Thursday, January 19, 2017

Stop Listening, Start Watching. How Interest-Based Segmentation Gets to the Heart of Consumers

By: Hannah Chapple

In recent years, we've seen companies increase their reliance on social data. Why? Today there are more social signals than ever. Consumers are sharing comments, their interests, thoughts, and more online. The result being an incredible amount of consumer-provided data at our fingertips.

The problem facing marketers is trying to make sense of the deep end of social data. One way we’ve seen businesses and big brands try to make sense of this data is by investing in a little something called social listening. If we watch and listen to what consumers are saying in real-time, we'll paint a more accurate picture of them, right? Wrong.

Social listening is biased. Many times our online persona is different than who we are or doesn't show us in our entirety. And only a small percentage of those online ever actually engage or vocalize their thoughts, interests, and beliefs – the consumer insights that companies crave.

I'll use myself as an example. If you comb through my social feeds (and please, don't feel you have to) you'll find my comments and a flurry of articles shared on all things marketing. While I am interested in this stuff, yes (it's my profession after all), it is not the complete picture of who Hannah is as a person.

So how do we get to the heart of the consumer?

One way companies can figure out who their consumers are and what they want is by leveraging interest-based segmentation.

Interest-based segmentation is when individuals are clustered and segmented into naturally-occurring, unbiased clusters, by looking at who or what they choose to follow. Instead of focusing on the vocal minority, at Affinio we consider following patterns and interest data to be paramount to listening or traditional research methods. 

 Image: Interest-based clusters generated by Affinio

Following and connecting with other people is a fundamental property of social behaviour. It is also a silent action, whereas social biases might keep individuals from being honest about their interests (who they follow) or what they talk about in person. The takeaway: you wouldn't know everything that I'm interested in just by looking at what I say, but you would understand my interests by looking at who I follow.

By focusing on how an audience is connected (analyzing their shared interests and affinities), interest-based segmentation gets to the very heart of the consumer. Instantly, companies can identify who and what their audience cares about, even if they've never vocalized it. Or if they have, this method validates that finding. This approach places focus on the honest relationships consumers have built and maintained and lets marketers understand their audience as human beings and not one-dimensional data points.

About the Author: Hannah Chapple is the Marketing & Content Coordinator at Affinio, the marketing intelligence platform. Hannah holds a Bachelor of Business Administration with a major in Marketing from the F.C. Manning School of Business at Acadia University. 

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