Especially in this time of hype, hyper-competition, and Wall Street prodding, you might well be overlooking the core marketing strategies and tactics behind social media. Most often overlooked is that social media generates customer intelligence. If you're not using such customer intelligence to inform marketing decisions, then you're missing out on a major opportunity to extend the reach and effectiveness of your  marketing efforts.

No brand marketer would spend $1 million without some information about the risk and rewards involved. Social media is the best source to inform those risks and rewards. It's a predictor of success, and it offers clues about the source of failures. It is a window into the ultimate focus group, yet marketers still struggle with how to measure and glean its value by integrating its stream of constant, real-time data into their overall marketing strategy.

The latest Association of National Advertisers survey finds that 90% of companies are using social media as part of their digital marketing efforts, but 62% report they are concerned about measuring ROI—indicating at least some difficulty in deriving useful intelligence from their social media efforts.

This article illustrates how you can tie the kind of rich, actionable customer intelligence you can glean from social media into five overarching marketing decisions.

1. Retail Partner Valuation

At Compass Labs, we recently executed a campaign for a major consumer packaged goods brand, in the process unearthing a simple yet extremely significant fact: Its customers had more affinity for one mass market retailer than for others--in fact, much more affinity. The company used this information to drive more sales through that particular retailer by steering more overall advertising dollars its way.

But that's not the only way that information could have been used. For example, the company could have used the information to build business at a secondary retailer, or it could have used the information to affect pricing and packaging. As it is, that little piece of information paid huge dividends and informed critical decisions.

2. Customer Acquisition Strategies

Especially now that social media networks are connected to ad exchanges and real-time bidding (RTB) technology, brands have access to real-time customer intelligence,  not just to what their fans and followers said about them yesterday. You can get a complete profile of users who are interested in your brand that tells you who they are, what they like, and the things they do. Social intelligence reveals what websites they visit, what events they attend, and their favorite fashion brand.

Use such information to establish a relationship and two-way dialogue with users and acquire them as customers. Rely on your most engaged "fans" as brand advocates and use the interactivity of social to acquire customers through word of mouth. Discover an entirely new segment of users ripe for conversion that extends the audience you initially sought.

Customer acquisition has reached a whole new depth and level of interconnectivity. When considering growth strategies in a tough economy, intelligence you gain from social media is crucial in driving customer segmentation, audience targeting, and even off-social marketing.

3. Brand Sentiment

We've been in the middle of the election, and it's been especially easy to see how brand sentiment can be understood and effectively managed across social media. What's played out before us is a head-to-head brand battle the likes of which we haven't seen since Coke and Pepsi's taste-test wars.

For example, one presidential candidate's messaging focuses on job creation; the other candidate's messaging is about lower taxes. Seeing a positive reaction to these different points of view, the candidates' campaigns immediately positioned messaging around "tax reform" (Romney) and "no off-shoring" (Obama). Don't think the candidates and their advisors don't know how these messages play.

This kind of sentiment strategy is not limited to politics. Social media intelligence can feed brand sentiment analysis and enable you to quickly execute your corresponding marketing strategies. On the flip side, negative brand sentiment can also be quickly detected and remedied by harnessing social media as a CRM strategy.

4. Media Placement and Value

You don't have to guess which media are most effective at engaging your customers. You can track the actions a user takes on Facebook after seeing or clicking on your ad, and attribute off-site conversions to ad views or clicks. This allows you to make creative ad placements and strategically optimize them.

Plus, knowing your engaged audience's favorite TV shows and websites allows you to take this kind of optimization off-social.

5. Competitive Evaluations

Let's go back to the retailing analysis that we did for the CPG company, but let's flip it around and analyze the retailers. If a set of five retailers were in this competitive picture, the retailers themselves could use the natural-language processing technology that drives sophisticated social media intelligence to understand one another's fan base and social standing.

At the most basic level, each brand's number of Facebook "likes" serves as a measure of customer engagement. But the retailers could go further and look at actual engagement levels via Facebook's People Talking About This (PTAT) metric. Comments and shares, different affinity markers, and common interests are some other good ways to measure and predict competitive success.

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So that's five ways to use intelligence gathered from social media to inform your marketing strategies, but there are more. The point is that brands need to move quickly into integrated mode and use social media's customer intelligence to feed decisions across the entire marketing playing field.

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image of Molly Glover Gallatin
Molly Glover Gallatin is vice-president of marketing at Compass Labs, provider of a social media advertising and customer intelligence platform. She has 15+ years of media and marketing management experience.