Binary Code 2Harnessing Social Data

Listening: The Social Way ()

Binary Data 2

With over 1.6m results in a Google search, “Harnessing Social Data” could hardly be more covered. So I’m not going to just say the same thing everyone is saying, namely that you can use social media to gather data that is useful for marketing purposes. Yes, you can. And yes, you should. But there’s more.

A trend in marketing, especially digital marketing, is a trend towards being “analytical”. There’s a lot of good reasons for that, but there are some drawbacks as well. What I’d like to talk about is using social listening to fuel actual, real-time dialog. After all, that’s what business being social is all about: the one-to-one conversation between a brand and a (potential) customer.

Throw Data Out the Window

Don’t get me wrong. Data is great! Ignore data at your peril. What I’m suggesting is not to completely ignore good data, but to simply throw social data out when it comes time to engage your customers socially. You don’t need it, and if you make it the basis of your communication, you will sound exactly like what you are: a data driven marketer.

Some of the best conversationalists of our age have long ago learned how to leave raw, spreadsheet-level data and listen in-stream and in real-time with great results: I’m talking about radio and TV talk show hosts. But what they do is similar to what marketers do. They clearly do their homework, learning what their audience wants to hear about, picking guests to interview who will give them the right angle, and carefully eeking out information to keep you watching through the whole program. However, once they’re on the stage, starting their monologue and introducing their first guest, they throw the data out the window and just talk.

Just Talk

Some would have you think that a successful social media campaign is gathering data, processing data, and spitting data back out on Twitter, Facebook, Google + and elsewhere. I disagree. One fact about marketing and advertising in general is that people don’t like it, as I’ve mentioned before, and people continuously adapt to resist it. Social media, one of the biggest communication phenomena in the modern age, is no different. There may be some good case studies where campaigns of this sort have worked, but that won’t last long.

So what does work and will work long term? Conversations.

Small Talk

I like to say that there are three aspects of good conversation. You probably do all three a hundred times a day naturally and without thinking: when you walk into your office, when you meet a friend for lunch, when you tell your spouse how your day was. But social media can seem stilted because it is communication over a platform. So it might be helpful to take a second look at what you do when you converse.

The first part of conversation is small talk. Sometimes considered the antithesis to intelligent dialog, I think small talk is actually very important for both friends and strangers. Think about this: before you can tell someone anything or know what you’re listening for, you have to establish what your role is and what the audience’s role is, and small talk does just that. Don’t skip this in favor of “data” and don’t underestimate it. Long before you market on any medium, you must have a brand with an ideology, tone, and message. Convey that in your small talk. Are you a thought leader? Are you a helpful educator? Are you a friendly neighbor? Are you on your audience’s side against a big problem? Show that not in targeted statements you came up with in a boardroom, but in general, loose banter about whatever you may have in common.

Ask Questions

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You can’t have dialog if you’re doing all the talking. And it’s very hard to enjoy the conversation if it’s a one-way street. Don’t forget, people don’t come to social media to be lectured to. They enjoy being social, so don’t ruin it for them.

Instead of starting with your pitch, which sets a tone of marketing and selling, start with questions. And not glossy, researched questions where you pretend you don’t know the answer that your research tells you they will give. Throw that data out the window and ask genuine, interested questions. Listen to the answers, and begin to converse based on your audience’s answers.

Make Points

When you invest in small talk, and when you ask genuine questions, it becomes much easier to interject your own message, but don’t just start in on a lecture. Your audience will sense the shift and will not appreciate it. Instead, and in the course of the conversation, make your points. And they don’t have to be “buy my product”. Your point is your brand value. Drive home the role you established in the small talk. If you’re the thought leader, make a point with leading thoughts. If you are the helpful educator, provide helpful, educational points. If you are the friendly neighbor, share neighborly points.

Don’t shy away from pointing towards your products or services if the conversation calls for it. Your audience is almost certainly aware that you have something to offer, and to specifically avoid talking about it in some sort of false modesty will seem odd.

Real Social Data

So when it comes time to go about “harnessing social data” for your business, don’t follow the herd with mechanical campaigns on social media. Use the media for what it was made for: to extend conversations using the power of the Internet.

Have you successfully gathered and used social data in a social platform? Have you thrown out the data and had meaningful conversations with your prospects?

3 Comments - Leave a comment
  1. Laci Rich says:

    In business, I have to agree with you. There is a time and a place for small talk and several settings where it’s necessary. I probably should have specified which circumstances I was referring to in my entry on that. I refer to the “standing on line at the grocery store in your gym shorts” type small talk.

    Thanks for the ping!
    LJ

    • David Fallon says:

      Hi LJ and thanks for the comment back! I really enjoyed your post and wanted to link to it. I hope it didn’t seem like I was putting words in your mouth. You are right that a conversation where the roles are “stranger on the street” and one where the roles are “product/service provider vs. potential customer” are two very different things, and your post makes what you are talking about clear.

      I really liked the wit and humor on your post and hope some people who read my post will link back to it and take a look!

      Thanks,
      David Fallon

      • Laci Rich says:

        No, no. It’s all good. You have a good point with the business side of small talk. Without it, how would we ever make business connections and such? This is an excellent post. I hope some of my readers come here and take a look at this, too. Because there is a time and a place for everything.

        LJ


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