How Brands Can Tap Micro-Data in Social Campaigns

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From the Netflix original series 'House of Cards,' partly a product of diving into data.
From the Netflix original series 'House of Cards,' partly a product of diving into data. Credit: Netflix

A few years ago, Netflix accomplished an unprecedented feat: It deconstructed Hollywood. Through a painstaking reverse-engineering process of meta-tagging every movie and TV show imaginable, Netflix developed some 76,897 "altgenres," give or take.

The entertainment giant had realized that merely dividing content into big buckets like "comedy" and "adventure" didn't tell them much about what people were watching. Instead, Netflix needed to divide it into "African-American Crime Documentaries" and "Scary Cult Movies from the '80s." Doing so helped the company figure out what viewers were watching. Netflix used that data to create shows like "House of Cards."

Brands exploring influencer marketing similarly have a golden opportunity to deconstruct social influencers across the entire web. By reverse-engineering robust profiles of influencers and their followers using increasingly micro-focused sets of demographic, behavioral and engagement data, digital marketers simultaneously improve their abilities to create the most effective campaigns and to connect with the most relevant followers.

It's still a numbers game, just a different one

An influencer's follower count has become digital marketer's de facto measurement for audience reach, serving as the basis for deciding whether an individual has enough power to sway audiences toward better brand favorability or purchase intent.

But as with display advertising, brands need to move past impression-based thinking toward granular analytics that reveal more vivid pictures of influencers and their followers. For example, resonance -- how much currency a given topic has with an influencer and his or her audience -- can provide striking insight into an influencer's realm of influence. If an influencer posts an Instagram picture of a freshly brewed pot of coffee with a local barista, or tweets about coffee and then sees an uptick in interactions around that topic, that likely indicates that the influencer's followers care about that person's specific opinions about coffee.

An influencer star is born

Recency of influence can provide brands with a different way of finding and evaluating potential candidates for such a campaign. If you think about it, the search for influencers can be as thrilling as finding the next new emerging indie band or Grammy-award winning music artist.

Apple iTunes, Spotify, Pandora and other music platforms heavily invest in discovery capabilities (e.g., "Hot Tracks," "Music You Need to Hear," "New Single"), because music fans love to find undiscovered gems and follow an artist's journey before the masses catch wind of them. These aficionados would much rather see an artist from the front row of a club than at a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden.

Similarly, the nascent influencer-marketing category is giving rise to all kinds of colorful and engaging social personalities that resonate with surprising audiences. For example, supermodel Kate Upton, widely known as a fashion influencer, has lately become a baseball influencer. Why? Because she is dating Detroit Tigers Pitcher Justin Verlander.

Brands that tap into emerging influencers that match their values and strategic goals -- especially those keen to resonate with millennials and younger generations -- will rise as champions of the cutting edge.

If influencer marketing was just about featuring people with the most followers, digital marketers would have a much easier job. But it's not a TV-style broadcast medium. Instead, influencer marketing has become a new vehicle for engagement, authenticity and sincerity. By tapping into more specific data points such as resonance and recency of influence, brands learn how to reach audiences with more personalized, relevant messages. Netflix learned this lesson years ago, and thrives today amid an increasingly competitive landscape. Embracing this same spirit, digital marketers hold a prime position from which they can use microtargeted influencer marketing to get their messages to the right people, at the right time, in the right voices.

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