SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues.

This week we asked, Do you expect that data derived from social networks will influence your business decisions in the next year?The results:

  • Yes: 61.03%
  • No: 38.97%

Maybe it’s the interpretation of “data” that created such a high percentage of “No”? Or possibly the word “derived” caused it? Otherwise, these poll results might be the most surprising I’ve have seen to date as the poll analyst for SmartBrief on Social Media.

Let me offer a simple scenario that should convince naysayers that they are missing out on the most important use of social media: interpretation of data and results into actionable change for a business.

Assume you are a San Francisco casual-wear chain with a long history and strong brand loyalty. You decide to change your logo from a “classic, American design to modern, sexy, cool.” Internally, you agree on the logo and unveil it on your website. Before you know it, in a matter of hours, an outpouring of disgust starts to show up on the social Web. A fake logo generator is created to let anyone and everyone mock your design. Even worse, a fake Twitter account emerges and starts speaking on behalf of your brand. The media are hounding you for comment. You decide the president of the company should write an article in The Huffington Post to explain the “thinking behind this decision.” It has no effect. The mockery of your brand just does not end.

Applying this scenario to our poll results, 40% of you would still have the new logo. You would have ignored all of the “data” coming in from social networks, gone about your business and suffered the negative impact on sales for quarters to come. Now, the majority would have listened to consumers and acted as Gap did, reverting back to your old logo in a week’s time.

In this example, the way social media data influenced the decision is rather overt. The data were public, frequent and widespread. But that’s not always the case; however, that doesn’t mean the data should be ignored. There is a treasure trove of data about your customers lurking below the surface of social media. It’s imperative that marketers are capable of translating that data into actionable change. Whether it be for learning when is the best time to tweet for your audience or keywords that bring traffic to your website, data can be used in some form or another to influence communication strategy (including future social efforts), improve customer service (including resolving complaints), inform product development and understand consumer interests, habits and behavior.

Don’t ignore the data. They’re the only way to keep up with the pace at which your customers are moving.

This poll analysis was written by SmartBlogs contributor Jeremy Victor. He is the president of business-to-business content-marketing agency Make Good Media and editor-in-chief of B2Bbloggers.com. Connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.

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