How To Use Social Media to Trigger Actions In Your Marketing Automation Platform
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This is the final post in a 3-part series that addresses the future of real-time, multi-channel marketing and the critical, driving role that social media plays in it.


In our first and second posts, we discussed how real-time social data can make an enterprise more agile and responsive, and we discussed the critical role that marketing automation platforms play in making this possible.


In this post, we’ll show you how to get access to real-time social data, extract meaningful signals from it and leverage them in your marketing automation platform to trigger emails, score leads and improve marketing performance.

Social Triggers: Like Any Other (but different)

Most marketing automation platforms can leverage online behaviors to trigger a variety of marketing actions today. For example, many will let you automatically send an email to a contact when they visit a certain page, or launch a drip campaign after a successful lead capture.

Social signals of intent are another class of behavioral trigger that many leading MAPs can leverage today (with IT assistance) to trigger emails, send internal alerts, launch campaigns, score leads – pretty much anything your marketing automation system can do.

By “social signals of intent”, I mean social media users who are asking questions about, complaining about and explicitly buying your type of products and services.  These are just three examples – there are actually dozens of types of social signals of intent that can be leveraged to trigger marketing actions.

Using social signals to automatically trigger marketing actions offers several advantages over web- and other behavioral triggers, including:

  • more behavioral triggers per contact: your socially-active contacts are publishing a huge amount of data about their likes, interests and feelings in social media.  More signals means you have a chance to interact more often, around very specific topics.  This shortens sales cycles and keeps your prospect engaged with you.
  • higher-quality signals of intent: a traditional marketing trigger is really just a guess about someone’s intentions based on an action like downloading a white paper or clicking on a certain page. A person’s words provide much more information about their intent.  In fact, some social signals are extremely explicit requests to buy!
  • eliminate the ‘creepy’ factor in social media marketing:  if you identify a person complaining about a competitor on Twitter and then send them a tweet, it can be kinda creepy.  But if you send them an email pointing out the differences between your products and your competitors,  the “stalker risk” is basically eliminated from the equation.

This article explains how to build social triggers you can use in your marketing automation system, in four steps.

Note: you do not need to be active in social media in order to to use socially-triggered marketing, because it does not require a response in social media.

Step 1:  Get Real-Time Social Data For Your Business

The first step, of course, is to get real-time social data for your business.

  • By real time, I mean pulling new data in every hour or so.
  • By social data, I mean grabbing posts published on the social networks, forums and blogs your contacts & prospects use the most.
  • By for your business, I mean gathering posts published by your existing network of prospects, customers, followers and contacts PLUS gathering public posts containing keywords related to your business.

gnip logodatasift

There are several places you can obtain real-time social data for your business, including:

  • from the social networks themselves, using their Open APIs.

  • from third party social data providers like Datasift and GNIP

  • from your existing social media monitoring platform, such as Salesforce Marketing Cloud or Oracle Social Relationship Management.

Depending upon your business objective, the data you acquire may be for your followers only (Facebook fans & Twitter followers); all public posts about topics that matter to your business (Twitter, blog comments, forum posts); or, both.

Step 2:  Mine Your Social Data for Signals That Matter

Next, you will need to mine your social data for suitable trigger signals.  In our experience, about 3-5% of all tweets contain some form of commercial intent (about 300 million events per month on Twitter / English language alone).

Your options for identifying trigger signals in your social data include:

  1. Manually classify your social data (ie, monitor and flag for action).  This is the most common and most precise method available, but there are serious drawbacks. First, you can only scale this method by adding people. Second, your recall (market coverage) will suffer whenever your labor is tapped out or off-duty – meaning you will miss some opportunities.  Third, you may struggle with the timeliness and consistency of your results, which means you will miss more “windows of opportunity”.

  2. Machine-classify using keywords and/or text analytics: Some companies use a combination of natural language processing (text analytics), Boolean keyword expressions and/or sentiment classification to approximate “intent”.  This method can be automated, which saves time. Unfortunately, to get results anywhere close to useful, you will either need to become a boolean keyword ninja or employ expensive linguistics experts to build natural language filters for your business. Otherwise, the precision and recall of text-mining methods will not be very good.  This means you will get a lot of signals that aren’t what you’re looking for, and you will miss a lot of opportunities. Most customers we’ve worked with who have tried keyword-mining approaches have been unhappy with the quality of results.

  3. Machine-classify using a specialized intent-mining platform like NeedTagger.  Intent-mining platforms offer better results than keyword and text-mining approaches in terms of cost, precision and recall – but they are still not as precise as human beings. Some platforms like ours leverage more data than text to classify intent, which is what creates the precision advantage.  NeedTagger also lets you create your own ‘intent filters’ for any need and test them in real-time against Twitter.  Other vendors that offer intent-classification services include LeadSift, Solariat and Aiaioo.

