When Social Media Meet Big Data

 

So unless you’ve been buried under a rock, you’ve probably heard of ‘big data’ as it’s one of the really hyped buzzwords in this industry. And if you haven’t, I’ll give you an example of my first encounter with big data.

A while ago I wanted to go visit my cousin in Norway – Tromsø to be exact – so I searched online for plane tickets. The following days, all the banner advertisements on random websites were about flight tickets to Tromsø. A coincidence? Well, unless Tromsø has suddenly become a trendy place for Danes to visit, I don’t think so. Rather it was an example of how big data works.
Big data is the outcome of all the movements and actions we do online. Big data is out there for companies to analyze and use to target marketing messages especially suited to your preferences. If you want a more detailed explanation, take look at this blog post.

So everywhere you go online, you leave a digital footprint for analysts to follow. And with the rise of social media, the amount of data available is larger than ever, because we:

  • Upload 100 hours of video to Youtube
  • Share 3,600 pictures on Instagram
  • Send over 100.000 tweets
  • Share 684,478 pieces of content on Facebook

.. every minute of every day!

This is an enormous, unimaginable amount of data. And the best thing? On social media we, as consumers, provide all the information ourselves. We indicate our relationship status on Facebook, our preferences within movies and music, where we work on LinkedIn etc.

This huge amount of information is probably going to change the way companies do marketing. Now, companies can target specific customers down to every little detail. For instance you may want to target “young men in Tromsø, who listen to Bon Iver and watch Mad Men on their Netflix-account” instead of just “young, Norwegian men interested in culture”. The example is a bit extreme, but true nonetheless. So big data gives businesses a better chance of creating more relevant and ultimately, hopefully, more effective advertising.

So.. how to use it?  

Should we then, as marketers, just high-five each other with dollar signs in our eyes? Maybe not. First of all, we have to realize that customers are actually human beings, who may behave in unpredictable ways and not always give out true information online. Or they might be using an ad-blocker, so the adds targeted to them are not visible.

Consumers also have an opinion; some of them might be tired of being bombarded with advertisements all day. Or think that this new technique is creepy – suddenly we can stalk their every move online and almost know who they’re in a relationship with even though it isn’t official.

This said, it is also with confidence that I claim that the combination of social media and big data is going to show us an entirely new era within advertising. With the option to target advertising directly to a single consumer, who knows what lies ahead. But it is important to keep in mind that the aim is to create value for the consumer and therefore use big data in a responsible way.

 

Clickbait: Information overload! How can brands cut-through all the noise?

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 10.11.34You won’t believe the hidden message in this blog post! Or rather – there isn’t one, I just wanted you to click through and read this. But bear with me – I’m about to suggest something incredibly controversial – a never-heard-before admission by a social agency!*

As much as clickbait is the emotional catnip of our online experience and can drive consistent traffic for publishers like The Daily Mail and Huff Post who churn out multiple stories each day, it’s still hugely annoying to discover you’ve been duped by an over-excited headline promising to give you all the feels. For brands, adopting the same practice can negatively affect perception and ultimately – sales. So how can brands cut through all the sensational copy and deliver successful results without falling prey to creating clickbait themselves? How do they beat them rather than join them?

 

Platform crackdown

In the early days of social, Facebook optimised content based on engagement, meaning that if users clicked on a piece of content, it received a higher ranking in newsfeeds. In 2014 Facebook took steps to try and crack down on those gaming this ranking using clickbait, and in February this year it introduced an update based not just on what users engaged with in their feed, but what they wanted to see. Facebook’s advice is that Pages should avoid encouraging people to take action (such as encouraging lots of clicks), because this will likely only cause temporary spikes in metrics that might then be rebalanced by feed’s ranking over time – meaning the latest ranking favours content that users naturally engage with rather than content that users click on through coercion.

 

Last month Instagram followed suit and announced it would alter user’s feeds to optimise the content users “care about the most”, and Twitter has also adopted a similar change (although users can opt-out and revert back to the chronological feed). The changes will hopefully make it harder for clickbaiters to game feeds with meaningless content, but the real aim for the platforms hosting is to surface more engaging content more frequently so users return often and stay longer.

 

The same goes for brands on social. If the content they produce is consistently engaging, then users will interact more frequently, leading others to discover it through preferred ranking. Ultimately, these new newsfeed algorithms exist to generate more meaningful engagement, driving not just clicks, but conversations via comments, and shares.

 

Learn and adapt

Meaningful engagement begins with relevant content that creates value for the user and the brand. While an insight-driven content strategy is key to delivering this, brands should also adapt stories and messages based on the emotional needs and behavior of their audience. This is more than just a case of ‘test and learn’ or refining what has already been done. Brands must also evolve their approach in line with new behaviors, platforms, competitors and rankings or risk being left behind by those who do.

 

A good example of a brand that does this well is Buzzfeed, who’s CEO recently shared their new strategic thinking, revealing how their objective has changed from getting users to click through to their main site to view stories, to allowing content to be consumed directly on other platforms. The new direction was prompted by analysing which content generated clicks and discovering that users prefer to consume some types of content within the platform they are already on. The company also found a discernable difference between user interactions with the same content on different platforms, demonstrating how content demand and consumption vary across sites. What spreads like wildfire on Facebook might fail miserably elsewhere.

 

Relevance is key

For brands looking to use social content to drive click-through to their site, it’s important to balance the goal of the company (clicks to eyeballs, or conversions to sales, for example) with the desire and behavior of users on different sites, and monitor response over time. Relevance is key to interaction, and brands that think like publishers will know that relevance is an ever-changing chameleon. While users are bombarded with meaningless clickbait, there is ample opportunity for brands to channel the social zeitgeist by delivering valuable content that meets audience needs in the format, time and platform that suits them. If they get this right, they won’t need clickbait.

 

At Mindjumpers we help companies and brands to think as publishers and provide end-to-end social media management across multiple markets, encompassing full social strategy, planned and reactive content creation, analysis and reporting.

 

If you’d like to find out more please get in touch.

 

*Don’t be naughty and scroll to the last paragraph – I’ve hidden the controversial part somewhere to optimize your dwell time in finding it!