Many companies have begun to incorporate Twitter and other social networks into their larger online marketing strategies - typically to either promote brands or to be on the lookout for complaints about services and products.
But there are other ways marketers can mine the wealth of data that has become social media. Alternative uses range from the specific - such as determining the best time to send an email marketing message - to unorthodox fundraising, to tracking new fashion trends.
When to Send an Email
The Toodle email marketing blog offers a tip on the former. The post gives the example of a marketing manager of a hotel that wants to target people looking for 'hotels in Dublin'. A search pulls up all the people on Twitter talking about and looking for hotels in Dublin.
"Twitter very nicely gives you an RSS feed of these results in the top right hand corner. Copy the URL of this link." Then, the post directs the reader, add a subscription button in Google reader (sign up if you don’t have an account, the post advises). Paste in the URL of the Twitter RSS feed, then click 'Show Details' in the top right corner where you will see a blank graph.
"After a few days this will show some fantastic data on what day of the week, month and time that people where talking about 'Hotels in Dublin'." From that you can determine when will be the time to send the email, the post concludes.
Charitable Fund Raising
Increasingly charities have been tapping social media networks for fundraising - and sometimes recruiting retailers to endorse or partner with them in these campaigns. Few such endeavors, though, have incorporated a brand as well as the Drew Carey $1 million cancer research Livestrong campaign on Twitter. Comedian Drew Carey has pledged $1 million to Livestrong if he could reach as many Twitter followers by the end of 2009, with the total donation to be pro-rated at a dollar per follower by years end, writes Mashable.
In addition, the latest in the series of upped pledges basically seals a $1 million contribution to the LIVESTRONG foundation for its cancer-fighting work. "Carey now promises to donate that amount once the combined total of both his and Livestrongs Twitter accounts reaches 1 million followers, regardless of the date, according to Mashable.
"We've seen a lot of social media campaigns for charity and there's no shortage of ways to do good on Twitter, but the #BlameDrewsCancer and @Drew auction campaigns stand out as particularly creative initiatives that infectiously spread positivity in the face of a widespread and formidable disease," Mashable concludes.
What to Sell
Social media data can also be harnessed to have a direct impact on the bottom line. Retailers, such as EyeBuyDirect, are taking advantage of the real time conversations customers have - often on their own sites - to make decisions about merchandising and buying.
Another example is Wet Seal, a 500-store specialty-clothing retailer for teenage girls, which is using its website for market insights. (via the New York Times). Last year, it introduced a feature called Outfitter, which allows users to put together their own outfits online. The virtual outfits are posted, letting visitors comment and exchange recommendations.
So far, more than 300,000 user-generated outfits have been designed, generating millions of page views, according to the Times. The feature lets the store get a read on where its customers are headed faster than ever before, with user-created designs providing insight into the recent trend toward more informal outfits such as dressy tops and casual bottoms like jeans.
The user-generated product selections and recommendations, combined with mobile phone access, build a community of customers that should increase sales, CEO Edmund Thomas says. "We're at the very initial stages, but that will be the wave of the future in fashion retailing," he said.