As entrepreneurs, we care about all our customers, right? That’s why we target them and do as much as we possibly afford to meet them wherever they are. And predictive analytics are facilitating our process. Since, right now, most of them are online, networking, that’s exactly where we need to create more value for them!
What kind of value? We need to generate a benefit of such importance that it convinces our consumers to anchor-loop their purchasing behavior – anchor it in our brand and then repeat it over and over again. We convince them to come back time after time by anticipating their needs and evolution.
These are the two main concepts this article approaches:
Social Media Branding
It was only expected that social media reshaped the way businesses interact with their customers, of course. But the extent to which their role has shifted and the way they’d been forced to reposition themselves are at least intriguing.
Virtual communities acted as a modern day Robin Hood establishing that, from now on, ordinary networks had the power to set economic and cultural trends and directions.
On the other side, though, under the umbrella of customer centricity, businesses seem to be looking for a cure that would transcend prediction into influencing customer behavior.
It’s a “New Age tacit quarrel” that paints a new context and reminds us that we are evolving into something we don’t yet grasp.
The Questions we Answer:
- How do you build a brand in today’s social media context?
- What are the differences between Social Media Branding and traditional branding?
We dare say that the utter worth of a company stands firmly in its vision. The entire corporate identity springs from this unreachable ideal. Believing in a carefully defined utopia stirs things up and puts everything into motion. This agitation consists of a logical flow of actions. The steps we take are determined by the decisions we make. Transitively, an organization’s choices reflect its identity and echo its value.
Businesses become decision making machines, fully dependent on the content/data that fuels this process. Just as a car runs better on quality gas, your decision making mechanisms will properly work when fed the right data.
The Questions we Answer:
- What kind of information do we need?
- What is the difference between predicting and describing the data we handle?
- How does Social Media help with decision making?
Social Media’s Role Yesterday and Today
Every week, 1 out of 2 of your fans posts how much (s)he likes you on their social media accounts. Though it’s not necessarily among their first options, in a group of 3, these 2 customers of yours will look to connect and discuss with you via social media. But in a pool of 4, this group of 3 decides to acquire something from you on social media.
A Business2Community stat reports that 49% of people say they share online content they like with friends, family or co-workers at least weekly.
According to MediaPost, 67% of consumers have already used a company’s social media channel for customer service.
Biznology publishes that 75% of customers say they use social media as part of the buying process.
Before Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and all the other social media networks, things were simpler, weren’t they? (“Simpler for whom?”, we candidly ask 🙂 ) We had enterprises doing what they do best, packing it all in a great, touching story and delivering the experience to their group target. Keywords: “what they do best”.
Businesses held the bridles in assessment tools that allowed them to tailor cost-effective products or services to the needs of their audience. Keywords: “cost effective”.
Putting two and two together – firms would provide “excellence” boxed in price limitations. They alone would decide what is too much. They would filter and, then, diffuse any new ideas to the masses through more or less traditional marketing elements – flyers, billboards, actual guerilla campaigns, etc.
In this context, mass media would act as means or intermediaries between companies and customers.
After Facebook, social media started to reshape the way we interacted. It outdid geographical barriers and allowed people to regroup into intangible troops. All of a sudden, clients had the freedom to reach out and benefit from worldwide, pluri-perspectivism, thus creating and developing new impressions.
Strong and numerous opinions, then evolved into trends which slowly but surely intensified and took the form of self-sustainable subcultures. Power poles had shifted. Ever since masses of consumers had been grouping into these powerful social structures so that we would finally have a real say in what we’re provided with. It’s not about assessment tools and cost control anymore, but about the voice of the many.
That’s when social media became a mean to network and speak up. They would mediate between customers and companies.
One constant remains, though: companies’ role to convince people over and over again to repeat their purchasing behavior.
Aspects of Social Media branding
But before convincing clients to return, we need to strongly affirm who we are and what we stand for.
