Every Fourth of July, the main drag through Atlanta comes alive with 60,000 runners for the Peachtree Road Race – the world’s largest 10K. Millions of supporters and dozens of bands line Peachtree Road with signs and banners cheering on their favorite runners.
For runners, the event is sensory overload. There are people lined shoulder-to-shoulder, cheering, music (and beer and donuts) lining the route, not to mention the physical exertion of running 6.2 miles.
For the spectators, finding your special someone can be nerve-racking. It takes careful prior planning and execution to ensure the runner gets to the side of the road at the right place and right time to catch a glimpse of a loved one or fan.
The end of the race is like a mob scene. The race officials set up balloons with letters on them for people to congregate under – taking your chance of finding your group from one in 100,000 to one in 5,000 or so. Better, but not great.
The Peachtree Road Race is a massive social event even more than it is a 10K. It’s nearly impossible to run a personal record (PR) race. In fact, runners rarely run for time, but rather for softer goals and just plain fun.
Social media marketing is a lot like the Peachtree Road Race.
There are millions of spectators and, at least, thousands of participants. It takes careful planning and a lot of work to find the participant you are looking for and even with letter balloons (listening tools), you are still sifting through thousands of people to find them.
With persistence and determination, you may see some results in soft metrics like mentions, likes, and share of voice, but you are far less likely to run a personal record in hard metrics like marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads, and revenue. We can do better.
Prior to the Peachtree Road Race, those who have run the race before carefully coordinate with family and friends rooting from the sidelines – everything from where they will stand to what their signs will look like are predetermined so runner and supporters can find each other.
During the race, these agreed upon signals coordinate a meeting. After the race, experienced Road Racers set up meeting places away from the balloons and the craziness of the park. Places that are still public, but away from the noise.
Finding potential buyers in the sea of social runners can be near impossible. Today’s listening tools, like the letter balloons at the end of the Peachtree, may help marketers narrow down their search from millions to thousands, but they won’t help marketers find the few runners that are most likely to become prospects. In the social race, marketers can do better by actively listening. The trick is knowing what to listen for and having the tool set to help do it.
What if marketers had a tool that understood what their current customers looked like and was capable of listening to the social race for more prospects that looked the same? What if that same tool could understand buying signals among the many lookalike prospects and could then rate those prospects in order of most likely to engage? And what if that same tool could then engage the most likely prospects right there – in the race they are running, in a manner in which the prospect has chosen to engage?
A tool like that would be powerful.
Marketers have come to expect marketing technology to be difficult to use and not quite capable of predicting and attracting the right people at the right time. Marketers really want tools that help them attract the few people that have genuine interest, now.
We can do better than what marketers have come to expect from technology. We have the ability to deliver tools that actively listen to the social race and are capable of learning which runners to listen for and predicting the ones that are most likely to engage now.
Thousands of potential prospects are running a social race at any given minute. Millions of company spectators are flashing their signs from the curb hoping that the right runners catch a glimpse of their message. We can do better. And we will.
Jason John is Chief Marketing Officer, Digital for Publishers Clearing House, a role in which he is responsible for the development and execution of overall ... read more
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