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Harnessing Social Media With Informatica

Improving sales and service through customer centricity requires listening to and understanding your customers. And where are customers speaking these days?

You guessed it—social media. Just think about it. Each day, customers tweet 50 million times on Twitter and update their Facebook status 60 million times. Add in LinkedIn and user reviews and YouTube and blog commentary and more and you’ve got a customer data gold mine and a new frontier for marketing.

Suppose your company could learn from a Facebook fan that her son is looking for colleges, she’s shopping for a new car, and that she likes gourmet cooking and Caribbean cruises? That’s invaluable intelligence for targeted marketing. The question is how marketers can harness this information to build personalized, one-to-one customer relationships.

Harnessing social media data poses two principal challenges. One challenge is simply scaling a data integration solution to the huge volumes of social media data and parsing the information relevant to marketing (estimated at about 20 percent of the total).

The second challenge is incorporating social media data into customer profiles. How this is addressed depends on the maturity of your customer data management system. Some companies have mature solutions that use master data management (MDM) to consolidate and reconcile customer data from disparate applications into a single, trusted view.

Many companies, however, struggle with contradictory and inconsistent customer data that’s scattered across multiple systems. In theory, you could incorporate social media data into customer profiles in each of those systems, but that would obviously be problematic.

To truly take advantage of social media data, a company should have in place the technologies and processes needed to generate a complete customer view that covers accurate name, address and contact information, products and services bought, extended business and household relationships and interactions with the company.

Social media data can then enrich that single customer profile with vital information on what customers like, what they don’t like and more. The better you know your customers, the more effective you’ll be at cross-sell and up-sell. You can tailor service to customer value and improve the productivity of your sales, marketing and service teams.

To learn more about this intriguing topic and how Informatica can help, I’d encourage you to download our new social media solution brief, and check out our social media data YouTube video highlighting the challenges and opportunities around social media data.

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2 Responses to Harnessing Social Media With Informatica

  1. Torrance Mayberry says:

    I have spent the last few months reflecting on the role social media has in forward thinking organisations. The aspect of social media that I found of interest also expands on Chris Boorman’s January 14, 2011blog post (Embracing Social Data Within The Enterprise) and takes another perspective. The question I had – “Why are customers’ behaviours and interests through social media influencing trends (social & cultural) in the market?” This led me down the path to writing a research paper that examined the adoption of strategic change in organisations to embrace social media and engage with customers. As part of the research undertaken, a change framework was used to help formulate recommendations for organisations to successfully manage the change social media brings and measure its return on investment (ROI). Many organisations are already investing in social media without a clear understanding of the nature of change it brings and how they can determine business value from social media. If organisations are going to commit time, resources, and budget to social media the investments must be justified.

    Today’s organisations have recognised that customers’ behaviours and interests have changed. Customers or prospects are no longer passive consumers, but active participants in sharing information, insights and opinions about brands, products and services. They are using social media as a conduit to channel commerce.

    This has created a change problem for most organisations. What is the right formula that will ensure organisations’ learnings and behaviours change to evolve at the same rapid pace as the social media space? The reality is that current data integration, data quality and master data management practices in most organisations are no longer robust enough to keep pace with customers who use social media to channel commerce.

    In addition, customer information and engagement practices have barely begun to scratch the surface of how best to interact with customers to create enduring relationships and measure the impact. Returns on the investments into social media data are typically poorly measured. This has left a chasm between most organisation’s ability to engage with its customers and their customers’ desire to use social media to do commerce.

    As Chris Boorman suggests in his post, organisations need to be able to pull in data from the world of social media to understand more about their customers and prospects. This factor is important for organisations because social media has enabled people (customers and prospects) to form communities and connections around shared interests. This process has been reshaping the channels for commerce.

    Organisations are recognising that social media obeys different social rules. It has different opportunities and challenges and different types of values. It ultimately influences a change to how business has been traditionally conducted.

    If organisations have visibility into social media data they will be in a better position to know who is doing the talking (influencers), what it is they are saying (topics), and where they are saying it (social network platforms). This visibility can be used to help the organisation know who to talk to (audience), what to talk about and where to carry on that conversation. They need to ensure they are connecting the right message in the right ways to the right audience. This is an extension of the organisation’s business as the social economy emerges creating a new dimension of commerce.

    The reality of competitive advantage through social media means that not only is change becoming more frequent, but the nature of change may be increasingly complex and the impact potentially more risky making ROI measurement even more difficult.

