Tag Archives: big data

Why do social media “experts” talk such guff?

Why do so many social media “experts” talk such guff?  A couple of weeks ago I was at a conference, where the focus was very much on data and how it could be used to help Telcos prevent their customers paying late (or not paying at all) and/or once in debt, collect the most overdue money, most quickly, at the lowest cost – all the time doing their best to treat their customers fairly.  Clearly a challenging combination.

An interesting inclusion in the programme was a chap who came from a social media consultancy.  He was asked to talk about how social media could help businesses understand their customers well enough to prevent them from falling behind with their payments, and, in the event that they fell into debt, whether social media data could be used to identify their ability and intent to pay.

I had hoped this presentation would be fascinating and full of insight.  To be fair to the guy, his social media generic overview was fine. But when it came down to the nitty-gritty of whether or not, and if so, how social media data could be used in a payment behaviour or collections environment, he frankly floundered, and failed to answer even one of the three questions he had been tasked with.

At the end of his presentation I walked downstairs with a fellow delegate.  I didn’t know him, but I asked him what he thought.  His answer was a single word:  “Irrelevant”.

And that’s the problem.  That one poorly targeted, ill-thought out presentation convinced a large group of Telco delegates that social media has no part to play in their business.  And my view is that this is simply not true.  Whether or not it’s possible, legal or even advisable to use social media data in a collections environment, and whether or not there is anything more than marginal benefit to be gained from doing so,  there are certainly opportunities to build  two-way, engaging relationships with your customers, and obtain useful data from them in the process.

If nothing else, that approach gives you an opportunity to encourage your customer to feel positive about you and your brand, making it more likely that your bill will be higher in their hierarchy of “must-pays”.  Especially in the case of mobile networks and phone providers, where it is highly likely much of their social media interaction will be conducted through mobiles.  And these things can be measured – simply compare the payment and spending behaviour of those of your customers who engage with you on, say, Facebook to those who do not.

Use the social media platform to gain information from them, obviously ensuring that your collection and use of such data is compliant.  Make it fun for them to tell you which networks or mobiles they’ve previously used, do some research on how they would rank them, how they use their phones, proportion of personal to business, gain further information on how the phone is used in business – the answers may not be entirely honest, but, with caution, you can use that data to identify likely switchers and even, in some circumstances, likely payment or contract defaulters.  It is worth noting, however, that the time to build the relationship is BEFORE the payments start to be missed – in other words from the moment the application is approved.

What is crucial, and, I think, not understood, is that social media data, communication and engagement are not ends in themselves. They are simply part of an ongoing communication programme with a brand’s customers and prospects.

It is for each individual company or brand to adopt a strategic approach which identifies its business goals, and develops – and measures – the combination of communication channels appropriate to achieve those goals – which could be telephone, social media platforms and forums, email, websites, mail, blogs, updates (digital and print) on news/technical developments/new product, downloads, apps, face to face and so on.

But I think a core difficulty for many businesses is in identifying so-called social media “experts” who look at the subject strategically.  I’ve met both types of animal.  The ones who do really are very good indeed – the bad ones do an alarming amount of damage and harm – both to the perception of social media and, in the worst cases, to the customer’s brand and image.  To identify the good ones, make sure you talk strategically to them, ask them pertinent questions – if they don’t understand your business, your issues, or can’t answer you, or sidestep, or generalise … find someone else!

We’ll welcome your thoughts or comments on this post – and if you need any help with your communications strategy and/or activity – across channels or through specific channels – please don’t hesitate to give me a call.  If I can help, I’ll be happy to.  If not, I can at least point you to someone who will provide sensible strategic advice.

Victoria Tuffill
Partner, Tuffill Verner Associates
 
Tel:         +44 (0)7967 148398  /  +44 (0)1787 277742  
Email:     victoria@tuffillverner.co.uk
Web:       http://www.tuffillverner.co.uk

Victoria Tuffill is a direct marketing consultant with over 30 years experience. She founded Tuffill Verner Associates consultancy with Alastair Tuffill in 1996. She is also founder and Director of Fraudscreen – a data tool that assists in the prevention of 1st party fraud. Her experience ranges across businesses including publishing, home shopping, insurance, utilities, telcos and collections.

© Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates, September 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Big Data – a new world of consumer information

Some four years ago, I was chatting to the head of a large data company, who was complaining that he had, on average, over 80K pieces of transactional data per supermarket customer.  Taken at face value, that sounded terrific.  But his difficulty was in understanding what was significant and what was not, so that he and the client could identify and use the relevant data quickly and effectively.  As I started speaking to more businesses, I heard this theme again and again – even Debt Collection Agencies found they just had too much data and not enough time to be able to understand how to find and apply the useful key data to improve their results and ROI.

 The Three ‘V’s

Even in the few years since then, volumes of data have simply exploded – Analyst Doug Laney described it accurately as being three-dimensional – a combination of volume, velocity and variety. His terminology is now widely used.

Big Data began with consumers shopping over the internet.  Businesses started to save and analyse data from clicks, searches, registrations, purchases.  Of course, having collected the data, many companies were quite clueless about how to analyse and use it.  But those who looked further ahead, like Amazon, were able to harness its power to gain market share against their competitors.

And the situation has developed further. More recently, consumers have discovered other uses for the web and smartphones – they use social networks where they post personal and business information about themselves, they link and hold conversations with their friends, family and colleagues, they post updates and information and photographs and music and films and videos and reviews and … the sky (or should I say cloud) is the limit.  And the data they are so happy to provide is available for marketers and businesses if they’re ready to take advantage of it and can cope with its relatively unstructured nature.

Combined insight:  Big Data plus traditional data

Data has always been used extensively by consumer-facing businesses to segment and target customers.  But Big Data demands a more agile approach towards engaging customers, and providing a more personal or tailored shopping experience.  Combining Big Data with the traditional purchasing and customer data previously used by business offers a massive opportunity to gain three-dimensional insights into consumers – whether for marketing purposes, product development, or customer service and management.

Forward-looking businesses and retailers will track an individual’s behaviour, including product or offer preferences, and model – in real time – that consumer’s likely behaviour.  While the customer is shopping, the business will be able to offer appropriate upsell products, loyalty programmes and increase spend and loyalty much more effectively than any competition who fails to take advantage of the opportunity.  The retailer will know when it’s safe to offer credit and on what terms;  they’ll know what the consumer wants and will be able to choose how … or whether … to deliver those needs.

Big Data Benefits

And the benefits are not just limited to retailers.  Telcos, media companies, utilities, energy providers;  insurers and aggregator sites – Big Data allows genuine communication between provider and consumer – and the consumer is beginning to understand this, and take advantage of opportunities to “switch” providers or suppliers or retailers so that they interact with those who understand their needs and wants, and are prepared to engage with them on that basis fairly and openly.

Big Data Big Issues

As ever, Big Data has its difficulties as well as opportunities.  There are concerns about data security and data privacy.  And not least, concerns about the ability to analyse Big Data –reflected in the growing number of software firms who specialise in data management and analytics – growing at almost 10% per annum – which is roughly twice as fast as the software business as a whole.  According to McKinsey, by 2018 as many as 140,000 to 190,000 additional specialists with deep analytical skills in Big Data may be required.

And there’s a Big Data technology revolution too – Big Data will need new and different technologies to allow efficient data processing swiftly enough for the data to be deployed effectively in realtime, such as MPP (massively parallel processing) databases, the Internet, and cloud computing platforms.

So where will Big Data go from here … interesting times!  And    whether you’re a marketer, a data provider, a software business, or an insight and analytics business, those who adopt an agile, creative approach to the issue will be the overall winners.

Click here for more information on TVA’s Data services.

Victoria Tuffill is a direct marketing consultant with over 30 years experience. She founded Tuffill Verner Associates consultancy with Alastair Tuffill in 1996.  She is also founder and Director of Fraudscreen – a data tool that assists in the prevention of 1st party fraud.  Her experience ranges across businesses including publishing, home shopping, insurance, utilities, telcos and collections.

© Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates, April 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Victoria Tuffill and Tuffill Verner Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.