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Don't Think: "What Can We Use Social Media for?" Instead Think: "What Are Our Data Ideals?"

ImageOften when businesses are investigating social media, they’ll approach it from the perspective of what they can get out of it. ‘How could we use this?’ ‘What value can we get from it?’ ‘How do we use it to spread our message?’ This makes sense, but a recent conversation I had made me think there may be another way of looking at it. There are constant opportunities in social media, and its influence on consumer behaviour is expanding - brands definitely do need to be involved - but there’s also a wide range of options available to analyse the data and many angles to investigate. If you can think of information you might want to extract from social media, generally, as the saying goes, ‘there’s an app for that’. With that in mind, it may be of benefit to take a wider view with your thinking - don’t think: ‘How can we use social media?’ Instead, forget you’re talking about social media at all. Think bigger. In an ideal world, an ‘access all areas’ scenario, what would be the ultimate data or consumer insight you’d love to have. 

‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could..?’

Think of your business, of how you currently market yourself and connect with your audience. Traditional media is limited in how much you can narrow your focus, mostly confined to demographic profiles, which are beneficial, but not as specific as you’d ideally like to get. Taking the medium out of the equation, think about who you’d like to target, what information you’d love to access that would help you reach your prospective clients.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could...

  • Have your brand information in front of people right at the time they need or desire your products?
  • Highlight the benefits of your services, specific to each prospective client, as they’re conducting pre-purchase research?
  • Establish better relationships with influential people who can generate positive word of mouth and help spread brand message?

These notes are somewhat general, but you get the idea – for example, maybe you sell model trains and you’d love to be able to find people who were thinking about buying a train set so you could share your knowledge and expertise with them and get them on track (pun intended). Maybe you’d love to have a direct line to people thinking about buying a new vacuum cleaner so you could talk them through it and find the best device for them. Strip out all restrictions of reality and try to be as specific as possible – what would be the optimum point in the purchase chain that you’d want to get your message in front of prospects?

Looking in Reverse

Once you have an idea of how you’d ideally go about it, you can then return to social media and see if it’s possible. ‘I need to get in contact with every HR manager in the country to let them know about us and what we can do’ – You’d do this by looking up HR managers on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and working out where they’re active online, what communities they’re part of, what blogs they read. This data would then enable you to target the right sources to get your business in front of them – obviously, this is limited to those that are active on social media, but that number is always increasing, and your message will spread beyond social networks if it resonates with the right people. ‘I need to locate people who are looking for sports equipment right when they are considering a new purchase’ – You’d do this by conducting a Twitter search for specific sports within a geographic region, or you could think about what other factors lead to people searching for sporting products – terms like ‘weight loss’, ‘pregnancy’ (for getting in shape after birth), diabetes. You can expand your thinking to these wider search terms to locate conversations which will then enable you to find the places they’re looking, the sources they’re reading, the people offering them advice. By working in reverse order - looking at your ideal, not what you can get out of the platforms - you’re opening your mind to the data that’s going to be of most use, not trying to broadcast at random or hit large, unspecified audiences. There are 58 million tweets sent every day, it’s more than likely that you’ll be able to locate relevant info within such a huge expanse of data - you just have to know what it is you’re looking for.

Don’t think of what you could use social media for, expand your view to what would be the ultimate info to have, the ideal people you’d like to get your products in front of, the ideal time to reach them in the purchase cycle. Imagine you had the ability to freeze time and you could get your brand info right there in front of them at that perfect moment – when would that be? What’s lead them to that point? Use that thought process as the base for your social media tracking, locate apps that provide the data you need and trace the conversation paths back to where your customers begin. You’ll then be able to target more specifically and map consumer pathways that will help you plan and action your future marketing efforts. 

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