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Social media is more than making bird noises.

Social media has become as much of a resource as any other media platform. The stats vary from report to report, but it's safe to say that a significant number of social media users leverage those platforms to make purchasing decisions. When you consider only the millennial generation, which has now become part of the wage-earning community with purchasing and decision-making power, the folks in this demographic often view social media as the sole purchasing influencer.

Studies from 2014 put both of these groups at near 50 percent, so you can expect both to have increased at least slightly since then, given the massive amount of time the average user spends on social media. According to recent reports, that is close to two hours per day across all social channels. So imagine how much teens and millennials spend, compared to their parents and grandparents. Knowing that, it's no surprise that social media ad spend is expected to jump to $36 billion this year, according to eMarketer.

But social marketing is only part of the picture. The other side is social care, interaction and, most importantly, listening. Instead of being the loudest on social channels, companies need to focus on listening to what's being said about not only their brand, but about other similar products and brands, to gather information, interact with customer's, prospects, vendors, and the entire community around them. By becoming embedded in the ecosystem, businesses can not only draw attention to their brands, but help build their presence as resources and thought leaders, and they can gain valuable insight into what the community at large is thinking. That's all in addition to being able to provide social customer service to those in need.

It takes more time and resources than simply posting product offers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, but the value of the two-way social interactions is immeasurably more valuable. Beyond understanding the community on a human level, each interaction creates new data that can be collected, compiled, analyzed, and used create actionable insight.

In her keynote speech at the recent ITEXPO 2017, Jamie Thomas, general manager of strategy and development for IBM Systems, discussed the massive volumes of data we're creating, indicating that'll be close to seven terabytes per person per day by next year. While the sources of this data will be many and varied, a key contributor will be the incredible time we spend online and, specifically, in social apps.

The challenge is turning that data into actionable intelligence--something that will lead to real business productivity and revenue, which Thomas said is impossible with traditional analytics systems. Rather, a new approach to IT and data is needed--one that embraces hybrid cloud and the APIs that are being developed by just about every tech company today to integrate with various data flows.

So, while businesses should continue outbound social marketing, they must also designate resources to social listening and analytics. Ultimately, they will provide a much more detailed customer portrait and allow them to create more impactful outbound campaigns--in addition to the immediate benefits of creating relationships with the community, including both existing customer's and prospects. We all know, as human beings, we are much more likely to be influenced by someone with whom we have a relationship than someone with whom we've never engaged--even if those engagements are behind the social media veil.
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Title Annotation:EXPERIENCE
Author:Linask, Erik
Date:Jan 1, 2017
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