We’ve heard it 100 times: “We’re targeting millennials.” Really? What does millennial even mean? Google tells us; “There are no precise dates for when the generation starts and ends; most researchers and commentators use birth years ranging from the early 1980s to the early 2000s.

So you’re targeting anyone from 10 years old to 34 years old? As a marketer, is it really effective to categorize people by something as vague as “millennials” when social data makes possible incredible insights from identifying buying signals to deeply understanding a person’s drivers and values?

As the use of social networks increases, so does the richness and accessibility of information about an audience down to the individual, providing marketers with hundreds more potential data points to integrate with customer data from other channels.

In The Social Intelligence Playbook for 2016, Forrester Research acknowledges that while most business-to-consumer marketing professionals now understand the importance of social media, many miss opportunities by not capturing and analyzing the data generated in social channels.

Building a clear data-backed picture of your customers not only improves customer understanding and relationships–it allows companies to inform key marketing decisions. But to get there, we must move past old-style demographics and personas to adopt a dynamic human-like approach to market research.

The 2016 customer demands more. They want you to adapt to their constantly changing interests, behavior and preferences. It’s not about personalization, but relevancy. With the right insight, marketers can create and deliver extremely targeted content, offers and ads to appeal specifically to very defined segments of their target audience.

What can a brand achieve with a social intelligence strategy? The applications are endless and cross-departmental. Uncover the who, the what and the why. Apply audience insight to an electronic customer-relationship-management strategy to drive the understanding behind evolving customer segments; how they think, act and engage. Apply relationship insight to your partnership development strategy, and collaborate with the right brands and the right influencers.

This evolved form of applying social intelligence is being used by one of the world’s largest FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) businesses, which uses social graph listening to understand customers’ major life events and what media they’re consuming in order to align it to their journey through their various brands.

If a customer says publicly that they have bought a house, or they are on a diet, a brand can take this signal and use it to provide ultra-targeted content and offers and ultimately build a view of the customer that looks at more human characteristics, going beyond simple numbers and clicks.

In conjunction with social graph analysis, interest graphing and profile analysis, this builds a rich picture of what’s happening in a customer’s life, where they are in the customer journey and how these life events are changing the media they consume. This insight helps a brand understand the customer on a cognitive level, providing the brand a better understanding of their audience segments and, thus, more power to influence them and cut out irrelevant communications.

Social data provides a wealth of information about people based on what they’re saying, what they’re sharing, who they’re engaging with, how they think and more. Every day, your customers and prospective customers are on social media sharing insight into what makes them tick. Traditionally, this in-depth level of understanding into the consumer’s psyche would take much more time and money to collect.

The pyramid below applies technology to the market research process. With such advances, traditional methods of collecting and processing research are becoming ineffective and outdated. They no longer provide competitive advantage. Platforms that structure data to provide insight allow marketers to play a more strategic role in the process.

At Forrester’s Marketing 2016 forum, speakers recognized that the growth in social network usage meant an explosion of data for marketers. With dashboards and visualization tools helping organize the analytics, it’s the marketer that gives them meaning.

With the right technology, marketers are able to save time and focus their efforts on analyzing insights and applying intelligence to achieve strategic advantage.


In a customer-controlled world, marketers must use data to map signals: What drives response? What publications are they interested in? What television shows do they watch? What crossovers are there with other brands?

The integration of this intelligence with customer data reveals what drives an individual to purchase. This knowledge can be applied across areas of an organization to optimize strategy and enhance customer understanding and in turn, relationships.

Social intelligence provides marketers with hundreds more potential data points to build audience profiles. Gone are the days of expensive labor-intensive focus groups and surveys. Now marketers can and should use social intelligence to understand what motivates an audience and integrate the data with other information (i.e., customer data) for richer insights. The data is open and accessible now.

Marketers have never been so rich in information, and with more and more data available from a wide variety of sources, the flexibility to segment and filter data and extract segment specific insights becomes critical for marketers.