Personally, we live on social media! We create identities and put it all out there; or most of it, anyhow. This is not an article meant to judge whether that’s good or bad, but one which accepts the context as it is and comes up with adaptive solutions. Anchoring our customers is vital. But what, exactly, does it mean? It means that:
- We need to stand out! There’s a lot of competition out there and our customers do suffer from a mild form of “online ADD”. So, we need to draw their attention, somehow
- We need to connect deeper! Not just communicate or talk to them, but to relate in a natural, friendly manner and create a more powerful relationship.
- We need to give them the floor! We need to listen to them and their needs.
This committed presence of ours is the anchor itself. Customers, though, need a benchmark and that is, usually, the brand itself.
We have gone through strong cultural phases that have shaped our social lives and not the other way around. Before the 2000s, we were more focused on individualistic approaches where brands endorsing iconic figures from sports, music or other artistic domains were the absolute norm.
Later, between 2000 and until social media teamed up with smartphones, we had witnessed (what today we call a cliche) the era in which “content is king”. Shifting from person to information was only natural.
In 2000 the “.com”s have started to spread seriously and in 2001 when Wikipedia launched, information had become easier and freer to access and obtain than ever before. Conceptually, from the marketer’s point of view, we have been creating branded content and marketing campaigns based mostly on short stories, songs or video tricks.
Today, building a brand on social media is closely related to the online context we, as a collective nation, have built. We’re looking at dispersed groups that after exchanging data, begun to generate strong, wide, social movements that easily swing from on to offline and artistic circles that act as safety nets and support bodies for emerging talents. Basically, it’s a constitution of conventions which challenge previously set norms.
Content isn’t king anymore and everything that seems slightly mainstream has lost its value. Networks and inspirational trends are queens, now!
These social structures have become folkloric hubs, whereas social media branding has been about cultural branding. By initiating such trends and outbreaks and, thus, transforming into lifestyle innovators, brands can make a difference.
Establishing your brand in such an environment is a true challenge. We need to set up complex marketing programs that go across multiple markets but speak into innovating cultural trends. No, we’re not just promoting products and services anymore. The bar has raised to serving new lifestyle experiences that appeal to people’s popularity.
To do so, we can follow the following steps:
- Become aware of the norm! First on, we need to have the view from above, to understand the context as it is, without judging it; we need to relate to our customers and where they are right now.
- Find the breach and define the new ideology! Because this digitized crowd is made out of groups, it’s not homogenous. Thus, we can perform our miracles at the points of disruption between troops. A bit off-topic, if we study for a second, we’ll realize that the general direction of the universe it’s towards expansion. As Rob Bell also stated it, over time, particles somehow grouped together into atoms; atoms intelligently knew how to gang together into molecules; in turn, molecules gathered into cells and cells into people. So, back on-topic, it’s only natural that we had a tendency of crewing together. Marketers need to predict what kind of social systems are we going to pack into and what is the main ideology behind it.
- Connect breach to audience! Identify which part of your audience is, actually going towards that new outlook you have identified.
- Broadcast the new ideology! Create a story behind your products and services – a story that reflects the new philosophy in the smallest detail; a story that is not only a story, but a complex set of creeds that form a cool, benefic lifestyle.
- Keep innovating! Reinvent yourself based on your community’s development. Connect to them, listen to their requests, grow and evolve together. Giving up control is hard, indeed, but it’s what will ensure your social media branding has to do with the customers and this is going to keep them happy, loyal and returning.
You could follow these steps in order to build a social media brand. As we had just realized, the main point of this strategy is anticipating, predicting where the digital crowds are heading to. But there are several analysis tools and methods out there to support you in doing just that and they’re all connected to the kind and quantity of data you can gather.
How does Social Media help YOU with Predictive Analytics?
According to Phone Arena, there was more computing power in 2012’s smartphones than Apollo 11 when it went on the moon in 1969. Data gathering and usage had become more and more practical with time, because this way, it becomes easier to use.
As individuals, we tend to believe that social networks are free. As businesses, we know they’re not. Nowadays, social media is our biggest information generator. It offers an enormous quantity of both structured and unstructured data. So, what we do with it and how we use all these facts, becomes crucially important to the direction we’re heading.
