Are We in a New Consumer Segmentation Era? Social vs. Traditional

Opinion: When you don't connect with your audience, you limit your impact

Social data sits somewhere in the middle of tactical and strategic TCmake_photo/iStock

Segmentation is one the key pillars of marketing today. Put simply: When you don’t segment, you don’t personalize; when you don’t personalize, you hugely reduce your connection with the people you’re trying to reach; when you don’t connect with your audience, you limit your impact, no matter the marketing you’re doing for your product.

Marketers use segmentation for different purposes:

  • Customer-relationship-management segmentation: Segment by firmographics (e.g. company revenue, how many employees) and customer info (e.g. customer value). Answers questions like: What’s my most valuable customer? What are my main customer segments?
  • Digital segmentation: Segment by website paths/behaviors (e.g., last click, conversion path). Answers questions like: What’s the best path to an action?

Sometimes digital and CRM segmentation become even smarter by clustering data, and generally speaking, CRM segmentation plus digital segmentation equals the answer to the question, “What’s the most valuable customer conversion path?”

The problem

Nevertheless, one problem with first-party data (e.g., your CRM data or your own digital data, like cookies/device IDs) is that you’re restricted to a view based on your limited data.

What if you wanted to understand and acquire “Japanese millennials who love cricket,” but you have no data on them? What would you do?

At Audiense, we believe that the answer is in social data, which allows you to segment based on how individuals are interconnected by applying clustering to those connections.

These connections are the whole fundamental basis of how social spreads the word virally. Therefore, using these connections is the most efficient way to understand and reach any segment.

And because social data allows you to cluster by connections, it means that trends are uncovered revealing what common characteristics hold a collection of people together, without preconceptions or bias.

An example

In influencer marketing, this is even clearer. Here’s an example: We might say Audiense CEO Javier Burón is a marketing specialist, and we could tag him as such (like Onalytica or BuzzSumo would do). But if we define an audience with Audiense employees, understanding how that group is interconnected would identify Burón as an influencer. There’s simply no scalable way to tag everyone in niche situations like this one.

That’s why insights derived from social data in this way can be used tactically and also, importantly, strategically: How do I uncover audiences to continue market growth and inform the development of our strategic and acquisition plans?

Ipsos and Kantar TNS are the ultimate examples of strategic insights.

Establish the beachhead

Social data sits somewhere in the middle of tactical and strategic, helping build enough hypotheses to continue developing your consumer or acquisition strategy, for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer.

In one of my favorite books, Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore sets up the playbook for technology adoption and market development, and he suggests that you can only start by targeting “beachhead” segments—by this, he means starting with a small specific group of people, rather than a whole market at once.

One fundamental characteristic is that “they can reference each other when making a buying decision”—they therefore must be a narrow and niche enough group and, no surprise here, interconnected.

Long live social data (even after May 25).

Carlos Serra is head of corporate development and strategy at insights provider Audiense.