Social auditing takes your e-mail program beyond the inbox

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Social auditing takes your e-mail program beyond the inbox
Social auditing takes your e-mail program beyond the inbox

While many marketers are currently experimenting in the social networking space, most don't have a strategic plan for media integration or measurement. However, social networking offers an opportunity for marketers to better target, reach and understand their subscriber base.

As a starting point, consider a "social audit" of your subscriber base by e-mail address. This technique provides insight into social behavior to help you understand where your customers engage today, assess how active they are, and determine social influence. These insights can apply to media buying strategies and help target your most valuable customers beyond the inbox.

How social profiling works. Marketing data aggregators maintain extensive databases of social site activity (think Facebook, Twitter, and several dozen others) by e-mail addresses with mapped relationships to individuals. Much of these data are aggregated from Web searches similar to what a search engine would return; others are more proprietary data based on relationships with content sites. After matching a marketer's subscriber list to this database, the result is penetration by site, number of friends, and recency of activity, all at an individual level. Social match rates tend to be high, and rates in excess of 70% are common: a testament to the popularity of these sites. Combine the output with subscriber attributes on file and segmentation becomes more layered and insightful.

Applications of subscriber social profiling, Even without additional customer valuation measures, social profiling makes it possible to target subscribers more likely to be influencers with high social networking usage, number of friends, followers and listeners. Alternatively, if it is determined that a large percentage of a high-value customer segment is active socially, a social-focused e-mail campaign can tap into the strength of that segment's social network, enabling a relevant and powerful way to expand your campaign's marketing reach.

Understanding where your customers — particularly the more profitable ones — are congregating online can help in allocating advertising budgets to reach them. Sites can fall into pure social, as well as commercial (the latter can contain ratings, reviews, and wish list sharing a la Amazon), allowing many ways to reach subscribers where they are in multiple social contexts.

Whether used for increased targeting and relevancy, or for media planning, incorporating social insights from your company's subscriber e-mail list is the first step to take your e-mail program beyond the inbox.

Lori Connolly is director of research and analytics at Merkle. Reach her at lconnolly@merkleinc.com.

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