The MarTech Trifecta – Tools, Real-Time Data & Decision-Making

The MarTech Trifecta – Tools, Real-Time Data & Decision-Making

(Originally posted in SEMRush)

Social media data has been overwhelming from the get-go. Even the smallest company has access to an overwhelming amount of data, and sifting through even 100 followers without a data scientist has eaten up more than one frustrated social media marketer’s weekend.

Then comes the analysis paralysis and inevitable doubt: Maybe you’re collecting the wrong data. Maybe your data-collection method is off. Maybe none of this means anything anyway!

It’s a lot to take in.

Fortunately, the latest push for big data in business has rubbed off on social media marketing. New technologies make organizing social data organic to your marketing processes, and it’s getting easier to show social media ROI every day.

If your company is still stuck in the data dark age, here’s your warning: It’s time to embrace data-driven decision-making for social media.

Data versus intuition in Marketing.


Who Needs Social Data When You Have Expert Intuition?

It might be hard to find a marketer who is willing to say that out loud these days, but intuition has long played a leading role in business and marketing decision-making. However, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers and The Economist’s recent study, “Gut & Gigabytes,” this habit is dying out.

The study shares insight into how 1,135 senior executives make high-level strategic decisions, zeroing in on two important recent changes: First, that data is more readily available and customizable, leading marketing specialists to look to data to inform their intuition more often. Second, the number of people involved in the decision-making process and the amount of externally and internally sourced data increases every year.

Marketing specialists now have unprecedented access to the tech trifecta: easy-to-use tools, real-time data and the ability to collect data and make decisions with company stakeholders. This heady combination makes it easy for marketing managers to trade out expensive focus groups and market research firms for lower-cost (and easily accessible) social data technology. Marketers are using this newfound insight to build increasingly customized and personal social media and content campaigns.

How to Embrace Data-Driven Decision-Making

If you’re one of the many companies that hasn’t yet embraced the unique insights of social media data, here are three steps you can take to start capitalizing on the data at your disposal:

  1. Identify your goals. Practical science starts with identifiable goals. If you aren’t sure what question you’re trying to answer or what decision you’re trying to make, you’ll be overwhelmed by the data you collect and waste time answering questions you don’t need to know the answers to.

Identify your target audience and specific data goals from the start. Then, you can break up the data you collect into silos of actionable information to create a truly practical body of data. The more focused your data-collection goals, the easier it will be to compare and combine insights from online and offline sources for a well-rounded view of your marketing activities.

  1. Embrace technology to collect data. Don’t be afraid to dive right into the social media data-collection technologies available to you. Social listening tools such as Social Mention help you understand how customers perceive your company online. Social influencer tools allow you to identify the most powerful brand awareness partners. And social segmentation tools within each social platform let you target your efforts on a more granular level.

Schedule time on your calendar every day to use these tools and familiarize yourself with relevant features. As you expand your knowledge, use the data you collect to target other data-collection opportunities.

  1. Get your team on board. Finally, the social in social media is not a misnomer. A successful social strategy engages your customers and your internal team equally. Your entire team needs to be on board, from your CEO to your sales team to your developers. The combination of targeted data collection and supportive team activity will allow you to dig into less obvious insights and opportunities for growth.

If you’ve been avoiding data until now, 2015 is the year to get on board. Data is more useful and manageable than ever before, and you’re going to need it to inform your social strategy moving forward. Embrace the latest technological developments to uncover unexpected insights and create truly effective marketing experiences for your customers.

Marketing: Analytics Dashboards or Intuitive Leaps?

Marketing: Analytics Dashboards or Intuitive Leaps?

(Originally posted in

Have you ever had a feeling you just couldn’t shake? Of course you have—“hunches” are the hallmark of any good marketer. It means you know a good campaign when you see it.

In fact, marketing decisions have historically been built on hunches, intuition, and other unquantifiable ideas. That’s easy to forget in this data-driven industry we now work in.

Here’s something else many people are forgetting: Breakthrough ideas don’t come from an analytics dashboard. They come from intuitive leaps.

Marketing Leap of Faith

So how do you know when you have a good idea in front of you? Popular wisdom says you should “trust your gut.” At Gigaom’s Roadmap 2013, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom also talked at length about hunch-driven design development. He maintained that it was Instagram’s secret to success.

Instagram began as an app called “Burbn.” Systrom had had a hunch. He polled its 100 users and found they were sharing photos more than anything else. Less than two years later, Instagram had more than 100 million users and a $1 billion price tag.

In Systrom’s world, data-based design plays an essential role in this process, but it’s about optimizing products, not developing them. Why? Systrom knows that the only way to develop something unique is with intuition, which is where your experience and instinct pay off.

Think about Systrom’s example in terms of a product campaign: Focus groups can guide you and offer you a tentative response. Despite the graphs and surveys, however, you still know that the final decision has to come from you, not the data. You have to trust your experience, your team, and, most of all, yourself.

Remember The Risks

Lots of marketing executives tell themselves that the decision they’re making isn’t risky because it’s based on data. But they’re wrong.

Some businesses live (and die) by the mantra, “Data doesn’t lie.” This is fine for objective measurements, such as impressions, click-throughs, and transactions, but for qualitative, subjective data—such as target interests, psychographics, and social data—it’s not nearly as clear-cut. Every single day, people lie, misremember, or skew the truth on surveys, in focus groups, and through comments and reviews.

Other flaws are at work: Whether they mean to or not, analysts bring biases when they organize data for a report. And data can certainly still be wrong, even when it’s laid out perfectly in an Excel chart or a PowerPoint deck. In the end, the wrong kind of data-driven approach isn’t that different from traditional market research: It’s lengthy, costly, and still means making some really big, dangerous assumptions.

There’s another angle of risk here: Thanks to the viral nature of modern media, one wrong hunch can devastate a brand. Now when a marketer makes the wrong call, millions of people can see it.

Scared? You should be.

But the good news is, when you get it right, viral recognition happens then, too. Netflix had a hunch that political cynicism would resonate with its audience, and it knew that “binge watching” was a trend among users. So Netflix released the entire first season of “House of Cards” at once. The move was so successful that Netflix is repeating that model with several other series.

Strengthen Your Strategy

The evidence in support of hunches is there. Marketers can get it right. But data can’t be discounted either. That’s why the best path forward is an integrated one, and there’s a specific strategy for marketers that combines data- and hunch-based approaches.

Think of your precampaign period as hunch-based. That means you trust your instinct on what your target wants, needs, and will respond to. Then, after you’ve crafted a campaign guided by instinct and intuition, you can use hard data to back up your strategy and optimize it.

There are lots of unique ways to hone your data for a more helpful, relevant viewpoint, such as using carefully selected focus groups or accessing social media platforms to get a closer look at your fans and followers. This will give you an in-depth, holistic look at who your target is, what they care about, and how they’re growing and changing so you can speak to them as people, not just customers.

Marketing isn’t just about crunching numbers—it relies on experience, knowing your audience, and having great intuition. Trust yourself, trust your gut, and then use data to support your hunches.