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, 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


As CMO at Acquia, Wentworth is responsible for go-to-market strategy, demand generation, branding, positioning and communications. He has spent most of his 18-year career in the web content management space. Before joining Acquia, he was CMO Ektron. Before that he spent more than 10 years at Interwoven (now HP/Autonomy), where he held a variety of leadership positions in sales and marketing. Wentworth is also a CMSWire contributor. Tweet to Tom Wentworth

With a sandbox of new tech tools and customer touchpoints, marketers are in an unprecedented position to make their campaigns more personal and relevant. Social provides valuable data points that can signal customer preferences and needs, as well as an opportunity to respond in context.

Learning Opportunities

A hotel, for instance, might promote content for a honeymoon getaway to its loyalty program members whose social media interactions are filled with wedding planning updates. This real time data not only delivers personalized content, it also helps make it more contextual. Social context signaled the target, the message and the timing. Insights like these mined from social media, coupled with new technologies that employ big data marketing techniques to generate situational and historical insights, create the opportunity to deliver contextually relevant content from the very first interaction to increase conversions from campaigns.

Matt Rosenberg, SVP Marketing, 140 Proof


Rosenberg has been working in the digital marketing, content and media world for 16 years. In his current position at 140 Proof, a social advertising agency, he helps "target ads to people most likely to be interested in their messages by understanding their interests based on what they tweet, pin and like, who they follow, where they check in and what they share." He was previously VP, Marketing at Taykey and VP, Solutions with SAY Media, where he oversaw strategy and research, helped grow digital creative agency Big Spaceship and led large media and creative accounts at OmniCom agency Organic. Tweet to Matt Rosenberg.

Many marketers seek ways to simplify segmentation for media buying and audience engagement. So they commonly target audiences by their most dominant dimensions: Sports Fan, Healthy Mom, Gadget Guy, demographics, etc. The problem is it’s too reductive. People are complex and complicated beings with many interests, ideologies and points of view that can’t be accurately addressed with a generic label. If you can't intelligently broaden your view of your audience, your messaging will be one-note.

Social insights offer marketers a unique window into their audience, so they can connect with consumers in a holistic and personalized way. Farming social data allows marketers to grasp all of a person’s complexity to learn what adjacent interests exist and plan communication accordingly. For example, the Healthy Mom who likes yoga can be served with different content than the Healthy Mom who is also interested in motorcycles.

More and more people are exposing their social identities across multiple social networks, which means that these contextual insights are increasingly valuable to marketers. Additionally, sharing of personal information is no longer restricted to social networks as more people expose their identities where marketers might not expect like music and gaming apps.

Brad Mattick, VP Marketing and Products, BrightEdge


Brad Mattick is VP of Marketing and Products at BrightEdge, an enterprise SEO platform. Before BrightEdge, he was head of worldwide product marketing at SuccessFactors, a cloud performance management software company. He spent six years at Salesforce, where he ran the eponymous salesforce automation product line, taking it from $500 million to $1billion in revenue. He also led corporate product marketing and was a key member in the creation of Dreamforce and Salesforce messaging. Tweet to Brad Mattick.

Contextual insight can sound elusive at first, so let's take a look at the concept from a different perspective: if you're a great salesman, you don't start an interaction with a pitch. You start with discovery. Similarly, marketers should look at social insights to better understand and ultimately engage with their audience. 

The shotgun approach of spreading content and praying that it sticks is a thing of the past. Today, the first step to meaningful engagement is to identify your audience's persona and map content accordingly. By leveraging information on social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook you can uncover the topics, interests and experiences people are interested in.

Taking this a step further, keeping a close eye on trending topics enables marketers to react in real-time with personalized messages.

One of our customers, a top retailer, saw tremendous success in paying attention to trending conversations on social to spot spikes in demand for their product. During the Super Bowl this retailer noticed a significant bump in interest for Beyoncé. This allowed the company to move fast, tailor its message for a particular audience, and deliver relevant and timely content to eyeballs most eager to receive it.  The information people share across social channels — pins, likes, status updates, thumbs ups, etc. — is invaluable intel that marketers should harvest to serve more tailored and engaging content.