Too many businesses approach their marketing activities in a haphazard fashion. They assume that if a certain promotional piece seems appealing to the company's leaders, it'll resonate as well with target consumers.
Many companies take this unscientific approach because they figure they can't afford market research. But if you participate in any of the web's top social networks -- like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube -- you already have a wealth of consumer data ready and waiting at your fingertips.
Here are a few of those data points that you'll want to pay close attention to in order to better understand your target customers:
If you run a business fan page for your company -- and you definitely should be -- you have access to Facebook's Insights data. To access this information, log in to your personal Facebook profile, navigate to your business page and click on the "See all" link that appears in the Insights box on your admin dashboard.
While inside, take a look at the following information:
• Gender and age of "Likes"
• Countries of "Likes"
• Gender and age of "Talking About This"
The Facebook users who have "Liked" your page represent your most promising customer base. These are the people who have some familiarity with your brand and feel enough of a kinship with your company to make their interest known. By learning more about their gender, age and location, you'll be able to tailor future advertisements and Facebook marketing activities to strengthen your connection with them.
The people who are "Talking About This" represent either your most committed fans or people who are making negative comments about your brand. Assuming the feedback is generally good, you can use the gender and age data of these people to help craft promotions that resonate with your most committed customers.
Unfortunately, Twitter doesn't yet offer an internal analytics program for standard users, although some data insight is available to advertisers who post sponsored profiles or tweets to the service. But a number of third-party services can help you obtain the social data you need:
• Mapped locations of followers on Followerwonk
• Inferred gender of followers on Followerwonk
• Follower activity on Tweriod
Followerwonk offers both a free version and a paid version (part of the SEOMoz Pro tools set, starting at $99 per month) that integrate with your Twitter profile to pull out various pieces of data. Of particular interest to marketers will be the geographic distribution of followers and their inferred gender, which is based on profile analysis. (Twitter users don't specify their gender.) Comparing this data with Facebook Insights data may highlight differences in network engagement that can be incorporated into future ad campaigns.
Another piece of Twitter social data worth investigating is the hours during which your followers are most active. This information can help you plan campaign schedules to reach the greatest number of eyeballs. To find this, you'll want to use a free service such as Tweriod, which ties in to your Twitter account and automatically provides hour-long windows that represent the best times to reach your followers.
If you use YouTube videos as part of your company's promotional strategy, you'll want to pay attention to these pieces of information provided by the YouTube Analytics program:
• Video viewing demographics
• Audience "Likes and Dislikes"
• Audience retention
Again, knowing demographic data about your audience -- in particular, age, gender and geographic distribution -- can help you determine whether your current promotions are targeting the right groups of people.
Beyond quantitative demographic information, you also can use YouTube Analytics to make qualitative assessments of whether you're producing the right types of content for your audience. To do this, take a look at data relating to your audience's number of "Likes and Dislikes," as well as how long they stay tuned to your videos as reported in the "Audience retention" feature.
If you see a low number of "Likes," a high number of "Dislikes," or a low retention rate, you know that those particular videos don't interest your audience. That means you need to try a new approach or new subject to try to increase the chances of capturing people's attention. Pay special attention to the video topics that your audience has "Liked" more or engaged with more to help you create new content.