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Updated: July 23, 2011 15:59 IST

Harnessing the power of social media to attract, retain customers

Ravi Shankar
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Ravi Shankar, Senior Director, MDM Product Marketing, Informatica. Photo: Special Arrangement
The Hindu
Ravi Shankar, Senior Director, MDM Product Marketing, Informatica. Photo: Special Arrangement

Fans are a powerful viral marketing force who can influence many, but cultivating those customers requires an insight into the dynamics of social media data.

Who's your most valuable customer? Is it the one who buys the most or the one who influences other buyers via social media, effectively doubling as a salesperson?

It's an intriguing question as companies seek to capitalise on social media data to attract and retain customers. A key segment is the customers who endorse products and services via Facebook updates, tweets, videos, blogs and more.

These fans are a powerful viral marketing force who influence an extended network of followers with an estimated 50 million tweets and 60 million Facebook updates a day. But cultivating those customers requires an insight into the dynamics of social media data.

Suppose you could learn from a Facebook fan that her son is looking for colleges, she's shopping for a new car, and that she likes cooking. That's invaluable information for targeted marketing available nowhere else. And if you can cultivate that customer, you can benefit from the viral marketing effect when she tweets or posts about your product to her friends, and friends of those friends.

Complete customer view

Despite the buzz over social media data, in some ways it's putting the cart before the horse. Few companies have a trusted view of customers, ranging from reliable and consistent names and contact information, to products and services in place. Customer data is often fragmented and sales, marketing and service personnel waste time piecing them together from various applications.

Social media data is part of the ‘big data' phenomenon, which includes the explosion of conventional enterprise data along with documents, emails, images and more. Much of this data is unstructured, in contrast to the structured relational data in traditional applications such as enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management and analytics. Unless you have a complete customer view, capturing and culling social media data offers, at best, limited value or, at worst, creates yet another data silo. This view can be enriched with the powerful information available on social media to listen to the voice of the customer and glean intelligence from billions of messages.

Lacking technology

Though companies recognise social media's potential, they lack the technology to find the voice of the customer in huge volumes of data. Master data management (MDM) along with data integration can help leverage social media data to harness the power of these customers for one-to-one marketing.

The ‘secret sauce'

MDM is the ‘secret sauce' of customer relationship management, the centrepiece of which is social media data. This proven technology generates a trusted, authoritative customer view by consolidating and reconciling disparate customer information from enterprise sources to generate three levels of customer views.

Single customer view: It reconciles and consolidates names, addresses, emails, phone numbers and other identifying information. Data quality and de-duplication is applied to produce a ‘golden record' — the best version of the truth.

360-degree view of customer relationships: It adds a customer's products and services across lines of business, positioning the company for cross-sell and up-sell, and adds data on a customer's household and business relationships.

Complete view of customer interactions: It reflects activity on social media and shows data on customer interactions and transactions, such as support activity and payment status.

Social media data offers an epic opportunity for marketers to improve cross-sell revenue, one-to-one targeting, and service effectiveness. MDM technology that can incorporate social media data into a complete customer view can help you cultivate social media consumers as some of your most valuable salespeople.

(The author is senior director of MDM Product Marketing, Informatica)

Really nice article Ravi. Social media is playing a very important role today in each and every individuals life. There is nothing better then using the data posted in this media to leverage sales. Moreover, to achieve true 360 view of the customer, companies need to know his interactions via different social media's available today.

The challenge however is in building tools and technologies which can process this data and get valuable information out of it.

from:  Prashanta Chandramohan
Posted on: Jul 26, 2011 at 05:47 IST
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