How Agencies and Brands can Excel in a Data-Rich Environment

It's been scientifically proven that choice can be overwhelming: given just a few menu options for salad, you might be perfectly capable of determining your best course of action, but stand before a spread of dozens of lettuce varieties at the grocery store and you may find yourself paralyzed.

The abundance of data presents a similar problem for agencies and brands alike. Old problems of how to properly analyze or track down data have given way to new challenges like which dataset is most relevant, or how to create a worthwhile strategy from data-related insights.

Spredfast partnered with AdAge to discuss just such challenges in a webinar this week on how agencies can best use social data to enrich the digital marketing efforts of their clients. Spredfast's own data guru Chris Kerns laid out three main elements to keep top of mind when moving forward in today's data-rich environment, while representatives from Edelman, a global communications and digital marketing agency and their client, Dairy Management, Inc., illustrated via real-life examples just how those principles can be best put into action.

Three Elements to Successful Data Utilization

1. Focus

How Kerns explained the importance of focus:

"You simply can't do everything with every ounce of data straight out of the gate," Kerns says. "Don't boil the ocean. Your company or client already has priorities—starting there, build a small program of wins. Then expand."

How Edelman + DMI harnessed focus:

David Armano is the Global Strategy Director at Edelman, who partnered with DMI to expand and refine DMI's social strategy. DMI, for its part, works with local dairy promotion organizations to ensure the future success of dairy DMI engaged in social listening.

The dairy industry wanted to get everyone talking about them favorably. In addition, consumer support for dairy was high, but advocacy was low. In the middle of sentiment lay a group of consumers who were passive supporters ripe for becoming active advocates, and it was this group that DMI chose to focus on. By relying on social data, DMI could hone in on a particular audience that might have the most impact on their bottom line and reputation.

"People build brands, people can take them down, and people can make them relevant or irrelevant," says Sherri Maxson, the Senior Vice-President of Digital Communications for DMI. By factoring in the power of word-of-mouth recommendations, and encouraging passive supporters to shift to advocates, DMI focused their strategy, making it more manageable and actionable.

DMI focused on shifting passive supporters to active advocates. Image source: Edelman/DMI.


2. Culture

How Kerns explained the importance of culture:

"A brand or agency should embrace measurement not just personally, but throughout the organization," Kerns says. "You should embrace both the positive and negative of measurement, bake data into your internal updates, communication, daily routines, hallway conversations and weekly one on ones. Bring data into every conversation while remembering that in the end, it's not the be all, end all."

How Edelman + DMI harnessed culture:

Before strategizing, DMI + Edelman started by first assessing the recent climate of conversations about dairy and topics of interest to the industry. Data was therefore a part of their strategy even before that strategy had been fully formed. By establishing a baseline of what key audiences were saying, DMI + Edelman could define strong opportunities for dairy.

"There were misperceptions about dairy created by a one-sided conversation," Maxson says. "There was a huge opportunity to rally the troops and look at the information consumers had to figure out a way we could insert ourselves in the conversation together in a unified way." The dairy industry understood that before they ever strategized, social data was a safe place to start to ensure relevancy. A culture of data therefore revealed a reputation management opportunity and informed an incredibly fruitful strategy.

Tracking sentiment and language helped DMI determine content and strategy alike. Image source: Edelman/DMI.


3. People

How Kerns explained the importance of people:

"It's people that make data valuable," Kerns says, "Machines are great at gathering and processing data, but people make it valuable.""

How Edelman + DMI harnessed people:

As a result of their social listening, DMI launched an entire communications platform to rally the industry and get people behind their data-centric approach. In 2012, they launched Dairy Good, "Where Good Comes From," which honors the straightforward deliciousness of dairy foods and aims to be the Huffington Post of the dairy industry. Through this effort, DMI presented a unified voice for the dairy industry, yielding stronger connections with consumers and influencers, as well as increased trust and advocacy across stakeholders.

In other words, by launching a newsroom-type publication, DMI and Edelman empowered people involved with DMI in numerous ways to align and amplify their goals. They took raw data and turned it into human insight that had a direct impact on their social and content strategy.

For much more on how agencies can harness social data, including how the dairy industry used social data and tools like Spredfast Intelligence to inform their content creation process, watch the webinar here.


Jaime Netzer's picture

Jaime Netzer

Jaime Netzer is Content Marketing Strategist, leading content operations in marketing at Spredfast. A Lawrence, Kansas native, she traded seasons for breakfast tacos seven years ago and hasn't looked back since. Also a fiction writer and journalist, Jaime tweets semi-regularly.