Brands invest a great deal of time and money into developing richly-detailed buyer personas and then even more into the sales and marketing efforts centered around attracting and converting those personas.
They do this with good reason, especially in B2B scenarios where the “buyer” is a collection of individuals, and understanding the constellation of their needs and interests is the difference between closed deals and missed opportunities.
Buyer personas are filled with all kinds of data, including demographics, psychographics, behaviors, and, in some cases, even lifestyle choices. The more data you have available when developing your personas, the more accurate -and useful- they tend to be.
Social media is an important aspect of daily life in the modern age but, so far, social media hasn’t been incorporated into buyer persona development in a comprehensive and reliable way.
There is a great deal of useful intelligence that can be mined from social media timelines and engagements, if we sift through the massive quantities of irrelevant information and view it in context.
In this article we’ll discuss three types of social intelligence data that can be used to enhance buyer (or reader, donor, fan, constituent, etc) personas.
What is social intelligence?
Business intelligence, which you’re probably familiar with, is a collection of data and insights that helps you understand your business (and how to optimize it).
Likewise, social intelligence is a collection of data and insights that helps you understand any group of people (as seen through social media).
Social intelligence data would include information like the number of likes, comments, and shares/retweets/etc on an account’s posts, or on posts on a given topic, for example. It might also include which topics are being discussed by which groups of people, at any given time.
Any data that can be extracted from a social media platform’s API would count as social intelligence, but the concept relates more to groups of social media users (segments), rather than individuals.
Social media platforms have come under a great deal of scrutiny in recent years for their fast-and-loose handling of personal data and have made adjustments as a result.
The value of social intelligence is in examining groups of social media users and gaining insights that are broadly applicable across people with common characteristics.
Different social media platforms expose different sets of data, based on the kind of activities that take place within their communities, and their various business / advertising models, and so forth.
How can you use social data to gain insight into important personas?
Analyzing any significant amount of social media data is like drinking from a firehose…overwhelming, to say the least.
The data is only useful if you can filter out the volumes of it you don’t need, to find the relevant bits that provide insight into the topics or the people involved.
Filtering by content
Content, as in links to blogs, videos, etc., is one way to find relevant social media data; because anyone sharing content on a relevant topic, might themselves also be relevant.
Social media is, at its core, a means of persistent communication and, much like eavesdropping on a conversation in public, you can learn a lot about the parties involved in a discussion through passive observation.
Loads of social media content, most of it really, is just people chatting, joking with each other, and sharing GIF reactions. The minority of posts that contain some other kind of content, however, can be very enlightening.
It’s the intersection of content and social media, through sharing, that provides the most interesting glimpse into what people are thinking, what they’re reading, and -importantly- what choices they’re considering in the near future.
Examining content, through the lens of social media, gives you a unique perspective into the decision-making processes of the groups of individuals that are valuable to your business.
Filtering by relationship
Accounts are another interesting vector for identifying relevant posts in the vast ocean of irrelevant social media.
For example, it might be useful to study accounts that follow your competitors, or brands that have non-competitive overlap. Another example might be profiling journalists or analysts in hopes of improving your efficacy with media or analyst relations.
Here’s another…let’s say you’re starting a podcast about new developments in computer programming and you want to build your audience. Why not find, and analyze, a segment of people who follow 3+ podcasts and 2+ publications about computer programming.
By intersecting these 2 interests (data points) we would quickly discover a very relevant cohort of social media accounts whose timelines of conversations and shared content could provide a host of actionable insights.
More examples of actionable intelligence
Imagine you could track, week to week, what articles and videos CEOs in your industry are sharing on social media.
Sharing is a form of recommendation, or at least an effort to highlight something. This indicates an interest, at minimum, and maybe even intent.
It would be interesting to find, for example, which Fortune 500 CEOs are reading about remote working best practices and which ones are reading about refitting offices for social distancing.
Or perhaps which publications are most often read and shared by Fortune 500 CEOs on topics relevant to your brand…the options are nearly limitless.
Higher education institutions might want to understand the events and stories being engaged by their student body -or prospective students.
Nonprofit organizations seeking donations for charitable causes might benefit from identifying the brands and people sharing related news stories.
Pick any niche and you can find it represented on social media; giving you the means to observe relevant individuals, learn useful insights, and use them to accomplish your goals -without requiring direct contact with the individuals you’re profiling.
Methods of acquiring social intelligence data
Nothing is both simple and free, obviously. You’ve got essentially 3 options when it comes to generating social intelligence data; compile the data manually, pay for it, or integrate directly with the APIs of any social media platform you want to access.
Manually gathering data from social media platforms is theoretically possible, but highly impractical. Since you’d quickly spend more on manhours than you’d spend with technology, this approach most likely yields a untrustworthy data from a small sample audience (that’s easier to manage).
Social media APIs change frequently, so if you go the DIY route, be prepared to invest into development time support regular upkeep and troubleshooting. You could easily spend more building your own solution than buying and integrating something off-the-shelf.
The paid route is the simplest and most reliable over time. Brands whose core value proposition is delivering social intelligence data have committed to API-related maintenance and are incentivized to deliver the data you need just the way you want it.
This is the gap in the marketplace that MarketChorus aims to fill. We provide contextual data and insights on the intersection of content and social media –which topics and articles are getting attention, and whose attention they’re getting.
As I outlined above, there are many useful (and actionable) insights within social intelligence data that can shed light on the groups of people that are a priority for your business; their interests, concerns, aspirations…perhaps even what they’re intending to do next.
Social intelligence data from MarketChorus is generated by creating a Persona (like a buyer persona) with relevant characteristics and mapping those characteristics to specific individuals on social media.
These individuals’ digital footprints are then analyzed, such as the content they’re sharing and engaging, quotes or mentions of their names/brands in the press, articles they’ve written, podcasts and videos they’ve appeared on, etc., and synthesized into visual reports, spreadsheets, or data objects returned via our API.
If you’re ready to expand, and upgrade, your buyer personas or research profiles on other key individuals, consider the untapped resource that social media represents to your quest for relevant data.
Reach out to MarketChorus today to learn more about our content and social media intelligence capabilities and how other brands are using this data to inform their content, sales, and market strategies.