Thursday, September 17, 2009

Acxiom Uses Social Media Data to Segment Email Lists

Summary: Acxiom's new social media marketing tool gathers public data about social media links and uses it to segment email lists. It's a different, and arguably more practical, approach to helping marketers take advantage of social media.

Acxiom last week released a new “social media marketing” solution called Relevance-X Social.

The press release is frustratingly vague (“With the ability to engage socially active customers and prospects in their preferred networks, marketers can link that knowledge to relevant communications that ignite conversations on behalf of the brand.”) But, on talking to the company, it turns out there is a pretty interesting product here. (Disclosure: I am a consultant to Acxiom, although I had nothing to do with this product).

What Acxiom has done – and this is so Acxiom – is to ignore the content posted in people’s social media comments or profiles, and just capture the “hard” information about links between people and membership in groups. Apparently (and I’m taking Acxiom’s word on this), this data is publicly available from most social networks (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Plaxo and some more specialized ones) once you know someone’s email address. So Acxiom has taken its own database of more than 500 million email addresses and found the connections for each.

Relevance-X then accepts a marketer’s own email list – presumably its customers or prospects – and returns information from its own database about the matching names. This avoids at least some privacy and spam issues, since marketers are only given information about people they already have some type of relationship with.

The main application of this information is sending targeted emails. Thus, a bank might send one message to customers who belonged to a financial planning group, and a different message to customers who don’t. Other segmentation might be based on the total number of connections, membership in the company's own fan group, or information the company already knows from other sources.

The key point here is that Acxiom is using social media to execute traditional database marketing. This is quite different from most social media marketing products, which boil down to monitoring for posts on specified topics, responding to individuals, or to publishing messages to groups through the network itself. In a way, it seems rather old-fashioned to use social media data as a basis for outbound marketing. But for marketers struggling to find a practical use for social media, it's better than many alternatives.

(As Ed Park points out in a comment below, other vendors including RapLeaf and Unbound Technology also build similar databases by capturing social media links.)

Relevance-X includes two other components. One is the ability to tag the content it publishes – such as links within emails or messages posted to group pages – so marketers can track response. This is done with standard page tags and browser cookies, so what’s important here is not the technology but the ability to measure results. Again, this is something that traditional database marketers consider essential – and that other social media products sometimes struggle to accomplish.

The other component is a separate social media monitoring service that tracks keyword mentions, sentiments and trends, but on an aggregate basis rather than by tracking individuals. Acxiom is using a third party product for this. The goal is to supplement the direct response tracking with a more general measure of marketing program impacts.

Pricing for Relevance-x Social is based on the number of relationships (typically email addresses) researched and on the number, size and complexity of the campaigns being managed. It can be purchased on a campaign-by-campaign basis or annual subscription. Pricing for a basic campaign could start at around $25,000.


Ed Park said...

Is this Acxiom proprietary technology or an OEM of a tool like Unbound or Rapleaf?

David Raab said...

I received the following from Acxiom's Michael Gorman, who originally brief me on Relevance-X Social:

Dear David,

Thanks so much for taking time to draw people’s attention to our new product. If it’s all right, I would like to clarify a couple of items you mention, as well as our intent in introducing the product, and also answer your subscriber’s excellent question.

To begin with, one slight correction on data collection: Discovering the existence of social networking profiles at social networks doesn’t require an email address. Mapping these pages is something every search engine does by following links. Email address information can be connected to the resulting graph, but it’s not necessary to have emails in order to discover the public data in social networks.

You write: “The main application of this information is sending targeted emails.” In fact, we are finding that while sending targeted emails is one clear use case, and is often among the first things a marketer chooses to do, the main point of Relevance-X Social is to enable companies to measure and optimize their marketing in social media networks. As marketers build up their connections in social networks through fan pages, groups, Twitter followers, etc., it stops being necessary to use email to reach engaged customers and advocates. And usage of tagged social media content that is posted in places like youTube can be tracked as well. We aim to support marketers efforts to promote positive word of mouth in social networks and other social environments. You give some great examples in your post of how this can be done.

As to Mr. Park’s question, we are aggregating best-in-class data from multiple sources, and continuing to seek out data suppliers with valuable data that meets our standards for collection and extends the value of our service. But we are using Acxiom technology and tools to manage our client’s data and track their social media activity. Essentially, we build and maintain a separate ‘social’ database for each marketer, which includes each of their customer’s social footprint as well as his or her history of interactions with the marketer’s social media content to support up-to-the-moment reporting and analysis.


Unknown said...

Definitely not Unbound. From what I've seen, Rapleaf's data is much better (than Unbounds). Could be an OEM on Rapleafs data.