By Raquel Cool
It’s getting easier to follow users as they walk through the digital landscape. New data-driven marketing tools can extract increasingly meaningful and nuanced insights from peoples’ footprints—including their credit card statements, web browsing history, and social media history.
When I say nuanced, I mean nuanced: retail stores are even using customers’ phone GPS to track how long they stand in the yogurt aisle. This makes older techniques like retargeting—a cookie-based technology that keeps brands visible even after traffic has bounced—seem like a shot in the dark.
Here’s how web advertisers now glean valuable information from user data, in ways that are more efficient and specific than ever:
1. What people tweet about brands is a new kind of focus group. Marketing teams pay attention to social media conversations about particular products and competitors’ products as well. Debra Williamson, a principal analyst at eMarketer, a digital marketing firm, calls this method of data-mining a “real-time focus group.” These insights are valuable for advertisers because the technique is quicker and more cost-effective than traditional focus groups. “They don’t have to wait until a focus group meets to review things,” she told The New York Times. This process is easily streamlined by installing social media monitoring software that tracks any web chatter relevant to the brand.
2. Digital breadcrumbs map a trail that leads to your wallet. Marketers crunch large-scale user data to find profitable insights gleaned from our digital histories. Potential customers are quite literally given dollar-sign value, based on information including their latest purchases, websites visited, and social media chatter, according to Sheldon Gilbert, who leads digital advertising company Proclivity Media.
“The value that is assigned to a consumer, and how much the advertiser is willing to spend on that consumer, can be based on myriad factors,” Gilbert told The New York Times. “If a consumer has a 10 percent chance of making a $50 purchase, that consumer can be valued at $5. If a person’s dollar value is lower than the cost of marketing, an advertiser may opt not to show an ad to that person.”
3. Social media giants collaborate with advertisers to identify how users can be effectively targeted. Facebook collaborates with marketers to fine-tune their advertising efforts. Sean Bruich, Facebook’s head of measurement research and development and partnerships, described the process of using data sets to inform advertisers and give brand a “feedback loop”—a valuable assessment method that tweaks adwork according to what users are up to.
“Facebook can tell an advertiser that a group of mothers using the site are talking about sending their children to camp, and an insect repellent manufacturer could create an ad campaign that focuses on children using the product at a camp,” wrote Tanzina Vega in The New York Times.
Privacy, schmivacy? Data-driven analytics are inextricably linked to the future of marketing. Ryan Holiday, author of “Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising,” nixes old-fashioned marketing techniques—some of which were invented before World War I—in favor of a more scalable, scientific strategy.
On the evolving state of media in an interview with Forbes, Holiday said that marketers who are still avoiding data are funeral-bound.
“If you’re settling in for a marketing career,” Holiday said, “do you want to align yourself with the old breed and the tactics that were designed for a completely different world, or you do want to align yourself with the people who are building the next generation of companies and brands?”
A version of this article was originally published at Dell Tech Page One.