Jonathan Houston is the Lead for Digital Marketing and Technology at Deloitte Consulting. He is active in the marketing community, with a strong passion for strategy and tactics. We recently chatted to Jonathan about his views on the benefits of Social Media and what big data really means for businesses.
Hi Jonathan. In a recent article that you wrote, you shared some surprising facts about businesses in the USA only spending a maximum of 20% on social media. What does this say about South Africa’s eagerness to allocate large amounts of a budget to Social Media? Who is getting it right/wrong?
I think there is a lot to be said about South African business and their apparent eagerness to spend their marketing budgets on social media. There is definitely a large push coming from digital agencies who are pushing the wins that social media can give a business; I am not convinced at how many large B2B companies are getting truly engaged and reaping the benefits of a social media campaign. B2C companies are doing this a lot more aggressively than B2B; clearly this is because it is easier to target a consumer than another business through a social campaign. B2B marketers are a lot more skeptical, presumably because those in charge have not been convinced that social media is something that can be taken seriously and offer profitable results.
Your research reflected that most USA clients using Facebook advertising were unsatisfied. Do you think that Facebook advertising is only effective in certain countries or cultures?
Facebook advertising, like any other form of advertising, is brilliant; provided you have done a little bit of homework first. Understanding your target persona, notice I didn’t say demographic, is vital to know what will resonate with them. Once you know this, the messages that you are pushing via Facebook ads need to be tested on a small scale. This means testing images, headings and copy to see which combination will work best. With these two things in place you are that much closer to ensuring that your advert will be clicked on. The last thing is to answer the, ‘what’s in it for me?’ question that your target persona is going to be asking. There needs to be a compelling reason for them to click on your ad otherwise it is going to fade into the background with the other ads. The reason needs to be compelling to them, not to you.
All of that being said, I guess what I am trying to say is that all social media adverts, regardless of platform, need to have a clear and achievable expectation of success. There is little value in attributing success with the same metrics you would use for a Google Adword campaign, as the method of delivery is different. One has expressed an interest by typing a keyword, while the other merely fits into your view of an ideal customer.
To answer the last part of your question, I don’t think the success of Facebook advertising depends on culture or country; but rather on the thorough planning and execution of the camtoolpaign itself.
You have also expressed that digital marketing needs to get serious about the data. Can you unpack this for us?
There is a myriad of data that any business collects on a daily basis. CRM systems have helped organisations the world over in trying to reach a ’single view of the customer’ but there is still a lot of data that is out there which is not being tapped into. There are tools such as Google’s Insights for search and their Keyword research tool which helps you get a picture of how and where searches are being done. Adding social media information to your CRM adds another dimension to your customer view as you will be able to see how they communicate online and profile them with this information.
Google Analytics is arguably the best data tool that is available to marketers today, but many organisations are not taking full advantage of this tool, or indeed other tools like it. I don’t think enough emphasis is placed on unpacking and understanding the data that is available to make critical marketing decisions.
In your opinion, what is Big Data and can you give us an example of how it is used?
‘Big data’ relates to what I was saying in question three. It is analyzing and crunching numbers from a myriad of data sources to truly understand and get a picture for how and where your organization needs to move.
One of the best examples of this that I am aware of is Walmart. What they do every night is process every till slip that was captured that day. They then take this data and look at what trends are coming to the surface; which products in certain regions sold well and which ones didn’t. They overlay this data with weather reports, news reports and economic news to understand what could have affected their numbers for that day in those regions. They then take this information, which was just data before, and make decisions about stock levels, pricing, shelf positioning and many other things. Once there is enough information available (from a number of days and months of processing) they can even make recommendations as to what label designs and colours sell better.
Arguably, big data is where companies like Google, specifically Google+, Facebook and Twitter are actually fighting their war. Having you as a user on their platform is only half the battle. Crunching your data to better serve their advertisers is the rest of the battle. With this information they can virtually guarantee results to their paying customers.
You recently wrote an interesting piece on how we follow people and not brands. Why do you think this is?
It is an interesting question, and one I don’t think there is a cut and dried right or wrong answer for. A major contributing factor could be that we identify with people and not with brands. We can empathise with what they say and relate to particular situations. It might be a throw-back to the advertising age where companies were, whenever we heard from them, always trying to sell us something, so we subconsciously move away from companies and closer to those who we feel are there for conversation and information.
Ultimately though I think it has a lot to do with the perceived value that the account we are following has to offer. There is not much ‘cool’ value from following Apple, but there is a lot in owning an apple. There is also a lot of cool value that can be had from being the first to retweet a ‘pearl’ from a local celebrity and being among the first to know of something that they deem worthy of mentioning. A company can’t really offer that same level of information so they fall behind in the race for followers.