gears_shutterstockAs social media becomes an increasingly vital component of marketing strategies, agencies are getting more comfortable with associated social data. For example, analyzing brand mentions and sentiment data is becoming fairly common practice, even among smaller shops.

But, as I’ve pointed out earlier, social listening data is just the tip of the iceberg. The variety and volume of data available to marketers keep getting bigger — and more interesting — each day.

Agencies that know how to harness and use social data creatively will profit and grow; those that do not will be left behind.  Below are a few prominent reasons why social data proficiency is a critical competency for the agency of the future:

Multi-Channel Success

Social data will hold the key to insights that lead to optimization — not just of social media initiatives, but of marketing in other channels and across multiple channels, as well. (As a simple example, consider the use of trending topics to inform content or campaigns — but the possibilities here are endless.) In fact, at the Forrester Research eBusiness Forum, 80% of respondents said they plan to use social data more in 2013 to inform campaigns in other channels.

Understanding & Predicting Buyers

Increasingly, customers will expect you to know them. Social data can play a pivotal role in building a deep understanding of customers (and also of prospects at various stages of the buy cycle).

This sort of knowledge will be absolutely fundamental for all marketing of the future (i.e., giving people what they want, when they want it and understanding consumers well enough to develop persistent relationships and predict behavior). Without it, the fall-back option is old-school marketing tactics whose efficacy is already waning quickly.

Client Demand

According to the InfoGroup study cited above, 70% of top global marketers plan to spend more on data-related marketing initiatives in 2013; and, as noted, many companies hope to expand their exploitation of social data. But, while many tools now available are good at collecting data and producing machine-based analytics from that data, it still takes a human to tell you what to do with the data. Clients will turn to agencies and other vendors in order to apply social data to a variety of marketing activities.

Competitive Advantage

When I hear the words “social data,” I am reminded of a friend who recently took up golf. His assessment? “It’s really easy to do poorly and really hard to do well.” So, too, with collecting social data and aggregating it into a form that allows it to be sliced and diced — and integrated with other possibly heterogeneous but relevant marketing data.

It is a time-consuming and resource-intensive process. (As someone who has built a social analytics platform from scratch, I can speak to this first hand.) More importantly, analyzing social data and finding the nuggets of wisdom that drive action requires deep knowledge and a wide range of fairly rare skills. Agencies that can master these complexities and offer their own “secret sauce” will be exceptionally hard to compete against. Moreover, this type of offering will be difficult to replicate by competitors who arrive late to the game.

Credibility

We live in a data-driven world. Having the analytics chops to provide clients with answers will build trust. Facility with social data analytics will come to be a measure of an agency’s maturity and sophistication. Unique services offerings built around proprietary tools and algorithms will allow adept agencies to leverage and grow existing customer relationships, while also competing effectively for new accounts.

As consumers increase their personal and business activities in social channels — and leave a trail of data behind them about those activities — the data and sources available will continue to grow and become more complex. Becoming proficient in social data is not simple — it takes time. But, agencies that master the challenges and opportunities will come out on top.

What is your agency or company doing to become more social data proficient?

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Analytics | Analytics & Marketing Column | Channel: Analytics | Social Media Marketing

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About The Author: has over 25 years of communications experience touching almost every aspect of marketing, including conventional advertising, public relations, and digital. Her current company, Social Snap, focuses on social media measurement, providing marketers with a powerful social analytics platform that combines data from social channels, web analytics, and social media monitoring tools.



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