The Net Is Watching And It’s Great News For Business

14 June 2017

Facebook and Google know a lot about us. As a private citizen, that could be concerning (be careful what you share!). As a business looking to reach customers, it’s exciting for many reasons. We can now ‘boldly go places’ businesses have ‘never gone before’.

Remember when market research was conducted via paper surveys and radio surveys from telemarketers? You should remember, because it still happens. And it still doesn’t really work. When you stay in a hotel and the guest survey covers both sides of an A4 page – do you fill it out? (If the answer is ‘yes’, was the wi-fi not working?)

Through data tracking and collection, Google, social media networks, web pages, apps, ISPs, e-retailers and more, have radically extended that model. Now, market research takes place as the target audience interacts with the net. For social connections, that channel is usually Facebook or Twitter, for pretty much everything else on the web the overall channel is Google.

Who is this target audience they’re tracking? Everyone with a computer, phone or device connected to the internet. Billions of people. For conspiracy theorists and the political fringe, it’s all a bit Big Brother, but for businesses this presents exciting opportunities. Mash Media’s Australasia Digital Marketing Manager Angelina Malloch says she’s meeting more and more businesspeople who are intrigued by the opportunities of complete digital marketing strategies.

They can see the internet’s insights are becoming more relevant. These platforms can be used to accurately target your perfect customers.

Businesses can take the risk out of advertising when their strategies are proven and measurable, confirming their ideal customer.

What social customer data means

The volume of the expansive data Google & co. collects is astounding. So are the subtleties of the insights they can extract from it. The Washington Post published an interesting article on Facebook’s reach, this excerpt sums it up:

“While you’re logged onto Facebook, for instance, the network can see virtually every other website you visit. Even when you’re logged off, Facebook knows much of your browsing: It’s alerted every time you load a page with a “Like” or “share” button, or an advertisement sourced from its Atlas network.”

An interesting note from the above article relates to the 98 separate metrics Facebook admits to tracking on each user. When you factor in analysis and cross-reference, those 98 metrics would multiply into thousands of statistical measures and predictions on anyone’s profile. If Facebook can decide who you are from looking at who you know and what you like, then Google knows all about you via the information you look up and the tracks you leave across the WWW. It should be no surprise these networks also know where you are pretty much all of the time (via your phone and geo-habits). The point of all this data collection is simply to connect products and services with customers more efficiently. Once again, great news for businesses like yours.

The key takeaway is this market research often knows more about a person’s usage behaviour than the user knows about themselves. How is that possible? Maybe because most of us never look at our Google or Facebook dashboards. This research tracks what you actually do, not what you say you do, not what you think you do and not what your nearest and dearest think about you.

(Do note that no online platform knows a person in the human sense, they simply measure and predict user interest and behaviour with the same precision and lack of understanding that any well-built online tool has of its functionality. Numbers are crunched and dots joined to create a statistical portrait, but they can’t see the live model of the portrait any more than the paintbrush can understand the masterpiece. Insights may be active but human instincts are missing).

Mash Media SEO Strategist Rebecca Caldwell highlights that the customer insights available from looking at statistical portraits created from usage data are totally unprecedented in reach and detail.

When Facebook takes people’s likes and interests and what they are posting about, it is taking the history of an individual and letting you target that, what better way to market to someone than in their own words?

You know too much

There is a fine balance in targeting someone through knowing all about them. Because relationships and lifetime value are the keys to success in digital businesses and marketing, knowing more about someone than they are comfortable with and then using that knowledge to get leverage over them can be daunting. Angelina says this is why you must use the powerful insights for positive results.

“When you use these insights properly, it shows you are engaging with your clients on their terms,” she says.

“It’s all about building relationships and building professional reputation. It can also be used to ask your audience ‘what do you really want?’ You might discover another avenue of products or services that you had no idea about. Together, you become partners in growing your business.”

Sure, you’ll know a lot more about them at first, but soon they will also come to learn a lot about how you like to do business. Via social media you both have an equally powerful platform to communicate.

Digital media is different marketing

You can see what we mean when we say Google and Facebook offer advertising platforms that are fundamentally different from anything that existed before 2000, when Google AdWords launched with just 350 clients (it’s now over 1 million). How fundamentally different? The way we like to interact is the difference between listening to the radio versus chatting face to face. One is talking at, the other is talking with.

Digital marketing is not just about sales response, it’s about attention, engagement and lifetime value. If you are only thinking of that lifetime value in dollar terms, then your relationship is conditional – and your audience can tell. You have to understand that customer attention is now the scarcity and their distractions are legion. They may be riveted to the screen now but they can always turn away.

This is where storytelling comes in. Think of it as a more friendly and diverting way to deliver brand messages through wrapping them in imagery and relevance. It means promotion and marketing require more than message-message-message-buy. Now it is a conversation and the digital market intelligence offered by Google and social media helps matching conversation partners find each other.

This used to be very expensive and hard to manage effectively, let alone measure for ROI, but with digital marketing gathering market research is automated and unobtrusive. The overheads are lower. The cost per lead is lower. The cost of reporting is lower. ROI, in response, is both higher and more trackable. However, because the baseline been pushed up, you still need a group of trained creative professionals to secure your marketing edge.

But what does it mean for me?

Marketing and advertising used to be a game of cold calls and hot leads. Averaged out, the temperature across the whole industry was lukewarm. The sorts of insights Google and Facebook analytics provide have warmed up the entire marketing industry. It’s a new summer of efficiency and effectiveness. Mash Media can help you step into the sunlight.

Resources: Washington Post and Search Engine Land.

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