Effectively using social media in business beyond its initial use as a transmission protocol requires a good deal of data analysis and information. We tend to forget about this when we use social media in our personal lives because in our minds we automatically do the data to information conversion. A friend posts some data and we immediately interpret it as part of a life that we more or less know. But it is the previous knowledge of the friend’s past behavior that sets up the analytic template in our minds, which we then fit the new data into to produce information.
Businesses do not have this capability because they don’t know their customers as intimately and a successful business has many, many customers. Also, many customers are reluctant to share their personal information directly. Nevertheless, this level of intimacy, based on prior knowledge and assembled into a profile of the customer, is the ultimate goal of social media’s thought leaders. It is also the objective of Awareness Marketing.
Awareness Marketing is a two-year-old company with fifty people, 500 customers and a product called the Social Marketing Hub. And although it uses the “hub” word, it is different from other products with the same attribute. Awareness’ focus, and differentiation, is on collecting data to provide better information for sales and marketing people to act on. Lots of social media applications collect data but they more or less get by using whatever they can passively collect. Awareness tries hard to find, collect and catalog every scrap of data it can identify, much as friends collect data on each other almost by osmosis.
More data means more raw material for analysis and that usually equals a richer information set. So the Social Marketing Hub is set up to capture whatever publicly available information it can through popular social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and others. The data is catalogued and then made available to marketers who can “slice and dice” it using the company’s tools. In the process it can identify sub-populations, through scorecards, of a company’s universe of customers and contacts who might be interested in a specific offer.
This approach to specificity is prevalent in many CRM Idol companies this year and represents what in all likelihood is the next iteration of rolling out social media for business. That’s to say that with the last mile of communication covered by the highly popular trio of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn plus home grown solutions like the corporate blog, vendors are beginning to look upstream at what’s needed to fill the communication channels with valuable, non-spam, content. One of the first things is knowing who you are communicating with.
Awareness is doing a good job in this area. It offers a logical and attractive interface that a savvy marketer can figure out in about the same amount of time it takes to “learn” an iPad, and it offers the solution as a service.
The SaaS part might seem like table stakes today but it should not be overlooked. One of the important things it provides is a solution to the “Big Data” problem that many companies discovered as soon as they discovered social media. With Awareness managing the data, the chore is out of mind and users can concentrate on the benefits to be had from having as much of it as possible, rather than worrying about where to put it.
But also, Awareness’ structured approach to data focuses everyone on the important stuff. Forget the mouse clicks and concentrate on the social profile data that can be pulled back from the Internet. With that data marketers can focus on real differentiators like keywords, hash tags, accounts and sentiment scores, turning it all into useful information.
Major League Baseball uses Awareness — not just a few teams, the whole sport. With that kind of massive purview MLB can fill seats much more efficiently simply by knowing who the fans are and where they live. A certain Yankees fan living in Virginia might be delighted to know that his team is playing in Oakland coincident with his next business trip to the Bay Area. Meanwhile a similar Red Sox fan need not be bothered with this irrelevant information. Everyone is happy.
Awareness has a four step process that highlights best practices with its product — connect, publish, analyze and engage. Much of the back end used by marketers offers statistics and graphs to show trends and enable the marketer to see at a glance what works and to make course corrections. Marketers develop scorecards to filter interesting market segments for individual programs that can last a few days or much longer.
The company’s roadmap calls for more connections to social tools and the ability to collect even more data. It appears to be increasing its footprint in the marketing automation space, which could make it an acquisition target. CRM Idol has seen this scenario before. The next 12 to 18 months will be a critical time when the company expands significantly or becomes part of a larger entity. Both are good outcomes.
Reviewed by CRM Idol 2012 Primary Judges
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