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Analytics in focus: Social data makes comms agency work a more exact science

by | Oct 28, 2015 | Social Media

There was always a portion of agency work that came down to the gut. Marketers, public relations teams and advertisers just knew sometimes, or at least they thought they did. They developed pitches and eventual campaigns using a combination of their intuition and data and insights taken from any number of sources. That approach made sense when there were fewer brands fighting for the customer’s attention. Now, though, companies have more competition than ever before.

Successful agency work has always come down to the story and the customer’s reaction to it. More options for the consumer means brands need to tell better stories, smarter stories that convey messages and themes to which a target audience can directly relate. Gaining those insights isn’t easy, but there’s one channel that can provide the information agencies need to create stories that set brands apart. Social media insights are a direct look into the way people discuss products and the messages most likely to win them over.

See your products like your customers do

Applying social media insights to agency campaigns is the evolution of a very basic principle of marketing, PR or advertising. By using data produced by people, agencies learn about customer’s aspirations and ideas. They get to see what the people using their products are and what they want to be. Since the story has always been at the heart of campaigns, the more personalized a story is, the more successful it will be. Moreover, social media is mature enough now to provide nearly a decade’s worth of content to inform stories and campaigns. Agencies no longer have to hone in on real-time data exclusively. They can see how people’s opinions and ideas have changed over time.

Edelman Digital, for example, is a public relations agency that applies social insights taken directly from social media data to improve campaigns. Not only have social insights helped Edelman make campaigns more specifically tailored to customers, they can gauge effectiveness by monitoring how social discussion changes as a campaign rolls out. Knowing, as Edelman found, that a large swath of people who buy and share social data about potato chips do so after spending time at the gym provides interesting motivation for a campaign. Framing the conversation around balance and wellness makes a brand stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Agencies can monitor social data to gauge reaction to strategy, as well. This isn’t only significant to measure ROI. It shows brands what features added to their products and services resonate best with their customers. An uptick in complaints about a new button added to the latest iteration of a smartphone or the discontinuation of a popular flavor of ice cream helps companies see the impact of their decisions. Previously, agencies needed to wait for a poor month, quarter or year to reassess a campaign or alter a product roadmap. Social insights mix historical and real-time data so brands can use empirical evidence to plan decisions and make alterations as they succeed or fail.

Show off your products where your customers are

One of the most significant aspects of agencies is their ability to provide value. A great ad campaign is a good start. It doesn’t matter, though, if it’s being highlighted on the wrong channel. Social insights help agencies profile their audiences based on gender, location, age and other factors and then determine which channels are most likely to appeal to those demographics. Looking back on the earlier Edelman Digital example, the ad campaign centered on the potato chips may indicate a significant portion of their target audience loves a certain television program and spends a significant amount of time discussing it on Twitter before, during and after an episode airs.

This means agencies can target these specific channels at the best time to maximize visibility. A lot of this can appear quite plain. However, social insights have provided agencies with actual, hard data and insights to ensure media buying has its desired goals. With competition increasing for customer dollars, poorly performing ad campaigns can be even more devastating to a brand and its agency. It’s not enough any longer to make decisions based solely on experience. Ad buying is increasingly expensive, whether it’s television advertising or paid social media programs. When agencies know which channel their target audiences populates, they can make better decisions for their clients.

While agency executives must still rely on their gut instincts and intuitions when making strategic decisions across the agency, social insights can help them make more informed, data-driven recommendations. From the pitching phase to planning, ad buying and even influencer outreach, when insights taken directly from social data can inform spending, agencies can make their dollars and time go further.

Guest writer Stephanie Newby (formerly Hanbury-Brown) is Crimson Hexagon’s CEO, responsible for the company’s vision, values, corporate strategy and operational excellence. She is also the founder of venture investment firm Golden Seeds. Her prior experience was in financial services, the majority of which was with J.P. Morgan, where she headed several global businesses and served in roles including head of e-commerce. Stephanie retains a board position with publicly traded Amec Foster Wheeler plc. Her 10 prior board positions include Riskmetrics Group, Design2Launch, UK Securities & Futures Authority and Archipelago Holdings. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Sydney.

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