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If you're like most marketers, you've felt the crush of dealing with social media data. Trying to figure out how to use that data can cause a real rift in marketing departments. On one hand, the consumer insights can fundamentally change how you market. On the other hand, the amount of information available is mind-boggling, and it can paralyze your marketing department under its weight.

How do you make sure you use social media data in the most effective way, leaving you with more time, and information, to do what you do best—using your expertise to develop and run engaging campaigns?

The emergence of AI (artificial intelligence) holds great promise in helping marketers make better use of social media data. The benefits of AI right now are inarguable, and in the coming months the technology will take more steps toward solving more common social media data problems that marketers deal with every day.

Here are three areas where AI has made great progress in making sense of social data—and where it's poised to improve even more.

1. Parsing Text Posts

The best marketing departments stay in touch with their target audience and consistently know what their customers are looking for. Consumer insights used to consist of focus groups, customer surveys, and other market research methods. Those techniques are no doubt still valuable, but nothing can provide quite the immediacy or intimacy of social media.

The posts and interactions of your customers are a real-time repository of what matters to them. That data is exceedingly valuable, and it can inform decisions on everything from your message to your target markets. The problem is that sifting through myriad conversations, opinions, and interactions manually is simply not possible.

With new and upcoming AI-based technologies, gaining real-time consumer insights from this data is a reality, however. In an era where timeliness is everything, marketers must keep their messages fresh and current. AI that delivers real insights in real-time can mean the difference between making connections between customers, their interests, and your brand, and using messaging that falls flat.

2. Making Sense of Images and Video

Everything I just said about text posts goes double for photos and videos. An image is worth 1,000 words—or at least 280 characters. Photo-centric platforms have grown explosively, and marketers have had to follow suit.

It's almost impossible to grasp the sheer volume of images and videos posted to social media: Hundreds of billions of photos have been uploaded to Facebook; tens of thousands of images and videos are uploaded to Instagram every minute.

As with text posts, sorting through all that visual content manually is impossible. With images and videos, it's been difficult for even AI to keep up. But as AI technology has improved, getting actionable information from photos and videos is becoming a reality.

The insights are real. For example, consider a sneaker brand that mostly marketed itself to basketball players. Yet, many social media videos and photos showed it being featured as a fashion accessory. That discovery opens up a whole new potential target market and marketing campaign ideas. A person combing social media feeds may luck upon one or two of these videos, but an AI-based program can see the posts, determine their similarity, and present them in an easy-to-digest format that marketers can act on.

3. Identifying Influencers

Have you ever woken up in a cold sweat wondering whether one of your paid endorsers is doing something that doesn't quite fit with your brand and image? We've been there.

Even the most social-media-savvy marketing departments can have trouble picking the right brand ambassadors for their products. Yet those influencers can be very valuable, turning their followers on to a product with a simple mention.

However, identifying the right influencer manually is problematic: too many factors to consider and too much information to sift through. To start, you have to know the entire history of a person's posts—including how posts on various topics resonate with your particular audience, who follows the influencer, who follows those followers, etc.

Now, AI-powered consumer insights based on all that social data—and more—can provide marketers with the information and decision points they need to pick people who will activate their target audience: those who share common interests with them, those who are viewed favorably, and those who don't have any skeletons in their closet.

* * *

Social media data is a complex web of photos, video, text, and other data. Making sense of it requires more than a person or team of people; you need a technology solution. AI has now developed to the point that it can connect widely dispersed data points and provide actionable insights for marketers in real-time—and new developments promise to improve results.

If you haven't implemented an AI solution to help you make use of social media data, now is a great time to consider it. And if you have? Buckle up: The technology improvements are coming, and they're going to make your marketing department much more effective.

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Drowning in Social Media Data? Three Ways AI Can Help

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image of Lou Jordano

Lou Jordano is chief marketing officer at Crimson Hexagon. He brings more than 20 years of experience building and leading high-impact teams within global enterprises and high-growth startups.

LinkedIn: Lou Jordano

Twitter: @LouJordano