Life has become increasingly complex for modern marketers. In the not so distant past, all anyone expected them to do was identify, acquire and retain customers.

Now they're expected to build long-term relationships with them — and as anyone who has ever had a partner or a spouse can tell you, that takes a lot of work.

In his most recent book, "What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF)," Brian Solis explores the challenges of building customer relationships as well as options to improve them.

Solis, a principal analyst with the Altimeter Group, suggests marketers can improve customer relationships through the use of social identity, which he defines as the information about an individual available in social media, including profile data as well as ongoing social activity. As he explains:

Marketers are spending more on technology every year -- especially technology that can engage customers in personal ways at scale, like marketing automation, email service providers, retargeting and dynamic web content. Social Identity improves value of these tools by improving targeting capabilities."

We shared his hypothesis with five senior marketers to see whether they agreed that brands can target and personalize customer messaging through social identity. 

The Question

How does the contextual insight available in social media provide an opportunity to better know and engage audiences with personalized content and experiences across channels?

The Answers

Lori Wright, Chief Marketing Officer, TIBCO


Wright joined the Palo Alto, Calif.-based software provider as CMO last November from Symantec, where she was vice president of the global e-commerce sales business. She joined Symantec through the acquisition of Veritas Software, where she led global marketing campaigns. Before that, she worked in the marketing and sales group for The Walt Disney Company, helping to build Disney's first enterprise business intelligence platform. Tweet to Lori Wright.

Social media is a marketer’s goldmine. Businesses can measure the aggregate sentiment of their customers through channels like Twitter and Facebook and, most importantly, act on them in ways that were never possible before.

The key to using social media as a marketing tool is speed. The value of a tweet declines over time. Taking action on a negative comment from a customer on social media a week later is much less effective than responding to it immediately. Companies need the ability to process data in real time to gain instant awareness and to take instant action. This is frequently referred to as fast data.

For example, airlines use social media to monitor passengers’ attitudes during flight delays. In addition to tracking the aggregate sentiment of customers, the airline can use social media to create extremely targeted, personalized offers. If a high-value customer expresses disappointment on Twitter, the airline can immediately send that person an upgrade.

Social media allows companies across industries to fine-tune the way they respond, reactively, in times of need and proactively when opportunity arises. Companies who are not using social media to monitor and target their customers with personalized offers are missing a significant piece of the marketing puzzle.

Jen Todd Gray, VP, Marketing and Creative Services, HelloWorld


Gray joined HelloWorld, a provider of multichannel interactive promotions and loyalty solutions in 2005. Before that, she was managing producer of Oprah.com, the official website for The Oprah Winfrey Show, O, The Oprah Magazine and Oprah’s Book Club. She was interactive producer for Corbis Productions and produced some of the first interactive content for MSN entertainment. She was also assistant director for Disney Presents…Bill Nye, The Science Guy and was involved with children's productions for Seattle's KING 5 Television and National Geographic. Connect with Jen Todd Gray on LinkedIn.

Leveraging potential and existing customers’ social identities is key to providing a more personalized experience across digital channels through to the offline brick and mortar experience. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social channels offer insights into of your customers’ entire lives — their interests, activities and relationships are self-reported and available to you. This information can only make you a smarter marketer because you are suddenly able to speak to your customers in relevant terms, providing them with content tailored to their likes and interests. The result: accelerating your brand's path to winning the battle of the hearts and minds of your consumers.

For instance, if you know someone is pinning specific styles of your products to their Pinterest boards, you can serve them with examples of your own products or services that align with that aesthetic. When customers tweet check-ins at a retailer, you know where to focus your next product promotion. As a brand, understanding consumers socially allows you to turn prospects into customers and engage them along the path to purchase by delivering relevant content across mobile, social and in-store channels, rewarding loyalty with personalized promotions and offers, and engaging those loyal customers as advocates for your brand.

Tom Wentworth, Chief Marketing Officer, Acquia