The Identification Aptitude Test

Plotting out the social graph

Online marketers have the difficult task of deriving value from the complex and constantly evolving digital advertising landscape - a particularly daunting concern considering the current financial state. So how should marketers use their data to effectively manage advertising investment and drive results?

To start, ask yourself these questions: Are you using your online data (Web site, search, display, ecrm, social media) in a coordinated fashion, or is it siloed among different service providers that do not communicate with each other? Is your media plan informed by your ideal prospect definition (your best potential customers), or has it been diluted by a collection of publishers and media partners whose targeting schemes are oversimplified?

To the detriment of their bottom lines, most marketers are missing significant opportunities to create real value by leveraging traditional online advertising data, vis-à-vis social graph data.

Here's a step-by-step plan to get you started.

Keep it simple. Start from what you know about your best customers. A marketer has access to high-quality data that can be used as a granular proxy for his or her ideal prospect definition: current customers and engagers. Frequently, these segments are already available in the crm system or are embodied in the affinity groups on the Web site. By analyzing this data, along with search and social media data, you can identify consumers who have purchased or demonstrated interest in your product.

Don't settle for watered-down segments. Many marketers have spent considerable resources developing advanced customer segmentation models without finding a corresponding level of sophistication at scale in their media buys. For example, an advertiser that wants to target young, urban, professional, male football fans may buy the majority of its media from a "safe" publisher with an estimated demographic of males ages 18-25 years old with a household income above $45,000.

Don't accept content adjacencies. While purchasing from major publishers and ad networks will likely remain standard practice, it's important to start thinking about targeting advertising based on the individual viewer and not the type of content viewed. Targeting display advertising based upon adjacent content is an antiquated concept. It doesn't make sense to solely advertise in expensive content locations directly related to brand content (only advertising financial services on financial content pages, for instance) when superior targeting methodologies exist.

Leverage retargeting campaigns with the power of the social graph. Marketers have used retargeting successfully for years, and it has proven to generate high returns. But retargeting is limited in scale as a customer acquisition tool; you can only retarget to users who have visited your Web site. Now, new display advertising targeting technology can identify consumers socially connected to the traditional retargeting audience who will likely share similar demographics, psychographics and values. So you can build a custom audience based on your proprietary customer data, interwoven with social-graph data, which provides a better method to reach high-quality prospects.

Market to your customers' social groups, not to brand evangelists. Many believe that there are a small number of brand evangelists who can influence your brand. We believe in today's fragmented, customized world where each small group of friends has their own brand evangelists. The most relevant purchase recommendations and brand conversations happen within these groups. It's simple: People trust those in their personal social networks and make similar purchases. In this sense, brand communication constantly occurs, and leveraging the social networks of existing customers can represent a strong opportunity for brand advertisers. Identifying and communicating with these "customer groups" offers a highly effective, scalable method of messaging.

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