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A Sign of SMM Maturity is Knowing:
"It's the Data, Stupid!"

By Jim Arnold
Chief Marketing Officer at MetricsBoard

Being able to capture meaningful data and knowing what to do with that information is a sign of your social media marketing maturity level. It's data about your customers, data about your marketing activities, and data that indicates your overall effectiveness to attract, convert, and close new business for your company.

Unlike more traditional offline marketing activities of the past, new media has the ability to be tracked and measured. That gives it a much better chance of equating marketing investments to ROI. It's the data, stupid, and your ability to know what it's saying will distinguish you from those who are just starting to realize its value.

Unstructured data consists of two basic categories: bitmap objects that are inherently non-language based—such as image, video, or audio files—and textual objects that are based on a written or printed language—such as Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, or e-mails. Both of these types may be classified as unstructured data, but the technology and methodology for harnessing relevant information from bitmap objects is still in its early stages.

Most of today's technology addresses textual objects. Enterprise content management (ECM) technologies can help contain unstructured data. Textual data mining and analysis vendors provide analysis tools for unstructured textual objects while business intelligence vendors supply solutions for querying and analyzing structured data. Bringing them together to query both the unstructured and structured worlds—and then associating these two worlds at relevant points—is where the most value is gained. But this is also where the highest level of challenge is presented.

The majority of today’s marketing and performance management systems still deal primarily with structured data. While integrating unstructured data into analytics systems will become more important in the future, most companies are still dealing with the basics.

Having access to the right level of customer data is key to being able to segment a target audience, isolate the most probable sales suspects, and effectively nurture prospects to take action. Those companies that recognize the importance of data and are viewed as best-in-class, usually focus on the following best practices:

  • Consistently analyze customer profile data and can judge customer behavior accurately
  • Segment customer data to target audiences most likely to buy, based on purchasing behavior, lifestyle stage, demographics, and other psychographic indicators
  • Follow a consistent way to cleanse data to ensure data integrity
  • Use a lead-scoring process to evaluate multiple data points from the website, social media, and event participation to determine the potential to convert
  • Leverage marketing automation and performance management systems to improve the ability to manage, execute, track, and measure marketing programs
  • Incorporate "voice of the customer" functionality to monitor and evaluate customer experience and satisfaction
  • Use social media channels to extend market reach and integrate community-based social feedback into the data stream
  • Run predictive analytics programs to model and anticipate the ability to stimulate customer action

Data provides a window to how effective you will be in increasing awareness, creating preference, and influencing your target audience to buy your products or services.

Focus on taking advantage of structured data today, but keep an eye on the value of incorporating unstructured data into marketing decision-making in the future.

The use of data is a leading indicator of your marketing maturity level. Using the latest best practices to understand the value of data and to use data to your advantage will also improve your effectiveness, increase your marketing ROI, and give you a leg-up on your competition.

Jim Arnold

Jim Arnold is a marketing executive, consultant, and co-founder of MetricsBoard with more than 25 years experience in marketing, advertising, and strategic planning. He has held executive-level positions with American Airlines, Compaq, EDS, IBM, and other Fortune 500 companies. Jim has also held leadership positions with Y&R and McCann-Erickson, where he led the development of several award-winning brand campaigns. He has been a speaker for CMO Executive Summit Conferences, Forbes magazine, AMA, and other organizations. Jim is a winner of the ITSMA Gold Excellence "Sharpening Brand & Competitive Differentiation" marketing award, and he has earned honors from the BMA, AMA, and AAF-ADDY Awards.