Predicting something relatively simple requires a lot of data. In this case, companies need analytical mechanisms to support and speed up their decision-making processes so that their bottom lines would reflect better outcomes. There are several types of data analytics. We have a short description in the table below.
|DESCRIPTIVE ANALYTICS||DIAGNOSTIC ANALYTICS||PREDICTIVE ANALYTICS||PRESCRIPTIVE ANALYTICS|
|Understanding how things are going||Dive deeper into the problems at hand||Make predictions about future events (trends and behaviors)||Make predictions and suggest decision options to take advantage of the predictions|
QUESTIONS THEY ANSWER
|What happened?||Why did it happen?||What will happen?||How can we make it happen?|
|CORE||Discover relationships between explanatory and predictive variables||Discover relationships between data and events||Discover patterns in data||Discover relationships between data, business rules and mathematical models|
Marketers choose from a variety of analytics solutions packages that depend on data gathered and their own perception of customers’ needs. Consequently, they pick the analysis type based on the purpose it serves.
Since in today’s environment, we need agility, anticipation of trends and predictive analytics seem the most relevant of all reasoning, because:
- They bring better understanding of what value means both for decision factors and customers. If we can anticipate customers’ next steps, we can come up with the best products or services to satisfy their needs.
- They support achieving competitive advantage.
According to the problem we need to solve, we can use more types of analysis at the same time. Moreover, in order to stay in the game, marketers imperatively need to make timely and accurate offers to their customers, “timely” being the magic formula here. In this effort, by using advanced and complex analysis tools, they zoom in and out of human behavior. Currently, our social media profiles foster that information.
Thus, since we can see social media as direct, up-to-date reporting, anything our customers post on social media is of some kind of help.
Now, to make sense of it all, we can use these 3 simple steps:
- Understand the data they post and what it says about their overall image. We do this with the help of sophisticated algorithms that deliver conclusions by putting together apparently unrelated facts.
- Predict impressions, likes, etc. Presently, there’s a trend focused on anticipating “LIVE” behavior and, respectively, facts and right-now choices. It is based on gathering information from all devices, such as: location, facebook actions, recently looked up pages, used apps, etc. and coming up with the most accurate referrals.
- Act as in decide what kind of products they will need going further. Deliver improvements according to that. Create products and services that are good and appropriate for your customers based on having built and centered your activity on life-like personas reflected in the step above.
Here are a few examples of how social media specifically supports predictive analytics:
- As an interesting endeavour, IBM recently acquired The Weather Company. The transaction was made for the data, of course. Weather data is pretty important in getting customers to purchase umbrellas, for instance, if an app lets you know that in your area it’s going to rain in the next 10 minutes. The same app can also point you right to the closest umbrellas shop. Moreover, a representative of The Weather Company states that “weather affects people’s moods and how much they’re willing to pay”
- Shoppycat is a Walmart app that gathers information from Facebook and comes up with suggestions of gifts when your friends’ birthdays are approaching
- Wonga is another application that grants micro-loans without human intervention. It gathers data from social media and finds anomalies in relationships
- FoodMood.in is another app that takes food and location related information from your tweets and measures food sentiment.
Think of yourself as a customer – how do you feel when your favorite brand knows what you need before you even voice it? You feel special and valued, right? Well, give that to your customers and they will return!
In the end, we’ve just woken up to a market where both companies and media work together into convincing people to repeat their purchasing behavior so that they’d strengthen brands bottom line. In this context, data and predictive algorithms are kings.
They provide important insight into the newly digitized crowds that we’ve grouped into. Sentiment, social and network analytics are there to prevent hallmarks from buying fame and directing or challenging them to generate cultural innovation.
In order to do that, marketers need to be aware of the general context, foresee the direction we’re taking, match our target group with that direction and serve them with an integrative marketing solution package that clothes a provocative ideology into a whole new lifestyle.
All in all, as marketers, we’re aiming for a personalized marketing strategy that creates something more complex than what we’ve been used to until now. We’re trying to predict customer behavior in such way that we could, in the future, find stimuli and influence it.