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Building a social consumer segmentation methodology from scratch

Social media has allowed marketers, researchers and strategists to have access to a wealth of incredibly detailed information available. However, according to creative digital strategist Edward Bass, the main issue the marketing industry faces is trying to understand it through the lens of a 60 years old research method.

Edward BassInterviewed by Nathaniel Schooler and Nicolas Babin for the podcast series The Secrets of Audience Intelligence, co-organised by Audiense, Edward explained with an opportunity to avail and an issue to resolve he took to developing a social consumer segmentation methodology from scratch making use of the best sources of digital insights available. “Much of the research that we were getting in consumer insight was very much rooted in traditional research thinking, even when it was coming from digital sources,” he shared.

Edward has applied this thinking to insight driven strategic projects for a diverse range of leading companies including Samsung, BMW, Red Bull, Freuds, Tommy Hilfiger and Universal Music. We have a lot to learn from him, time to take notes...

Different platforms speak to different needs

Edward has extensive experience in integrating different platforms depending on his clients needs: “different platforms have different values for different questions when it comes to audiences”. For him, social data is fantastic for qualitative understanding and taking a deep-dive into why people do things, as you have a large volume of natural, often completely unprompted conversation there that can be tapped into. However, a lot of that qualitative insight isn't all that useful and requires a certain degree of extraction; it is exactly what Edward struggled with over the last few years.

“We started working with GlobalWebIndex because it allowed us to provide a source of understanding of the behavioral aspect that we could then match with BrandWatch - really to provide an explanation of why people were behaving the way they were behaving. Then, Audiense came,” as Edward highlights, it all comes down to the need for a specific purpose.

Edward emphasised how Audiense was key for building detailed audiences, like “followers of Nike in South Africa who are male, interested in music and aged between 25 to 35”. “You can also find sub segments, for example in the South African Nike audience, you can identify a sub segment who live in Johannesburg and is a really big kind of funky hip hop, and can actually measure them against the other segments, or maybe against an Adidas segment in Zimbabwe,” he said. “It takes a while to get your head around but when you've mastered that, it's so powerful!”.

He also pointed out that over the past couple of years he was trying quite hard to get a social listening platform and a survey platform to talk to each other more actively because he could see real value in it. “Knowing both sets of data points, I could immediately see where one connects to the other and how that could be automated.”

Edward shared an example to explain why you can’t directly address somethings with only survey data. “Who's your favorite celebrity? Which celebrities do you most talk about? You can't do that with a survey because the range of answers would be in the hundreds,” he stated. The strategist added that if you want to understand the sentiment around a persona or you want to understand the topics that are driving a specific conversation, “survey data is not going to easily give you that whereas social data will, so the different platforms speak to different needs.”

Audiences based on richly sourced data points

Edward stressed the need of having audiences based on data points rich in source to really understand them, emphasizing that social consumer segmentation is the best umbrella term to describe them as opposed to more traditional methods. “The first step that I found with clients is getting them to appreciate that there is a wider array of information available,” he said.

Drawing from conversations Edward had with a few luxury CMOs from Europe and heads of marketing and digital, he pointed out that “it's all very well talking about web analytics, and CRM data which covers existing customers, but if you're running an enterprise, who's only looking to sell to your existing customers, you won't have an enterprise for very long.”

Referencing an idea from the Forrester Report What Marketers Need To Know About Social Media Consumer Segmentation, launched a few months ago in which Edward mentioned, if you're looking to build your business and reach new audiences, or you're interested in launching or researching new product lines, you're not going to be able to understand those by looking at your data, simply if you're not already selling to them.

“What happens when you get a massive paradigm shift, like COVID-19 and your business gets completely flipped over? Imagine you run a cinema chain right now. For instance, how useful is your own data going to be?” he pointed out.

‘If you first approach a problem thinking that you just need KPIs, you're building a brick wall for yourself’

When asked about the kind of KPIs that can be valuable to marketers when it comes to social media consumer segmentation, Edward was very assertive in his response: “Why would you be looking for performance indicators? If you're carrying out audience research your KPIs apply to your own organisation, they don't apply to you, if you approach a problem thinking that you need KPIs you're building a brick wall for yourself."

In response the podcast hosts rephrased the question: how do you explain to your customers the benefits they are going to get out of social consumer segmentation?, to which Edward answered “it's effectively a different form of research from analytics, because analytics is something completely different. If I'm looking at web stats, then it makes sense to talk about KPIs.”

According to Edward, the best way to approach customer expectations is to draw a very clear line between what we can find out and how it can be applied to the customers’ strategies. He said he feels fortunate to have a pretty significant background in digital strategy. “When I approach a project, maybe compared to just a researcher or an analyst, I'm going to be looking at it not just in terms of the outputs of the research, but how it can be actionable.”

For Edward, what clients really want is someone who is able to say: these are the insights and these are five or six things that you can do with them. “I’ve always been quite focused on the actionable insights because I can put myself in the seat of the client in a situation where you've got a challenge, you need to decide how to activate this new product, how to open up this new market.”

These are excerpts from the interesting interview that Nat Schooler and Nicolas Babin did with Edward Bass and which can be listened to in its full version here:

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