Using Facebook as a Gateway to Consumer Data

Posted on by Kristin Hambelton

Many CMOs still struggle with the challenge of seeing a solid ROI when it comes to Facebook. But the social network’s real power for marketers  is in its potential to provide a wealth of consumer data about your customers and prospects.

Brands have succeeded in building large communities of Facebook fans, yet few are maximizing the revenue potential of these captive audiences. When you think about it, Facebook is perhaps the largest and most accurate database of customer information ever.  Consumers willingly list and share tremendous amounts of data on Facebook—from their name, location, and email to their interests and even what they’re doing at this very minute through updates, pictures, check-ins and Open Graph actions. Marketers are discovering that the social network’s real value is in tapping this data goldmine and using it to engage fans in one-to-one dialogues across all communication channels.

The power of marketing on Facebook isn’t simply to drive conversations. It presents a new way to amplify them by making them more relevant and personalized.  To be truly effective, though, it must be part of a larger communication strategy—conversational marketing—that unifies multiple channels and devices to ensure individuals receive the most relevant message or offer during each and every interaction.

State of Facebook today

Facebook isn’t going away; in fact, it continues to grow rapidly. The site recently reported  it had 665 million daily active users on average for March 2013, an increase of 26% year-over-year. That’s a very large audience that is actively using the social network for connecting with friends, following brands, and more.  A recent IDC study sponsored by Facebook revealed smartphone users check into Facebook an average of 14 times a day, whether from home, on the go, in class or out with friends. This adds up to an average of just over half an hour (32 minutes) per user spent on the site daily.

With the maturing of social media, brands are discovering that social media marketing costs more and more money. It’s no longer just a way to diffuse news and gather information about customer opinions. Today, marketers are faced with multiple ways to manage social media marketing, from hiring numerous community management resources, investing in social advertising or working with social media agencies. Today, Facebook is monetizing  and making it mandatory to buy ads to reach new—or even existing—fans.  This all adds up in a CMO’s marketing budget.

Why must CMOs pay attention? Social media has evolved not only as a new content publishing, sharing and discovery tool, but more importantly as peer-to-peer lens into real-world conversations that affect the perception, engagement and overall direction of a brand. CMOs can’t afford not to partake in the conversations.

Benefits of marketing on Facebook

So what can a CMO do to realize real value for their brand by marketing on Facebook? Capture and use the rich data that Facebook provides. Brands have a tremendous opportunity to acquire a lot of new, highly qualified opt-in contacts by using social-opt on their Facebook applications or Facebook Login on their website.

Consumers are open to the social opt-in which allows marketers to obtain accurate and valuable customer data.  Using Facebook apps and Facebook Login, brands can also enrich knowledge of existing customers.  Capturing additional social profile data is very valuable for brands. For example, knowing pages and brands people like, their interests, places they check in (restaurants, shops, cinemas, etc.) will allow brands to deliver ever-more relevant and personalized communications across inbound and outbound channels.

Facebook has also allowed marketers to leverage the use of social check-ins (especially when using Facebook’s Open Graph data) where a social user marks his or her location via social apps. Open Graph creates rich behavioral data that can be used to deliver personalized messages and experiences. When check-ins are stored, marketers then have an opportunity to deliver real-time location-based offers as well as analyze the data for future campaigns.  For instance, a check-in at a coffee shop could trigger a mobile push notification offering an incentive to visit a nearby retailer, or a retailer could leverage Spotify plays to dynamically propose music-related offers. Open Graph data gives the marketer the opportunity create real-time actions to reach the customers.

Having this data either from Facebook via the social opt-in is very powerful for marketers, as it then allows them to converse with the customer or prospect on other channels (email, mobile, etc.), enabling true cross-channel conversational marketing.

How to Engage in Conversational Marketing

To begin engaging with customers and prospects, organizations must move beyond social media as a mass-marketing tool, and identify opportunities to make it more personalized with messaging that is coordinated across other communications channels.  It’s just like in life– if you were at a cocktail party and walking around the room having a conversation with the different people there, you would be not be blasting a mass message. You would have a conversation with an individual, learn more about them and actively listen to tailor your message to interest them and prolong the conversation.  That’s the goal of conversational marketing—using all that data on Facebook to learn about your customer, so you can respond and stay relevant.

A follow, a like, or a share is just the first step in establishing a relationship with a customer or prospect. There are additional steps needed to transform a fan or a follower into a customer, and better yet a loyal customer. Converting a fan or follower into a loyal customer involves providing personalized, relevant, and exclusive content and services to build a one-to-one relationship across channels. Consider this B2C retail example to explain the effectiveness of cross-channel marketing on all social media channels:

1      Facebook: A consumer clicks on the ‘like’ button of a retail cosmetics brand on the Facebook fan page to obtain access to exclusive deals and promotions. The next day, the retailer sends the customer a message offering new fans for a 15% off coupon.

2      Website: She is presented with a personalized link within the message, and upon clicking, is brought to a landing page where she can give her email and then receive a bar code coupon to present to her next trip to the store, as well as a promo code for shopping online.

3      Coupon: To use the coupon, the consumer enters the retail cosmetics chain to buy body lotion and also applies for a loyalty card at the point-of-sale.

4      Email: One week later, she receives a welcome newsletter and is asked about joining the retailer’s seasonal Facebook contest page.

5      Facebook: She clicks on the ‘like’ button on the page, and goes to the seasonal campaign page. There, in a ‘reward’ tab, the consumer is presented with an embedded survey to provide more detailed contact and preference about herself, her interests, as well as her own social media contact information. In exchange for providing this information, she is emailed a $10 coupon useable towards her next purchase.

This is customer engagement at its best: personalized, targeted and cross-channel.

The secret to perfecting cross-channel marketing campaigns is to recognize every customer and what is relevant to them, at every point in the communications cycle, regardless of channel. Today that channel is Facebook; tomorrow it could be another forum for marketers.  In today’s fast-paced world, personalized, cross-channel (especially over digital channels) messaging becomes more crucial for marketers targeting customers and prospects in real-time. With the benefits of Facebook marketing and social marketing software, marketers can realize the potential of social media data to drive more effective marketing campaigns.

 Kristin Hambelton is vice president of marketing at Neolane.


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