You Are What You Like

  |  April 25, 2013   |  Comments

Social data yields important audience insights.

Can what you "like" on Facebook reveal your personality? A team of Cambridge researchers attempted to answer that question in their paper entitled "Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior," and they found that race (African American vs. Caucasian), religion (Christianity vs. Islam), gender, and political views could reveal your personality with 82 percent to 95 percent reliability.

But why? When people choose to "like" something - or choose to pass on "liking" something - they consciously or subconsciously consider their own personal brand. In other words, when you "like" travel-, hiking-, or snowboarding-related pages, you do so because it is "on-brand" and reveals a bit about you. Now imagine for a moment looking at this data across a pool of people (perhaps those who have "liked" your Facebook page) to create a visual map of who your fans really are. How about taking the process one step further by performing an analysis to get a set of personas - distinct personalities of people who associate themselves with your brand. Well, it is possible and the results can be magical in both validating traditional personas that may already exist, and/or uncovering surprising new consumer segments you never knew existed before.

How? By leveraging the power of the community.

It starts with the data, but requires a commitment to analyze and act on that data. Today's leading brands generally find themselves well-positioned to collect the enormous data and insights available via their social communities. More often than not Facebook Connect, social sign-in, or multiple applications that include an app acceptance process to gain access to special content, contests, or coupons have been implemented. While these initiatives often provide great value to the community and keep them engaged, they also enable the brand to ask for and gain access to critical insights about the individual, including location, interests/likes, birthday, and more during the authentication process. With trusted brands that provide value and transparency to the consumer, app acceptance rates, and therefore access to this data, can range from the 50 percent to 80 percent range.

The next step is to analyze the data. No easy task, as unstructured data such as interests can be a bear to process and should generally be left to specialists who have built solutions that can provide compelling ways to best present that data such as visual maps around affinities. Once affinities that leverage likes and interests are understood, a deeper analysis can be conducted to understand what makes them different. Traditional or proprietary clustering algorithms may be used to detect distinct segments across the fan base that can then be compared and contrasted to a brand's existing segments. Once defined, these insights can then be used to inform, craft, and/or refine the brand's digital marketing strategy and tactics. Common uses include:

  • Identifying key questions to be added to registration pages and or/surveys that allow the brand to further identify users into the agreed upon defined segments across key consumer touch points.
  • Building targeted communication and content programs across channels (email, display retargeting, mobile apps, and push notifications) that leverage segment knowledge and speak to each segment's, and over time individual's unique interests and needs.
  • Securing content partnerships and sponsorships that align to key persona interests and affinities.
  • Hiring community managers who are reflective of these "personas" who can build engagement further through their deeper and personal understanding of the segment.

Measurement and analysis is a growing yet still very much immature aspect of social media - but it is rising in importance quickly. In fact, in a recent report by Forrester analysts Nate Elliott and Zach Hofer-Shall, the duo predict that measurement will emerge as its own category of social technology over the next two years. Why? According to Elliott and Hofer-Shall it's "because savvy marketers will demand social measurement tools that demonstrate how their social programs are creating marketing and business success."

Leveraging social data to find new consumer segments creates exciting new opportunities for brands (for more information, check out my blog). However, supporting those segments with the right content partnerships and sponsorships to create engaging content is critical to growing and nurturing those segments. In the end, that is where brands can create real marketing and business success over the long term.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.


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Michael Della Penna

Michael Della Penna is an digital marketing veteran, entrepreneur, and visionary currently serving as CEO of Invisible Media, a next-generation mobile data, decisioning, and marketing automation platform. Prior to joining Invisible Media, Michael was the senior vice president of emerging channels at Responsys. His responsibilities included spearheading the overall strategic direction, M&A efforts (including the acquisition of PushIO), partnerships, and solution offering across key digital channels including social, mobile, and display. Before joining Responsys, Michael founded Conversa Marketing, a full-service email and social CRM agency that helped brands ignite conversations and cultivate relationships with customers across the social Web. Conversa Marketing, was acquired by StrongView in 2010. Before branching out on his own, Michael served as CMO for Epsilon. At Epsilon, Michael helped grow and transform the company from a database provider to a multi-channel marketing services powerhouse in just three years. Michael's other key leadership roles include CMO at Bigfoot Interactive, vice president of strategic development at CNET Networks, Inc., and vice president of marketing at ZDNet. Michael has been named to BtoB Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in Business-to-Business Marketing five times and received a BBA and an MBA from Hofstra University.

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