Social Data: The Rocket Fuel for Real-Time Marketing
Did you know? Marine dolphins see quite well both below and above the water.

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.



The new 2013 Searchmetrics’ study of 300,000 websites reported that social sharing behavior is even more strongly correlated with high page rank.

Top highlights of 2013:

  1. Keyword domains and keyword links have lost relevance
  2. Brands are the exception to many rules
  3. Social signals continue to correlate very well with better rankings
  4. Good content is always important: it comes to quality!
  5. The number of backlinks remains immensely important
  6. On-page technology remains one of the basics

The updated report is available in its entirety here:

According to the report, sharing engaging content in social networks correlates with higher search rankings much more than traditional SEO techniques.  See the chart below.

SEO search ranking factors 2013Pretty much mimics the 2012 results, except that social signals are even stronger predictors of search performance.

Takeaways from this study for me include:

  • Sharing your content on Facebook and Twitter and getting people to engage with it is much more strongly correlated with SEO performance than all traditional SEO methods save one: the number of backlinks.  The quality of those backlinks wasn’t measured in this study, but Google is prioritizing quality.
  • As I hypothesized in my earlier version of this post, Google+ beats other social networks when it comes to SEO.
  • Many traditional SEO tactics aren’t as effective as social sharing.  This includes positioning Keywords correctly and making sure the right Keywords are in your URLs, Title and Description.

Search geeks, take heed: according to Eric Schmidt, social signals will become fundamental to ranking well – for human factor reasons that are hard to argue.  In his new book he says,

Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.

To learn more about the changing relationship between social sharing and SEO performance, check out SEOMoz’s Daily SEO Blog / Social Media section. Rand Fishkin’s blog team does an awesome job covering the really important topic.

Here are some recent posts about this subject:

About the Searchmetrics Study

The study analyzed Google search results for 10,000 keywords as well as billions of backlinks, Tweets, Google +1s and Facebook likes, shares and comments. The data was collected in early 2013. The correlations between different factors and the Google search results were calculated using Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient.

The corpus of content related to these keywords include:

  • 30,000 SERPs (search engine result pages)
  • 300,000 titles, descriptions, URLs, etc.
  • Approx. 150 GB of data
  • Approx. 600,000 AdSense blocks
  • Approx. 5,300,000,000 backlinks
  • Approx. 4,150,000,000 Facebook shares
  • Approx. 12,950,000,000 Facebook likes
  • Approx. 600,000,000 Facebook comments
  • Approx. 1,000,000,000 tweets
  • Approx. 330,000,000 Google plus ones
  • Approx. 14,500,000 Pins
How Many B2B Leads Can You Get From Twitter?
Did you know? The maximum age for bottlenose dolphins is between 40 and 50 years.

How many leads could your company get from Twitter, if you focused on it as a channel?

In this post we offer examples, facts and figures that will help you frame the size of the Twitter lead generation opportunity for your business.

Regardless of your type of business or market size, it is likely that every day there are at least a handful of new customer engagement opportunities waiting for you on the world’s largest public social network.

Whether you can turn these moments of opportunity into high-quality leads is up to you. But it might help you to know that many of our 2,500 customers have been successful landing new customers from Twitter.  Check out our Pinterest Gallery of Satisfied  customers for a few examples.

flipboard 86174v5-max-250x250

 For more articles like this, check out our new Flipboard magazine, “Social Selling”

Twitter’s Role in B2B Selling and Lead Gen

Most B2B marketers agree that Twitter adds SOME value in sales and lead generation, but opinions differ widely regarding what that value is.

Some say Twitter’s value is limited to sharing content and news to attract an audience. Others say it’s great for monitoring your competition. A few even claim you can generate a sale with a single tweet (that’s not been our experience, for what it’s worth).

It is clear that for some B2B organizations, Twitter has proven itself a valuable source of leads.

For example, Marketo uses Twitter Promoted Tweets to generate leads at a fraction of the cost of other social channels.

We believe Twitter’s highest-value role in B2B marketing is in the front-end of the selling process, i.e., social prospecting and lead nurturing.

In our experience, Twitter has proven itself an ideal channel for handling the following activities:

  • identifying in-market prospects (by monitoring for people sharing specific needs & issues you can address)
  • warming new leads
  • establishing yourself as a respected thought leader and problem-solver in your field 
  • driving highly qualified traffic to your website
  • compressing the sales cycle by tackling the most common questions and issues that stand between you and the deal
  • measuring the impact of your content marketing, lead generation and outreach activities.

The scale of Twitter’s B2B lead generation opportunity is also misunderstood: it’s probably a lot larger than you think.

