How does sharing social data benefit them?

Note: This post originally appeared in Social Media Marketing Magazine, and is re-posted here with permission. 

A lot has been written about the promise social data holds for companies. But far fewer column inches are devoted to the value of social data to consumers, when entrusted to the right companies.

At Bazaarvoice, we liken social data to an alternative energy source—its value is inherently tied to “the ways we process it, what we’re powering with it, and the maturity of the technologies and expertise that surround it.”

When consumers openly share their social data with companies that know how to take the raw stuff and convert it into something meaningful, they’ve exchanged one type of value for another. When a consumer logs into Facebook or Twitter on your site, they’re saying, “Learn more about me to make my experience better.”

If you can’t draw a straight line from the social data your company collects to the benefit the consumer receives as a result, you’re not fulfilling your end of the deal. The trust that led the consumer to share a little bit of his or her life with you is gone, and you’re left knowing just a little about a consumer who no longer cares to engage with your brand.

Fortunately, a lot of companies get it. They know that if they’re not acting on the social data they receive for the benefit of the people who shared it with them, they’re not creating value.

There are several ways consumers can benefit from sharing their social data.

Social shopping and personalization

Knowing what their friends, people like them, or trusted experts think of the products they’re considering is powerful, and will soon make the jump from experimental feature to consumer expectation. Companies like Travelocity (a Bazaarvoice client) are using social data to display reviews from visitors’ Facebook friends, while enabling visitors to ask their friends travel questions without leaving Travelocity.com.

Personalization in the form of data-based recommendations was made famous by Netflix and Amazon, but its value extends beyond telling consumers what else they might like. A personalized experience can be delivered by featuring localized content, giving more weight to the opinions of those who share their Facebook interests, or learning which types of content individual users respond to—and serving more of it. These are just a few of the ways that personalization can enrich experiences and give consumers exactly what they’re looking for, without them having to search endlessly for it.

Product improvements

It’s puzzling why some brands still rely on focus groups, when consumers are constantly sharing social data that can lead to outcomes like better designs and shorter product cycles—if archived, analyzed, and acted upon. In their reviews, tweets, and Facebook updates, they are telling us what they want from us. It is our responsibility to weave these conversations into the decisions we make about the things we make.

Take The Land of Nod (another Bazaarvoice client), for instance, a company that takes social data seriously. The Land of Nod analyzed reviews and learned that one of its tables was getting scratched too easily, so its product designers reengineered the tables using a harder, scratch-resistant wood.

Toward customer centricity

The companies that will get the most out of social data are the ones that will transform it into undeniable benefits for those they serve and wish to serve. Give consumers what they want, and they will give you the social data that helps you give them more of it.

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