Mining Data to Remove the Suck from Social Marketing

Posted: August 13, 2010 in Uncategorized
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I read a great article recently at discussing the challenges of marketing in social media.  It was a follow up to one they published the previous month bemoaning “the way some marketers offer cash or other rewards in return for lying to one’s friends, while other dodgy companies sell bundles of 10,000 Twitter followers to help a particular brand look well loved, among other funny business.”

Wired’s follow up takes a different slant.  Instead of focusing on the lies and deception some brands use to build a social media presence, this latest piece looks at how companies are mining data to generate real social media buzz.

Here’s their scenario: “You’re sitting next to the pool at a Vegas resort, when you decide to tweet a picture of where you are to your friends at their fluorescent-lit day jobs, just to, you know, assault their sanity. A few minutes later, a waiter shows up with an ice-cold beverage on the house, explaining, “thanks for the tweet.”

The idea here is to genuinely reward customers for their positive comments vs. paying them to say something nice.  By reinforcing their positive behavior, marketers are hoping to create true brand evangelists.  As the article points out, if the waiter did hand you a free drink, your next tweet might be “This is the best hotel EVER!”

Just like Santa, marketers are trying to figure out who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.  They’re doing it by mining the data.  Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites allow you  to search specific terms – like your business name – to glean relevant information.  Some innovative marketers are working with companies that make specialized software to automate the task, correlate the findings with in-house databases, and then trigger an action.  Cool stuff, eh?

What really struck me though were comments by Marc Heyneker, the co-founder of Revinate, a company that provides this kind of software for the hotel industry.  He says that it is so difficult to crunch the data and separate the wheat from the chaff that it’s only possible to do it one vertical market at a time.  The needs of the automotive or restaurant industry for instance, are decidedly different from the needs of hotel operators.

That got me thinking.  Is this a new gold rush?  Many kinds of organizations get to make a choice at some point – should we be generalists and cater to everyone, or should we put all of our eggs in a specific vertical market basket?  But mining social media data is a relatively new prospect.  Is there room for different companies to cater to each vertical, or will one big player with nearly unlimited resources figure out how to be all things to all verticals?

If I had to guess, I’d say that individual companies will tackle individual verticals, but sooner or later some bigger company will consolidate the industry.  There’s too much on the line.  After all, he who owns the data owns the customer.  But in the short-term, there’s gold in them there hills!  Who’s going to pick up their pan and start prospecting?


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