Machine Detection of Intent: NeedTagger’s Social Signals API

We’ve developed an API that mines your social data for signals of intent. It works with any short-form social posts, in real time.

NeedTagger API example

NeedTagger API: sample input & output

Out of the box, our API identifies more than 70 signals of intent, which are grouped into four basic types:

  1. 14 conversation types: Asking Questions, Buying, Wishing, Complaining, etc.

  2. buying signals for over 60 common product & service types: buying a car, getting a mortgage, applying for college, etc.

  3. Life Events: moving, recent pregnancy, a new job, etc.

  4. In addition, you can build custom social signals for your business in minutes using our self-service app (no other provider offers this flexibility).

Every post submitted to our API is analyzed for the four types above. Results are provided in seconds.

Our API is optimized for Twitter, but it classifies any short-form social media like the kind you find on Twitter, Facebook, blog comments and more. Right now, we are limited to the English language.

Create Custom Social Signals For Your Business

Using our Social Signals API, you can build custom “social signals” for any type of need or requirement and immediately gain access to them from our API.

The diagram below explains how this works:

NeedTagger API how it works

Creating a new social signal for your business is easy. Our StreamBuilder tool lets you create a custom signal filter and view the types of posts it finds, in real time.  StreamBuilder works a lot like Twitter Advanced Search, just with more search options.

If you’d like to learn more about our new Social Signals API, use our API Inquiry Form or send an email to info@needtagger dot com.

Step 3:  Get Social IDs for Your Marketing Contacts

In order to take full advantage of the signals you receive, you’ll need to know the social IDs for the contacts in your database, so when a social signal comes in you will know who posted it.

Most MAPs today allow you to maintain social ids for contacts.  If you are doing this religiously, then move on to Step 4.

If you aren’t maintaining social IDs for your contacts, you can leverage third party services such as Social123Fliptop and FullContact to maintain the social data for your contacts, automatically.

fliptop logosocial123 logofull contact logo

Couple of cautions, though:

  • no provider can map social IDs to email addresses with 100% coverage.

  • the mapping process works 1-way: you can retrieve social account IDs for email addresses & social IDs, but you won’t be able to retrieve an email address for a given social ID.

To keep your contact database fresh you will need to send all new contacts through your provider’s API immediately, and you may want to build a polling routine to update existing contacts every month or so.

Step 4:  Create Social Triggers In Your Marketing Automation Platform

The final step is to create social triggers in your marketing automation platform that can be used to send emails, score leads or whatever you think is appropriate.

marketo lead scoring setup

Marketo lead scoring setup

Some MAPs are better than others in utilizing external data to trigger events. Silverpop and Marketo are two that can do this today (with IT assistance).

The process of building social triggers is the same used to create any other type of trigger, except the trigger signal is from social media. Each MAP has its own process for creating a marketing trigger, so I won’t go into that in detail.

hubspot email trigger setupFrom this point forward, your social triggers will work like any other trigger – email, web hook, landing page, whatever.

Cool, huh?

The “social triggers” discussed above can be implemented today with some packaged marketing automation platforms. If you use an in-house marketing automation system, you will need IT’s assistance, but it can be implemented today.

We hope this article has opened your eyes to the new marketing automation capabilities that real-time, social data can provide for your business.


NeedTagger Logo

NeedTagger Releases Intent-Mining API for Social Media

New API mines social media data for over 70 types of commercially important posts. Self-service app lets developers to customize intent filters for any requirement.


PRLog (Press Release) – Jul. 10, 2013 – PENSACOLA, Fla. —  Today, NeedTagger announced immediate availability of the Social Signals API, a unique self-service data-mining platform that identifies buying signals, questions and other expressions of commercial intent in social media.The API provides application developers with programmatic access to NeedTagger’s intent-mining platform, used by thousands of social marketing & sales professionals to connect with sales prospects, market their content and manage their reputation on Twitter.

Machine Classification of Commercial Intent
For many companies, identifying the people and posts in social media that truly matter to their business is an expensive, slow and error-prone task. To date, manual monitoring and classification of social posts has been the only reliable way to accomplish this.

As NeedTagger’s CEO, Vernon Niven, explains,

Mining social networks for meaningful opportunities to engage with customers and prospects is a huge challenge for many companies. The volume of social data available online is almost doubling every year, but in our experience only 3-5% of it is commercially relevant. While no machine can detect business opportunities better than a skilled professional, automated intent-mining services like ours reduce labor requirements, improve an organization’s responsiveness and open the door for entirely new types of applications.

