Using Social Data to Drive Growth.

Social media delivers endless amounts of real-time data. But how can this be turned into tangible growth for your business? 

Manita Dosanjh
Manita Dosanjh
October 5, 2015 - 6 min. read


marketers use social listening tools


potential revenue increase with social data


data projects predicted to fail by 2017


The potential for driving innovation and real business growth from social data insights is enormous for most businesses, but most haven’t yet reached the level of maturity needed to realize this potential. Every 60 seconds, 1,820 terabytes of data are generated through social media, including 500 million tweets, 4.5 billion Facebook interactions, and 55 million Instagram posts. This is all real-time insight into customer behaviour for businesses, but the sheer magnitude of information presents a huge challenge for business leaders, particularly when data projects need to be married with business goals.

70% of marketers indicate they use social listening or monitoring tools that provide them access to valuable social data1 – its popularity for marketing efforts is gaining traction in the industry, and fast. But with all this social listening going on, the number of businesses who can attribute concrete growth to social intelligence insights is minimal. It was recently reported that 60% of big data projects begun by businesses will fail by 2017. Why? Most organizations just don’t know what to do with all this data.

Democratize your social data 
If business leaders are looking to leverage social data to drive measurable growth, they must first identify their organization’s social maturity. We can assess social maturity by looking at how integrated social media is with the entire organization: the pinnacle of social maturity is intelligence 2 – full integration of social data into existing business strategies and technologies. Social data can’t benefit your business’s overall growth if it’s locked up in the marketing department – increase your organization’s social maturity by making social data more accessible for everyone.

The first step to achieving growth is to democratize social data: integrate social data insights with every department that could use it, make insights from social media more fluid. 

From a management perspective, liquidizing data is proven to be a successful method for driving growth by increasing the efficiency of an organization, as well as promoting innovation. On a macro level, the ‘open data’ strategy is regarded as a profitable management strategy for businesses. McKinsey recently analyzed the potential for economic growth across seven industry sectors. They concluded that there was potential for an increased economic value of 3 trillion dollars a year in these industries, if an open data strategy was implemented.  

social data analysis

Business leaders can apply this macro understanding of open data on a micro level by allowing social data insights to be more accessible across teams. ‘Open social data’ is an instrument for enabling an organization – it allows for benchmarking, spreading best practices, and filling information gaps between teams. If social data is shared outside of the marketing team, it can create multiple business opportunities – from raising productivity, to improving products and services for the benefit of the customer, or identifying new market niches.

Below are just three examples of areas within the business that can thrive with insights from social data.

Sales: target and optimize
Social data opens up the opportunity to identify conversion points in the customer journey, as well as what triggers purchase intent within the customer. Using this insight, sales strategies can become more targeted – businesses can hone in their sales efforts to focus on hot leads that are ready to purchase, as opposed to blanket-targeting to customers who aren’t ready for sales messaging. Once sales teams have identified the touch points that trigger conversions, they can harness insights from social data to optimize customer engagement at the these touch points, and increase conversion rates.

Nordstrom have achieved groundbreaking success by employing this strategy. Over the last ten years, the company have invested in digitizing and integrating customer data across the organization, and part of this process has included making social data insights accessible and actionable for all teams. One example of this is Nordstrom’s work with Pinterest. After noticing that Nordstrom customers were highly engaged on Pinterest, the company tracked products that were trending within the network. They then optimized promotional messaging around these products in store (their touchpoint with the highest conversion rate) in order to increase sales. Through use cases like this, Nordstrom has been able to grow revenue by 50% in the last five years.

Product: enhance your lifecycle
It’s possible to prolong a product lifecycle, and increase it’s popularity with customers using insights from social media. This is already being implemented successfully by companies in China, and there’s huge potential for this type of optimization to work internationally. 

Many Chinese companies are using social listening around product launches and to drive product innovation. By tracking the relevant conversations amongst the brand’s social media audience, they have discovered huge opportunities for the product team. Following China’s lead, product developers can expand interest by identifying unexpected market niches; avoid hazards by spotting threats from competing products in the market; and judge success by tracking user sentiment during the product’s pilot period. Developers can also get inspiration for product innovation by tracking customer reactions to new trends within the industry. 

Xiaomi, the world’s fifth largest mobile phone network modified its products based on social listening results and increased product shipments throughout the product lifecycle.3 This enabled the company to extend the product lifecycle, increasing its value. This delivered far more successful results in comparison to product rollouts that did not leverage social listening.


Marketing: increase brand health
Brand health indicates the market strength of a brand in relation to its competitors. Measured by metrics such as brand awareness, purchase intent, and brand relevance, we can consider brand health as a direct indicator of a brand’s growth potential.

In the past, traditional market research (customer surveys, for example) has been used to benchmark brand health – but in the age of real-time social data, this type of benchmarking is too slow. Social data enables businesses to get up-to-the-minute insights into how their audiences perceives their brand. Business leaders should be taking advantage of this real-time insight to keep track of how their customers are making purchases, and what inspires them to convert. This will not only allow the marketing team to drive growth, but also spot a potential hazard before it has the chance to impact on sales figures.

Social listening for example, can help marketing teams map the customer lifecycle, and track the brand discovery mechanism on social media. Monitoring how customers behave at the different touchpoints through the customer journey will arm marketers with knowledge about how to increase customer advocacy (and therefore brand awareness), build higher customer retention, and encourage repeat purchases. If there is a dip in brand health, social data can alert marketing teams immediately, so the issue can be addressed before it impacts a brand’s market value.

Unify. Integrate. Grow.
While many companies are investing most of their resources in acquiring raw data from social media, most are failing to convert this data into something tangible and beneficial for the future of the business. It doesn’t have to be this way: concrete growth as a direct result of social data acquisition is possible; business leaders simply need to amplify the insights outside of marketing, and integrate them with the business processes and technologies used by other teams in the organization. Whilst insights from social data can help achieve marketing goals, they can also drive lead generation and higher conversion rates, enhance product lifecycles and enable brands to expand into new market niches. With an open social data mechanism in place, the potential for growth from social data insight is exponential.

1Use Social Data To Improve Your Social Marketing Maturity, Forrester, January, 2015
2Drive Toward Social Intelligence Maturity, Forrester, December, 2014
3Apply Social Listening to the Entire Organization, Forrester, January 2015

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