A question we often get from B2B sales & marketing professionals is,

how many NEW customer engagement opportunities exist on Twitter – for a company like mine?

The quickest way to answer this question is to search for people expressing needs related to your business, right now.

But if we take a step back and look at Twitter as a whole, the scale of the B2B lead generation opportunity on Twitter is very large – and poised to grow many times over.

200 Million Unmet Needs (Last Month)

Since early 2012, we’ve been monitoring Twitter for 14 types of tweets that contain commercially-relevant intent (see chart below).

We call these special intent-laden tweets, “needs”.

Our best estimate is that about 3-5% of tweets represent commercially relevant needs.

By “commercially relevant”, we mean that an average sales, customer support or marketing professional would classify the tweet and the person as worthy of further monitoring or worthy of taking some sort of action such as: following, retweeting, sending an outreach message, etc.

In March, 2013, we identified more than 200 million opportunities to engage with people around moments of need. The chart below shows how they break down by type of need.

Note that we aren’t yet mining every possible type of need. Further, we only identify English language opportunities.

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

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

In addition to the Types of Needs above, we also mine Twitter for people discussing important Life Events, Trigger Events and more than 60 common household and business purchases.

Specific B2B Examples

So let’s now dive into the industry view of these needs.

Listed in the chart below are a few of the pre-tested sales prospecting filters we offer for B2B customers today.

The stream volumes below identify explicit buying signals – they do not find tweets containing other forms of intent, such as people asking questions, complaining, offering opinions, etc.

B2B opportunities available on Twitter (sample)

B2B opportunities available on Twitter (sample)

As you can see, the volume of B2B needs expressed on Twitter is large enough to interest most B2B social selling professionals.

Keep in mind that only about 16% of the US population uses Twitter today, and the number of active users and number of tweets posted each day is increasing rapidly.

The list above represents a small slice of the opportunities we’ve identified for our B2B customers, because the majority of our users don’t use pre-tested streams – they build custom-filtered streams for their business using our self-service apps.

Here are a few examples of B2B prospecting streams created by our users:

B2B Leads - NeedTagger customer streams (examples)

B2B Leads – NeedTagger customer streams (examples)

It is important to note that the vast majority of commercial needs expressed on Twitter each day are overlooked by most businesses.

This is partially because Twitter is young, but it’s also because even socially-savvy business professionals believe Twitter is too noisy to get any business value from it – other than following the news. 

LinkedIn Is the King of B2B Social Selling

LinkedIn is widely considered the king of social prospecting for most B2B industries today and for good reason: professional networking is the best means of getting introduced to a potential client or customer for most B2B companies.

In addition, the conversion rate of traffic sourced from LinkedIn seems to be higher than other networks.  A recent Hubspot study revealed that LinkedIn traffic converts 277% better than Twitter.

Hubspot conversion rate survey 2012

Hubspot conversion rate survey 2012

But… You Can’t Connect With Everyone

That said, the reality is that most of your socially-active sales prospects are not directly connected to you on any private social network like LinkedIn. Most never will be (is our guess).

This may sound hard to believe, but do the math for your LinkedIn account right now:

  • how many companies and sales prospects (people) likely exist on LinkedIn for your business/market?  
  • how many of them are directly connected to your account right now?

If you are connected directly to more than 10% of your potential buyers on LinkedIn, then you are way ahead of most.

90 pct dont follow you online


The other shortcoming of LinkedIn is its limited use: the vast majority of people do not visit LinkedIn every day.  Many don’t check it weekly.

Why Twitter Is the ‘Queen’ of Social Selling

If LinkedIn is your social selling rolodex, then Twitter is your 24-7 business conference.

Twitter users are more active than LinkedIn users. Active Twitter users check their streams several times a day, and heavy users post every hour. This means that if your prospect uses Twitter, then you have more opportunities to engage with him or her.

Twitter is also much more open, and thus easier to mine for opportunities.  Did you know that over 70% of the world’s publicly-searchable user generated content is posted on Twitter?  The other 30% includes Facebook, LinkedIn, blog posts, discussion forums – you name it.

Taken together, Facebook and LinkedIn contain more user-generated content, but the vast majority of it is not available to you (unless you pay for ads – maybe).  Only a small number of conversations & posts on FB and LI are publicly available for prospecting – and reaching out to people you don’t know is not standard protocol.

This means that Twitter is an ideal place for connecting with people who don’t know you yet – and with people who won’t connect with you anywhere else.  And, as we pointed out earlier, unconnected prospects probably make up 90% of your potential market.