By automating the discovery of commercially important posts, businesses can:

  • respond quickly to customers asking questions, complaining and requesting help
  • identify new sales prospects and potential leads during critical moments of need
  • market content directly to people expressing a need for it
  • better understand the behaviors and intentions of an audience
  • build new social applications to address very specific needs.


For Real Time Social Applications

Social Signals is a modern, cloud-based RESTful API that is highly scalable and suitable for use in real-time applications. It is designed for marketers who want to take their social media programs to the next level.

Potential customers for the new API include a wide range of organizations that consider social media a strategic channel, for example:

  • social media monitoring teams
  • agencies and social ad platforms who want to target social ad campaigns by intent
  • third party social data providers, to leverage social intent data in their offerings
  • marketing automation providers, to use social data to trigger emails and score leads
  • app developers building marketing, customer support and content apps
  • market research firms seeking deeper behavioral insights from social media
  • equity and options trading desks, to mine social media for market demand
  • direct marketing firms seeking to upgrade social media listening capabilities


Self-Service Text Analytics

NeedTagger’s API is a unique offering in the fast-growing social text analytics industry that includes pioneers NetBase, Clarabridge, OpenAmplify, Attensity and Lexalytics.

Vernon Niven explains how Social Signals API is different:

“Our goal is to provide natural language processing that anyone can use and benefit from. Not only is our API easy to understand and use, it’s also easy to customize for any application using our self-service app. I’m excited to see what developers will do with it! ”

Social Signals API - sample output

Social Signals API – sample output

Social Signals offers several advantages over other text analytics services, including:

  • 100% self-service, cloud-hosted platform
  • High-speed, rules-based classification suitable for real-time applications
  • Build, test & tweak filters against Twitter in real time
  • Easy-to-understand classification tags
  • No ontology work, machine training or post-processing required
  • Classifies Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other short-form social posts
  • Optimized for Twitter
  • Excellent precision and recall

Out of the box, the service detects 14 basic types of intent, 8 life events and buying signals for 60 common products and services in any short-form social media data (supplied by the user). Custom filters can also be created using NeedTagger’s self-service Twitter apps. The NeedTagger team is available to engineer custom filters for any need.



Pricing is tiered according to daily API call volumes and starts at $1,000 per month. A Free 30-day trial is available that processes up to 1,000 social posts per day.

To learn more about NeedTagger’s Social Signals API, visit .

Source: NeedTagger Releases Intent-Mining API for Social Media


Social Data: The Rocket Fuel for Real-Time Marketing
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NOTE: This is the second post in a 3-part series that addresses the future of real-time, multi-channel marketing and the critical, driving role that social media plays in it.


In the first post, we discussed the critical role that marketing automation platforms play as the system of record for real-time integrated marketing. We also pointed out the gaps that must be closed with social media marketing to make real time, cross-channel marketing a reality.


In this post, we discuss how real-time social data can be used to make your organization more agile and responsive, across all channels – even if you don’t do a lot of social media marketing today.

Social Data = Real Time Intelligence

During the past couple of months, I’ve had the good fortune to talk with some of the brightest minds in the marketing automation and social media marketing industries about the future role of social media in enterprise marketing.

A question we explored was:

How should real-time social data be used in enterprise marketing to optimize bottom-line results (traffic, leads and sales)?

To stimulate our discussions, I shared the following diagram we prepared last year.

It illustrates how real-time social data – scored for commercial intent – can be used to drive all sorts of well-proven marketing actions like sending emails, alerting sales reps and more.

social intent powers real time marketing by NeedTagger

One thing we all agreed on: social data can and should be used to drive  engagement in more marketing channels than social media. 

Why would you want to do this?  Because some channels are more suitable for listening and top-of-funnel engagement, while others are better at driving results and sales.

For example,

  • If an existing lead asks a question on Twitter about an issue your product addresses, then you might want to send them an email and update their lead score.

  • If you identify a new hot sales prospect on Facebook, then you might want to route the message to a call center or a rep for follow-up.

As hinted in the diagram above, there are many potential applications of real time social signals, especially when the data is scored for commercial intent.

Social Intent: The People and Posts That Matter Most

By “scored for commercial intent”, I mean that you have identified the people and posts that matter most to your business.

intent action resultsThese are the people who are asking questions, sharing complaints, discussing explicit needs, talking about key trigger events and life events, etc. related to your business, your type of business or your competitors.  They are indicating commercial intent about your business or about something you or your company can provide to them, such as your products, services, content and advice.

Whether they come from cookie data or from social media, signals of commercial intent represent new opportunities to engage, convince and sell.

14 Types of Commercial Intent on Twitter by NeedTagger (estimated)
14 Types of Commercial Intent on Twitter by NeedTagger (estimated)

In our experience, 3% to 5% of social media posts contain commercial intent. We monitor social intent on Twitter for thousands of businesses in 13 industries (B2C and B2B), so we know a little about this.

