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The Importance of Social Media in Meeting Consumer Demand

ImageSome of the recent movements in the tech space have opened up a whole new world of possibilities. Ideas once only imagined in science fiction are moving closer to reality. There’s Google acquisition of Nest, which is a move towards automation of household devices and tracking people’s actions within the home. There’s Amazon’s ‘anticipatory shipping’, where they’re going to send products to specific ordering hubs to account for expected demand in those areas based on previous buyer behaviour. Facebook’s targeted advertising is getting more advanced, Twitter is looking to introduce purchases in-stream. Technology is surging towards a world of data-fuelled artificial intelligence which will consider and act on your every interaction and, eventually, tell you what want and need, even before you know yourself.

While such a notion is a way off being a reality, one thing that is becoming clear is the increased intelligence of predictive marketing. With so much data available, it’s become normal to expect companies to know what you want, what you’ll be interested in, even when you’re going to want it. Targeted ads, while concerning to some, are improving in relevance and there’s a clear trend towards more purchases being made based on data-utilisation and focussed audience outreach.

While it’s still some time away, it’s worth considering how the move towards predictive marketing will change the future of business, and how your company can start factoring this into future planning.

C’mon – only major companies can consider utilising predictive marketing to any realistic level

Definitely, it’s true that advances in predictive behaviour take time and data, and it’s much easier for the major players to utilise that info based on the abundance of information they already have. But as the next generation moves into your target demographic range, the expectation is increasingly going to be that they are marketed to, rather than at. They’ll expect to see content relevant to them, nothing else - this will become more a requirement than a luxury. Obviously, there are paid targeted options already available via social networks, and some of those are really great ways to find new business, but there are other ways that you can begin working with the data available to incorporate an initial element of predictive marketing.

Social media monitoring will form a significant part of your marketing plan

There are still some companies who have not made any significant inroads on social media. Some don’t see the benefit, others find it too complex. Some simply don’t feel there’s significant ROI to bother with. Whilst all these perspectives are understandable to some degree, they are leaning more towards the ill-informed every day, as the benefits gained by those companies that are active on social continue to stack up. The one element that is difficult to argue is the value of social monitoring. If you think there’s no value in social media, that it’s not worth the effort – the best way to confirm this is to activate some level of social monitoring. You can use any of the major social media management tools like HootsuiteTweetDeckSprout Social - all of them have a free element, and you can set up keywords to see what’s being discussed about your brand or industry. If there’s little being discussed about your sector, no value in social media, then setting up a basic keyword monitoring process like this will be easy to check once a day, once a week, and you’ll be able to confirm for yourself that there’s nothing happening that would be of benefit for your marketing plan. Or more likely you’ll find the opposite. Setting up even a simple search, highlighting company and industry mentions, will show that there is significant benefit to social media, that there are conversations happening, every day, which are of relevance to your brand. Maybe you can’t act on all of them, maybe it’s just a few conversations here and there, but once you start digging, you’re likely to find gold in the social media data mine. It’s a great starting point for any business considering social media, particularly those unconvinced of the value and potential of the medium.

Yeah, but that’s nowhere near the robots and artificial intelligence you were talking about earlier

Agree, social media monitoring is not anywhere near an artificial intelligence system predicting when you’re going to be out of groceries and automatically ordering more. But much of the consumer data which forms the backbone of predictive marketing is coming from information tracked on social media. Think about it, the next generation conduct a massive amount of their day-to-day interactions on social platforms, and that’s only going to increase. Those younger consumers only know a world where Facebook and Twitter have existed, that’s where they discuss their interests, where they’re presenting their data for all to see. It’s where you can gain insights and start to build them into your planning. Sure, this won’t mean you can send them your product, along with a bill saying ‘Our data shows you gonna’ want this – pleasure doing business’, but it’s a start. It’s moving with the trend, rather than ignoring it. Social media is the future of commerce, it’s where you need to be. Writing it off as a fad or as an unknown is not an option anymore. You can see already how traditional media businesses who didn’t see social as a significant threat are now scrambling to catch up because they left it too long. You can’t afford to not be moving with consumer evolution.

Technology is advancing, predictive data is becoming more of a factor. Businesses need to be smart about how they utilise the increasing amount of information they have available to them, and monitoring social media is a first step into that new stream, a first step towards ensuring your business is moving in line with future demand. The new normal will be that consumers will expect you to find them, not the other way around. Tracking conversations, understanding your target audience, working out anticipatory signals – those that can utilise the data in the smartest way will be best placed to meet the demands of the next generation.

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