The obvious advantage of using Twitter to generate B2B leads is VOLUME: more opportunities exist to connect with a given prospect each day.

The primary challenge to using Twitter for B2B leads is TIME:  no one can afford to spend all day monitoring busy Twitter streams for opportunities.

The best way to maximize your limited time on Twitter is to quickly identify the tweets and people that matter the most to your business – by filtering-out all of the spam, news and noise that does nothing to drive your business forward.

This is where an intent-marketing tool like NeedTagger can really help.

How We Can Help

NeedTagger helps marketers sift through the noise of Twitter to identify meaningful customer engagement opportunities for their business. We help you find and connect with people who actually need your content, products, services and assistance right now.



I just finished scanning The Social Habit, a detailed survey of how Americans interact with Social Media today by social media researcher Tom Webster and his team at Edison Research.

Unlike some of the “infographic fluff” floating around today, this is professionally-produced research. Edison is the only firm authorized to perform exit polling for US presidential elections. The report is based on telephone interviews with 2,020 Americans over the age of 12.  Edison has been doing this type of behavioral research since 1998.

Here are some of the takeaways that I found most interesting – what are your thoughts?


1.  56% of Americans older than 12 have a profile page on at least one social network.

I find it interesting to compare this with Pew Internet Research, who recently reported that 66% of online adults (18+, not 12+) use social networking sites, 48% of them daily.  Does this mean that ~10% of Americans use social media but maintain no profile page…?   How is this possible?


2.  Americans aged 45-54 are the fastest growing demographic in social media.

The share of 45-54’s using social media (55%) is now about the same as the overall population.  This surprised me.  This has significant implications for companies in financial services, health care, pharma and luxury brands.


3.  33% of social networkers follow at least one brand on a social network – twice as many as last year.

This may appear like a clear validation of the value of building a presence on Facebook.  But think about it this way:  after 3-5 years of heavy promotion and 2 years of paid advertising options, more than 80% of brands and small businesses now maintain pages on at least one social network.  Yet, two-thirds of social networkers still don’t follow a single brand.  Will people EVER follow all of the brands they love?

The implications of this simple observation are profound in the social media marketing world.  What if most people simply never choose to follow their favorite brands in social media?  Or what if they follow to get a deal, then quickly unfollow them?  Paid ads and comments by brands aren’t working that well – what’s a brand to do?   (here’s a hint)


4.  Social Networkers don’t watch TV like we used to.

Compared with the population at-large, social networkers are twice as likely to view TV through alternative channels (streaming or downloads).  In addition, 36% of social networkers time-shift TV every chance they get.  Another 27% time-shift over half of the time. When time-shifting, 83% of social networkers skip every ad in the program.

Yikes!  If I was a TV ad man, this report would give me pause.


5.  Location-based marketing services such as FourSquare and Gowalla are in decline.

This one may be old news to long time users, but it surprised me. I thought I was just one of the slow adopters. My wife and I do use Facebook Places from time to time – mainly on vacations so my family can keep tabs on us. Apparently, I’m not alone – only 26% of Americans are even familiar with Check In services, and now they may be dying as a breed. Guess that’s why FourSquare just redesigned their service.


6.  Only 14% of the US population uses an online coupon service such as Groupon or Living Social; but 23% of social networkers do.

You can clearly see the viral impact of social networks on the couponing craze.


7.  Facebook’s rate of growth has slowed dramatically in the US.

I am not going to join the lemmings and talk about “the decline of Facebook”.  Mainly because (a) I have a friend who works there, and (b) I remain impressed by the amount of value they’ve created for me personally by connecting me with people I thought I’d lost forever – and with others I only met once.  Thank you, Facebook.  I mean it.

Nevertheless, the percent of Americans who maintain a profile page on Facebook now stands at 54%, only 3% higher than last year.


8.  The number of people using Twitter several times per day grew 61% during the past year.

At NeedTagger, we can vouch for this one.  The volume of needs we detect on Twitter continues to climb quickly (last check, about 5-10% per month).  Considering that our filtered streams contain almost zero spam, the increase probably is due to more engagement by real people.


I have a few theories about why this is happening:

  • Twitter’s recent integration into Apple’s mobile operating system iOS
  • The rise of social media aggregation/curation apps like Flipboard are making it a lot easier to read, share and comment on links shared via Twitter.
  • Younger people are moving on to Twitter, carrying their much-higher engagement behaviors with them.  There is new evidence that this is, indeed, happening.

What are the implications of Americans’ changing social habits on your organization’s marketing, sales and customer service strategies?
Data source: