Business Technology

Why one tech company is trying to convince creative businesses that data is relevant to everyone

6 min read

18 April 2016

With social media increasingly providing valuable data as well as a means of corporate expression, Real Business spoke to Liliana Osorio, EMEA marketing manager at analytics company Crimson Hexagon, about how growing companies can use this to compete with established brands.

That big data is big news is no secret. It’s no exaggeration to say that 2015 was the year of the chief data officer, with everyone from the Financial Times to the UK government announcing the creation of the role.

But despite this, when Real Business caught up with her at the Millennial 20/20 Summit recently, Osorio explained that many of those non-quantitative roles are still scared of data.

“We were at Cannes Lions Festival last year and would be speaking to people who were of the opinion that because they were creative, quantitative insights weren’t relevant to them. What I try to explain is that quantitative information can help steer creativity to make sure it’s the sort of creativity which will be well-perceived,” she explained.

For Osorio, effective product development in 2016 means the end of focus groups, with marketers instead tapping into the preferences their customers display on social media – described as “the largest focus group that you can possibly have”. She expressed astonishment that so many brand managers are still making important decisions based on very small sets of data. “They run a survey and say twenty people said yes so we’re going to go in that direction – it’s quite incredible,” she added.

With records of over 860bn pieces of social media communication to tap into, the number of data points that Crimson Hexagon has access to is striking. Although analysing big data is still expensive – Osorio admitted “this sort of advanced analytics isn’t for everyone” – she argued there isn’t a single business leader who isn’t interested in knowing what their customer wants.

“If you spend time listening to what an audience likes on social media, and you then use that to inform your creative work, you’re much more likely to create something that will resonate with your target audience,” she explained.

Osorio suggested that growing businesses have some innate advantages over large corporates in this area by building listening to customers into the way of working from the very start. “SMEs can be much more nimble – it’s not easy to move a giant.”

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Yet harnessing this power requires little short of a paradigm shift, she argued. “I think there is a lack of understanding around social media. It tends to be all about communities and engagement but, actually, social media is just such a big pool of consumers expressing their own opinions.”

“The biggest mistake that SME owners make when it comes to social media is ignoring its potential, or thinking: ‘I don’t have a big following, so this is not for me’. But it’s not about you. It’s about the people you’re trying to sell to, and the opinions they’re expressing – their likes, dislikes and interests. “

So where can business decision makers start when it comes to harnessing the power of social data? “More and more, people are turning to Twitter with complaints. So on one hand, you can use it in a live way to learn about customer sentiment, but there’s also the possibility of going back and looking at customer service mistakes, and analysing when you are likely to get lots of complaints.

Understanding, for example, that there’s a spike around Christmas and trying to work out why that happens, will allow you to try and not have a repeat of the same problem next year.”

At Millennial 20/20, the focus was squarely on younger disruptors, and the platforms and technologies favoured by Generation Y as its buying power gets ever-more important.
Yet Osorio is a fervent believer that big data has insights to offer firms targeting older consumers too.

“Millennials are particularly outspoken, and they share everything on social so they want to be heard, but they’re not the only ones. My mother says she doesn’t use social media, but she does go on blogs and discusses recipes, so she is still engaging, and providing valuable information,” she said.

Looking to the future, Osorio argued that social media data is only going to become more important for those creative functions in companies large and small. “I think analysis-driven decisions will be more and more popular. We’re personally investing very heavily in image recognition analytics, and trialling tech that will allow us to help brands monetise on how many times their visuals have been shared,” she explained.

“If you’re a fashion company and an influencer is wearing your logo or something like that, you want to know, so you can capture it. That’s a marketing campaign organised right there and then,” Osorio added.

With the number of worldwide social media users growing by 219m each year, the amount of information out there waiting to be harnessed is only going to get bigger too. The only challenge will be wading through the ever growing body of data points this provides.