine that seemingly endless flow of information will be crucial. Analytics advancements have allowed us to take free form text from hundreds of millions of sources, and package and theme it into insights that can directly inform our business and marketing strategy. Text analytics, content analysis and sentiment analysis are real possibilities and statistical software allows us to pool data into useable pieces of information. Social media analysis has the power to give us the best of what traditional behavioral data, sourced from our marketing databases offered us, combined with the tremendous insight that attitudinal research delivers.
This new data source has the power, if used strategically, to be leveraged for ongoing advertising tracking; online customer panels and research forums; public relations barometers; customer service issue tracking; competitive intelligence; new product and feature development; as inputs to our predictive modelling and segmentation schemes; and as direct inputs to inform marketing strategy. And that’s at first blush… Imagine what we’ll find when we get in there and really start mining it!
And so, has the marketer lost control? As a marketer I can tell you that we had too much of control for too long. We’d run our course. How quickly we adapt to the changing tides and let the customer become part of shaping our message will make for healthier, more honest brands in the long run. Besides, our ability to adapt in business is what differentiates and sustains us, and all this really does is place us at the cusp of reinvention. Our next marketing frontier.
But if the marketer of the future is able to take control of one thing to ensure the sustained health of their brands and grow their business – that one thing must be data.
Download this white paper for more social media best practices: Acting on customer intelligence from social media