    It is no longer sustainable for an organisation to engage with customers based solely on an understanding of demographic data. In order for organisations to become good listeners and improve on customer engagement, they will need to understand customers’ ever evolving behaviours and their interests. Accurately measuring interaction through social media will encourage an organisation to evolve with the market.

    Social media data helps organisations maintain homeostasis in the social economy as it evolves. Market insights gained from social media data will provide organisations with an opportunity to improve on customer engagement. They will be much better positioned to know what the customer or prospect thinks about a brand, its products or services when social media data is used to enrich their view of the customer. This will provide a window into the mind of the customer to ensure organisations build enduring customer relationships.

    Data integration, data quality and master data management are fundamental technologies enabling organisations to capture and analyse social media data and measure ROI. Organisations without these innovations are missing out on another perspective of their customers and prospects. Over time this blind spot will grow, making it increasingly difficult for them to compete because the organisation is disconnected from the trends that are reshaping the channels for commerce.

    The forward thinking organisations see that social media data provides them with opportunities to improve customer engagement and helps them become more adaptive and innovative, evolving with the market. Organisations that have this level of market insight and effectively measure ROI will learn and evolve alongside their customers and prospects. For instance, organisations who make use of social media data will have the ‘know how’ to find the right kind of audience and build a viable channel for new commerce. Moreover, connections with their audience will enable an organisation to create unique experiences based on taste, location and trust for their brand.

    We are living through transformative times. It will be forward thinking organisations that maintain homeostasis through the change by capitalising on social media data enabled by data integration, data quality, and master data management technologies. The winners in the social economy will be organisations who truly differentiate, innovate and integrate social media data to participate to the fullest with their customers.

  2. Some interesting thoughts there Torrance, though I have to say I disagree with a number of your points.

    There are two key assumptions underlying many of your arguments:
    • That an individual will behave consistently and have the same drivers in a social situation, as they do while they are interacting with your business, and
    • That the potential insight value represented by a vast social media database outweighs the cost of storing, extracting and analysing that data. Or, putting a different slant on it, that you can treat users of social media as a vast database of individuals.

    I believe both assumptions are flawed.

    People lie. The reason marketing companies prefer to conduct customer focus interviews one-on-one is to minimise some of the factors which induce people to lie, such as impressing their friends and embarrassment. With the average number of Facebook Friends for 13-16 year olds now around 450, that need to impress and be noticed is growing by the day.

    Looking for the themes and brand sentiment as Kodak has done makes perfect sense to me, and in that context I agree with your assertion that a business’ communication strategy could become significantly more refined with more effective use of social media. When you start utilising social media to “enrich their view of the customer” though, you’re inherently overlaying business context on private comments. Using this as the basis for product and strategic decisions is to ignore the paradigm of starting off with a clearly defined business problem, as you are instead basing your decisions on comments which may turn out to be merely throwaway remarks, or a huge example of following the leader.

    Likewise, for most businesses I think the cost to store, cleanse and analyse the data will be prohibitive. Some high value/low volume industries such as real estate and luxury cars may find it useful, but for most I expect the lack of structure which partially defines social media will make obtaining that insight like extracting gold from sea water – technically possible, but not profitable. In fact, having to wade through 50 times as much data about 1000 times as many customers and potential customers could potentially lead to a catastrophic loss of reputation amongst your existing customer base, as has happened with some overambitious CRM projects.

    Fundamentally, I regard social media in the same way I regard most modern technical innovations – it simply allows us to do what we’ve always done much faster and more easily. Social media works because it’s unstructured, in exactly the same way a conversation with a group of friends is unstructured. I’ve seen a number of articles suggesting social media is somehow different because of the ability to search. I disagree. When the police want to investigate a crime, they talk to witnesses, and then proceed to talk with anyone the witnesses have mentioned etc, all the way down the chain until they arrive at a conclusion… which may or may not be the truth. Searching Twitter does exactly the same thing, but at a finer grain and across a much larger population set. The true value of this for me lies in the population insight, trends and opinions, not the individual.

    My prediction is that BI and database vendors will convince many companies to try what you’re suggesting, but very few of them will find it meets expectations. Like the gold rush, the ones who will make the real money will be the modern analogues of the railroad, steamship and supply merchants. For example, if SalesForce.Com were to create a data centre large enough to analyse the ocean of social media data, and successfully associate customer tweets and posts with their own customer’s databases, that would be an extremely attractive sales proposition for many companies. As I said above I would still question the actionable insight these customers would get from this, but in the meantime SalesForce’s shareholders would be laughing all the way to the bank.

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