How brands leverage social data

17 Oct 2016

  • Analytics
  • Data

By: Andrew Birmingham for ADMA

There are a couple of common ways that brands are leveraging social channels to make their advertising more relevant.

Firstly, if they can achieve a reasonable match rate to social platform members, a brand can very effectively leverage the information that social platforms hold about their members’ likes, dislikes and characteristics to deliver targeted ads through the platform’s in-stream advertising.

Secondly, social channels can be a great way to test consumer reaction to a creative idea before committing to the time, cost and un-retractable visibility of an above the line campaign.

Inna Kolyshkina, head of the South Australian chapter of the Institute of Analytics Professionals of Australia (IAPA) says, “Analysing customer behaviour patterns online such as the sites they reach, social media they use, their interests as expressed on services like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Quora along with the purchases they make allows companies to understand the needs of the customers and display the advertising material that the customer is likely to respond to.”

In simple terms, if a customer’s behaviour suggests that the customer is interested in fashion, the ads they see may be about clothing.

Social of course also allows companies to hear directly back from their customers and prospects.

Facebook Australia and NZ measurement and insight lead, Steve Lockwood says,

“Being focused on the needs of consumers is key, rather than blasting the same product messages to everyone. Advertisers that achieve good success on Facebook and Instagram recognise this.”

Zuckerberg’s Curse also offers a number of different targeting options.

Advertisers who create content to communicate a relevant message to the right audience at the right time generate the best return for their business, according to Lockwood. “Our platforms are pretty unique as communication channels, in that we can reach a broad audience in a segmented and personalised way.”

“The most successful partnerships we have are with advertisers who have a clear idea of what they want to achieve by advertising on our platforms – brand building, new customer acquisition, existing customer retention and growth and so on – and leverage our targeting capability to ensure their execution is in line with those objectives.”

Kolyshkina has her own examples. “Users of Amazon are encouraged to post reviews of the products that they purchase and little attempt is made by Amazon to restrict or limit the content of these reviews. The reviews provide accessible and plentiful data for analysis."

As a more specific example Kolyshkina refers to an analysis of social data on public sentiment towards the four major Australian banks in 2012.

This work delivered among other findings, the following insights:

• The positive consumer feedback focused on helpfulness of staff in the branches.

• The complaints focused on banks’ online interface deficiencies (particularly that of Bank Three), customer service in branches (most negative feeling being created by Bank Two), email spamming (particularly Bank One), ATM issues and customer fees (no difference across banks).

• The high-value consumer groups that had markedly lower sentiment than the rest were young professionals who commented on Bank one’s online interfaces inadequacy and those having children who expressed disappointment by Bank two for failing to meet the recent RBA level of rate cuts.

High touch

Social channels can be useful as a medium to directly engage with customers to gauge their responses; equally they can be a powerful tool for discreetly polling customer opinion. Using social channels to create a dialogue with customers means a brand can effectively keep a finger on the pulse of how it is being perceived in the market, and quickly flag any issues before they hit the mainstream press.

Using social data to understand customers without direct interaction is something of an art, because it requires reasonably sophisticated semantic analysis to get true insight into the mind and mood of consumers. Brands that do invest in good analytic resources – and this is an area where a good analyst still trumps most automated systems – can reap substantial benefits by tracking how consumers speak about them, as well as to them.

Merging with non-social and offline data

Increasingly social data is being used to extract even greater value when blended with offline and non-social data.

Merging social data with other data streams can be straight forward or profoundly complex, in the same way that merging any other data source is.

If there is a linking key – an email address, name, phone number in common – matching is simple. Where blending data can be difficult is when you are dealing only with aggregates and reports from each source. In those instances, techniques like scaffolding data and finding proxy keys can help, but it remains as much of an art as a true science.

Data on the customer location can be easily obtained from the social sites. Then, depending of the type of insights brands are seeking, they can use customer location to overlap this data with various other inputs such as socioeconomic features of the area they are in for example, unemployment levels, average household income; or geographic characteristics such as weather and climate.

“We have established partnerships with the best data providers in the market, to enable targeting options using offline demographic and behavioural information in combination with online Facebook and Instagram data,” says Lockwood.

“Partner categories are available to every advertiser in Australia, and information such as socio-economic status, life stage, shopping habits etc can be used for targeting on our platforms. In addition to this, our Custom Audience product allows advertisers to leverage the information that they know about their own customers and website visitors to develop relevant messaging even further.”