Know Your Audience: The Future of Data

Almost everywhere you turn you can read about the benefits of big data. At best, these articles are confusing and, at worst, they create huge anxiety. We hear terms like structured and unstructured data; and qualitative and quantitative analysis. We’ve seen the rise of data scientists and hear about frameworks like Hadoop, database management systems like Cassandra, and predictive modeling tools like Tableau. But without getting a degree in computer science, how do regular folks like you and I benefit from big data?

As a very research-focused marketer, I’m loving the new generation of tools that are coming onto the market. Roughly, they are known as social intelligence tools and, unlike their predecessors, they don’t focus on the brand or reactions to existing social programs. Instead they help you understand the audience before you set a strategy in place.

Prior to the web and the ability to track real-time customer activity, we did a whole lot of guessing with a little bit of surveying and observation to piece together things like customer journeys, decision trees, motivations, and patterns. Prior to social media, there was very little data on our customer/potential customers’ affinities, tastes, needs, desires, influences, challenges, hopes, and dreams.

But we now have the web – where we can track just about every customer pattern – and social media – where customers are practically handing you the key to everything they are. And no, not everyone is active online or is bearing their souls on social media, but compared to the data we extrapolated our insights from prior to the web and social media, this is huge.

There are still problems with social media tracking tools that we’ve been using for years and why I’m so excited to see the emergence of what are being called Social Intelligence Tools. Forrester defines these as:

“the management and analysis of customer data from social sources, used to activate and recalibrate marketing or business programs”

So in a nutshell, Social Intelligence Tools allow you to use pro-active social listening in order to find valuable insights into what customers need and desire so that you can do a better job of reaching them. The real promise of big data is finally being realized through Social Intelligence Tools.

They will help you understand the full picture of your customers and potential customers – not just what they are saying about you and your products. And why would you care about this? Because you are not the center of your customers’ universe, no matter how much you think you are. Understanding your customer is key to unlocking the insights that will help you create better products (innovation), forge deeper relationships (customer service), and figure out how to give them great experiences that they will want to share (customer loyalty).

My favorites as of the last 6 months are: BrandwatchAffinio, Nexalogy, UnMetric, and NUVI. I suggest you demo them if you haven’t already.


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