It’s important to note that analyzing social data for commercial intent is nothing new. It’s what your social media teams do every day as they monitor social streams for questions, complaints and prospects.

The Rise of the Machine: Surfacing Opportunities In Real Time

A big challenge faced by all marketers is sifting through the rising volume of social media posts to find those nuggets of intent. The volume of social data is currently growing faster than new users, because as a new user becomes acclimated to a network their posting activity typically increases.

For many companies, the volume of posts they have to mine is beyond their labor capacity to mine it. When peak times of day and major events are considered, most companies struggle mightily to keep up with social media monitoring in real time.

And, as we all know, responding to a prospect in real time makes all the difference, whether in lead generation, customer support or closing a sale.

Web Lead Sales Response Rates, Kellogg/MIT study 2007

Web Lead Sales Response Rates, Kellogg/MIT study 2007

Given that data volumes are overwhelming our labor constraints, machine-scoring of commercial intent makes a ton of sense. Using a machine to mine social media for commercial intent provides value to enterprise marketers in several ways, including:

  1. Save time monitoring social media: it separates the few really important signals from the noise, saving your social media teams time.

  2. Focus on the people and posts that matter: tagging your social data with intent makes it possible to focus on the people and posts that drive your business.

  3. Respond in real time: real-time responses produce better outcomes.
  4. Behave consistently: auto-tagging posts with intent means they don’t have to wait for people to flag them.

To date, the challenge has been: how do you machine-classify commercial intent in real time? As any text analytics vendor will tell you, this requires a deeper level of machine analysis than keyword search or sentiment analysis.

A handful of data mining companies have taken on this challenge and now offer working platforms, including us.

We think we’ve cracked the code generically for all industries. But it’s early, and we learn something new every day.

Listen in Social; Engage Where It Pays

When you bring real time social signals of intent into your marketing automation platform, you can market in entirely new ways in whatever channel that works. And you can listen and respond in real time.

You can leverage social signals of intent to improve the responsiveness and performance of many tasks, including:

  • sales prospecting

  • customer segmentation

  • behavioral targeting

  • lead scoring

  • customer support

  • reputation management

  • content marketing

  • ad-targeting (by intent)

  • real-time alerts for sales reps to follow-up

For example, here are some specific ways your company could leverage real-time social signals in Marketo:

Social Intent Unlocks New Marketing Capabilities
Social Intent Unlocks New Marketing Capabilities

Let’s drill into some of these in detail:

  • Social-triggered emails:  using social signals of commercial intent, you can identify when a lead discusses a very specific need or issue in social media that you can help them with and then reach out with a targeted email to address that issue (using a blog post or similar). This moves the lead closer to a sale. It’s also a lot less creepy than sending a message to someone who isn’t connected to you on that network.

  • Capture more prospects (social prospecting): identify people with the right profile discussing trigger events, complaining about competitors or outright looking for a solution like yours.  Then, use these signals to send an email or alert your sales rep to engage with the prospect – right now. This is how most NeedTagger customers use our apps.

  • Target ads by needs/intent: identify the intent-laden language your prospects express in social media during each stage of their customer journey; then, use these keywords to place native ads in front of them on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

  • Score leads with social intent:  use social expressions of intent – not just mentions of keywords – to update lead scores. Intent signals are much more precise, so they are better suited for this type of real-time marketing.

  • Monitor social demand: social expressions of purchase intent, questions and complaints are important signals of how your audience and market feel about your brand and products – they tell you a lot more about your market’s likely behavior than keyword mining or sentiment classification can.

All of the above are practical ways to compress sales cycles and to keep you engaged with prospects and customers during important moments of need. It’s is how you would probably behave in the real world, if you had access to this type of real time intelligence.

Moving forward, if you want to behave like a real time business, then real-time social signals (scored for intent) will need to be incorporated into your marketing applications and processes. Because social media is where you’ll find the most real-time signals, long term.

Still A Greenfield Opportunity

Listening to social media for signals of intent, then using them to trigger marketing actions in other channels makes a ton of sense.

But most marketers aren’t aware of how big the opportunity is.

If we consider the volume of commercial signals expressed on Twitter alone, it’s already really big.

290 million needs expressed on Twitter every month (source:

290 million needs expressed on Twitter every month (source:

Leading enterprise software vendors clearly understand the opportunity. They know intent-mining is important, as evidenced by their recent acquisitions & partnerships:

It’s time to start experimenting!

If you’re interested in seeing what “social intent” looks like, try our Free customer prospecting app now.  Or mine your own social data for intent using our new API.

In our next post, we’ll show you how to leverage real-time social signals in your marketing systems today, so you can start driving real-time actions like the ones described above.