3 Data Skills to Future-Proof Your Social Media Marketing Career

Opinion: Businesses that identify intent to buy gain significant competitive advantages

Learning how to use big data will help ensure your job security

Remember the good old days, when social media marketing was largely a creative discipline, when you could post something clever and your following would notice? You probably scrolled through your performance metrics here and there, but mostly to see which items were most worthy of reposting or iterating—nothing too complicated there.

A lot has changed in these dynamics over the past three or so years, though. Analytics are more sophisticated. News Feed algorithms are stingier. Tool stacks and social-friendly content formats are more diverse. Senior executives at brands are more focused on return on investment.

So, the pressure to create and execute marketing strategies backed by quantifiable evidence is landing squarely on the people in the trenches—the mid-level marketing professionals.

And we’re not just talking about referencing a few spreadsheets here and there. Today, it’s all about big data—as in, troves of information that comes at us, from multiple sources, in such large tidal waves that traditional desktop applications have difficulty processing it all. The type of thing that just a few years ago, only enterprise companies dealt with and, in those cases, was always overseen by information technology departments and dedicated analysis departments.

A recent study by Richard J. Vaughan at the University of St. Francis examined marketing job listings in the top six metro areas for marketing gigs. He found that 39 percent of the marketing jobs required big data skills—and that this number is rapidly increasing.

What’s more, a report from McKinsey & Co. predicts that a data-savvy human-resources crisis is about to hit us. “By 2018, the U.S. alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills,” the report notes, “as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.”

It’s time to embrace a new marketing reality. You need to learn how to work with data if you expect to remain attractive to employers into the future.

Here are the skills you’ll need, along with some tips on how to acquire them.

Know how to use data for audience segmentation and personalization

Harnessing big data and applying it toward audience segmentation and personalization can lead to new levels of profitability.

When you know how to break your social media audience down into dynamic subgroups, you’re able to engage with people using messaging that’s as relevant to their situation as possible, increasing the chances that they’ll take action. Your segment schematics can be based on any number of criteria that are most available and important to your business, such as demographics, psychographics, product use, media use or communication behaviors.

Personalized messaging is extremely important in today’s digital landscape, especially given the trend of one-to-one messaging via social apps. Your audience expects to see content that speaks to them given the context of their specific needs. Collecting and making use of the right data points allows you to disambiguate and segment to the point where you can deliver the right messaging, to the right people, at the right times and at the right places.

Where to get started: Epsilon Marketing’s comprehensive “Journey to Truly Personalized Marketing” video presentation thoroughly covers the basics of building effective segments and using them to drive business impact via social media. Among the nuggets of wisdom here is an overview of data gathering methods and tactics for listening for triggers through real-time social media monitoring.

With the emphasis here on behavioral segmentation, there are some killer tips on narrowing down your data to find the most meaningfully impactful interactions with audience members, as well as a tutorial that breaks down how to use this data to create Facebook dynamic ads.

Know how to use data to identify intent signals

Businesses that identify a customer’s intent to buy can gain significant competitive advantages.

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