As social networks like Twitter and Facebook evolve into advertising platforms, they also have a unique opportunity to help brands by providing them with information they can use to target a number of very important cohorts. In doing so, I believe they could increase their ad revenue as well, by allowing brands to target the right people, at the right time, and in the right way.
In marketing circles we often talk about Brand Loyalists, especially those that live on social networks. For years the goal has been to get Brand Loyalists to help spread the message on behalf of brands. But even for the most popular brands, these superfans only make up a small percentage of their followers on social networks. Far more numerous are Brand Tourists, those people that are open to engaging with brands and their content, but not necessarily at a great frequency or even exclusively. Sure, they may like a post on Facebook or retweet a particularly compelling photo, but they may also do the same for a competitor’s brand.
How could social networks help brands identify and target these brand tourists? Here are a few scenarios:
1. Fans of my brand that are cheating on me with another brand
Just because 500,000 people have “liked” your brand on Facebook doesn’t mean they are Brand Loyalists. There could have been a dozen reasons they liked your page (and they probably don’t remember when they liked it, or the reason). If you were McDonald’s wouldn’t it be great to know that 10,000 of your fans engaged with content from Burger King? Armed with that knowledge, you would target those people with a unique piece of (paid) content – a coupon perhaps, or an invitation to join some sort of loyalty rewards program.
2. Fans of another brand who are engaging with my content
Now the shoe is on the other foot and the social network helps you identify a group of people who are fans of another brand, but with the right (again, paid) message, you might be able to bring them over to your side. A free trial or access to exclusive content might be just the ticket to pull them over to your brand.
3. Fan of neither, but interested in the category
What if Twitter provided you with an alert that said, “Account X has used hashtags from both your competitor and your brand, but isn’t following either one”? Here’s someone who has shown they are interested in the category, but hasn’t necessarily aligned with a particular brand. That could be a very valuable piece of information. Perhaps, not unlike a Google model, brands would bid against other brands to gain access to that type of data.
Consumers have more power and a larger voice than ever, and they won’t hesitate to abandon your brand to try out the competition, especially if the competition has a more compelling story to tell. Social networks have a golden opportunity to help brands more efficiently fight this battle. Will they help brands make the jump from big data to smart data by providing them this information? If they do, they may potentially see profit themselves.