Forcing Innovation

A couple of weeks ago we featured a video from the Forrester Marketing Forum that asked the question Is data the secret sauce to marketing innovation?” I wanted to share my own thoughts about social media data, and how it is forcing marketing innovation.

Social media is so quantitatively and qualitatively different from other sources of consumer data that marketers have only two choices: ignore it or innovate like crazy.

Social media is an entirely new class of data.  Consumers are speaking informally about what bothers or pleases them.  They are relaxed, on their own turf, and therefore often more open, honest and emotional with what they share.  In other words, they aren’t responding to a survey.  Since social media provides a substantially different viewing angle on consumers, it has great potential for being additive, even transformative, when it comes to understanding, targeting and messaging to them.

Social media is also generated in an overwhelming volume—internet scale from around the globe, and incessant.  The content is sometimes brief, sometimes a narrative, sometimes a multi-person conversation; but the constant is that it is a constant stream.  The size and speed of the social media data stream means that recent and relevant data abounds on almost every topic of interest, giving marketers, and the rest of us, an asset we’ve never had before.  New tools and new processes are certainly required, but the promise of insights on demand falls into the realm of insurmountable opportunity and can’t be disregarded.

Finally, social media represents a different channel of communication.  With the social channel, it is not about creating impressions, but building relationships, and not on your schedule, but on the consumers. Instead of pushing out messages in time-released capsules through traditional channels, marketers must search for opportunities to interact, opportunities that are triggered by relevant, if asynchronous consumer communications.  The characteristics of this channel have already forced a substantially different way of engaging consumers.  Over the coming months and years, the medium, the marketing playbook, the tools, and the consumers themselves will co-evolve rapidly, forcing a pace of innovation that will be constantly ratcheted.

Data enables better decisions when it is available and relevant.  Data drives innovation when it is uniquely relevant, available at internet velocity and scale, and an implicit part of a new and different way of engaging an audience.   “Getting social” is like stepping out of flatland into a third dimension: the world is more complicated, with many choices to be made, and a bit scarier, but, to paraphrase Dr Seuss, “Oh the places you’ll go.”