“Wow, your Facebook News Feed is filled with pictures of your friends’ kids!” said my 26-year-old brother-in-law after glimpsing my phone’s Facebook News Feed.
I never thought of my Facebook News Feed as a mecca for pictures of my friends’ kids. To me, it’s a blur of status updates from family, friends, work peers, and more distant industry colleagues.
Nonetheless, the contrast observed by my brother-in-law is a good example of how our opt-in social connections and social network algorithms (like Facebook’s EdgeRank) give the sense of mass-shared experiences when, in fact, they are more personalized and niche. While everyone is on Facebook, what you see and experience is likely very different from what others see and experience. Similarly, search engines (Google and Bing included) are suggesting personalized results based on your social connections.
The flipside of this trend is that social networks are propagating hyper-niche segments for marketers, filled with prospects who expect messaging that is not only more targeted to them, but in concert with their increasingly personalized and social experiences.
That helps explain why Facebook’s Sponsored Stories — which amplify socially endorsed and created content — perform so well compared to conventional, static ad formats. Socially endorsed ads tend to drive deeper engagement, more click-through and higher brand recall, while establishing connections with micro targets and interest groups.
There is a huge opportunity for marketers to seize the power of Sponsored Stories, though the challenge has been — and will continue to be — one of departmental and agency workflow. Sponsored Stories demand dynamic coordination between content, fan connections and media buying. Rebecca Lieb and Jeremiah Owayang at Atlimeter Group refer to this growing integration of paid, owned and earned media as ”converged media.” Over time, marketers and their agencies will become more sophisticated and integrated in their approach, and they’ll increasingly become savvier in Facebook Sponsored Stories and similar converged-media tactics.
But smart marketers have another opportunity beyond social networks alone: to integrate the micro targets and interest groups of social networks with their own prospect databases, and then again to their larger online and offline marketing communications strategies.
If you think of social as a middle layer, marketers should use social segmentation data — where people of affinity naturally self-select and organize — to enhance segmentation and targeting within their own CRM databases. For example, imagine you discovered on Facebook that I have a newborn (hypothetically speaking). If you’re a bank or retailer or other service business, you might integrate that data with your CRM system, and trigger an alert to your staff at my local branch or store so they can personally seize the opportunity and deliver value to me. And then you can update my profile in your database to programmatically provide related offers to me and other connections in my social network.
Similarly, marketers should use micro segments of the middle social layer to influence multichannel media strategies beyond social networks. If you can attain the demographics, interest and message-response data of your Facebook Fans, why not use those insights to drive messaging and offers in your broader display advertising, television, radio, print and direct mail campaigns?
Who knows if privacy laws and expectations will ever allow a full, seamless connection among all three layers? In the interim, marketers should begin to apply the segments of the middle social layer to fuel the top and bottom layers of the customer marketing funnel — to acquire new customers, and deepen relationships with existing ones.
Such ambitions require sound strategy, extensive data integration and organizational planning, but it can be done. Again, prospects expect messaging that is not only more targeted to them, but in concert with their increasingly personalized and social experiences.
It’s time to start making your marketing social — not only by being present within online social networks, but by using them to fuel the top and the bottom of your larger marketing funnel.
This article also appeared in MediaPost.