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First-party data is treasure: Don’t waste it

Joel Windels, VP of inbound marketing at Brandwatch, shares his advice on how to use data analysis to better understand your customer and take your business forward

Most brands, whether a household name or small challenger, understand how setting up and maintaining a social media profile can be beneficial to their reputation. Marketers will have carried out the necessary research to understand which channels their potential customers are using, set up a number of profiles and started sharing content with their followers. A lot of time and effort can go into the creation of an impressive profile and useful content. This is important of course, but analysing the response to these efforts is equally significant. But still, it’s the treasure many people forget to use.

Some brands may overlook the amount of useful first-party data that can be gleaned from a social media following. A lot of brands gather data and broadcast on what they have discovered, but how many of them are actually listening and then taking action? There is so much to be learnt about who your customer is and this goes way beyond their age and gender. In fact, there is an entire gold mine of information to wade through.

Whether a large household name, or relative newbie on the scene, a brand should understand how setting up and maintaining a social media profile (or profiles) can be beneficial to its reputation. These platforms allow marketers to construct and share a positive message about the company they represent with followers. They also enable queries to be answered by the company’s customer service team in real time. The quicker and more useful the response, the more likely the brand can build a caring and customer focused reputation and encourage repeated custom. But what is equally important, yet more often overlooked, is that these interactions generate a mountain of first party data for brands.

Delving into social media mentions surrounding your brand, your industry and competitors can tell you so much about your target market. In a survey conducted by Econsultancy last year, 87% of respondents expressed that first party data was the most important source of insights for their business.  With consumers actively and willingly engaging with brands on a daily basis, the amount of information available on any customer base, however obscure, is incredible.

If you invest in a robust social media monitoring tool, you can gain actionable insights quickly. Location can be pinpointed to postcode level which is excellent both for small local businesses as well as for multinationals looking to pinpoint areas for growth.

Demographics data is available on gender, interests and occupation. This means you can analyse your market and look at any common interests and conversations to jump in on. Are they also Rugby fans? If so, join in the RBS Six Nations chat. Timing for your marketing is crucial, by monitoring social mentions of your brand, you can break this down by day of the week or even hour and minute of the day. Once you know when your market is keen to talk about your product, you can get the maximum engagement from them. Maybe numbers of mentions are highest during a certain TV show, for example. Maybe your audience would be more likely to interact at the weekends than during the week when you’ve been trying to connect with them.

An ice cream brand found that people were surprisingly more likely to be talking on social media about eating ice cream on days when it was raining, as opposed to days when it was sunny. By using this insight, the client was able to reshape their marketing to better reflect how their consumers used their products and perceived their brand. By mining the data, they made a discovery that challenged conventional wisdom and eventually led to a valuable outcome.

The key is not just to gather data and broadcast what has been discovered. The secret is to actually listen and put a response into action.

Some businesses are able to create an entire culture around data analysis, not only generating insights but activating them across the whole organisation. Rather than keeping first party data in the marketing team, sharing valuable insights with colleagues can really make their lives easier. For example, a web analyst might be grateful if the marketer is able to offer consumer behaviour insights derived from social that will help improve the customer journey on the company’s website.

Sharing successes with colleagues is also a good way to utilise the value of data and improve morale. It also encourages your employees to be great social media ambassadors for the company to the outside world. In turn this increases your reach, interactions and first party data. A nice way to get social noticed is to integrate it into your work environment by displaying the data on screens for everyone to see.

On the flip side, social data can often be the first sign of a problem or negative reaction to your brand. If social data is revealing that a particular set of customers are unhappy then marketers should be ready to share it with the relevant team members. By setting up alerts through a social media monitoring platform, you can manage and move to resolve a crisis at the first mention, rather than having to deal with a much bigger situation once it has already gained pace on social media.

In conclusion, social media platforms are a gold mine of first-party data for marketers to dig through. But in order to separate the real treasure from the dirt, analysis is paramount. Like a valuable heirloom passed from person to person, analysis must be taken beyond the marketing department and shared across the business.