large_3698104807Marketing used to be simple.

You chose one of three or four channels, spent your money, and hoped for the best. The awesome and awful new digital reality, however, is that the number of channels is now infinite, and customers interact with you in multiple separate ways. Good luck tracking your spend, understanding who you’re contacting, and determining your overall return on investment.

That’s a problem that companies like CrowdTwist are starting to address.

“In the last 10 to 15 years the ecosystem has exploded,” CrowdTwist CEO Irving Fain told me last week. “There are new channels popping up every week, and consumers are spending time with brands in new places … engaging with brands like the Miami Dolphins across eight to 10 channels, which makes them look like eight to 10 people.”

So what CrowdTwist does is aggregate those channels, and the people in them, so that brands know that Bob, Bo, and BJ are all one person, creating value for your brand by tweeting about you, sharing you, and pinning you. It starts with a loyalty program, which CrowdTwist provides as white-lable software-as-a-service for organizations like the Dolphins and the X Factor.

small__3964438825People join the program and connect their social media identities, helping the brand see them as one individual. Why? They get points, which lead to discounts and special retail offers. But they also get exclusive access to opportunities that others can only dream of.

“We had fans that helped bring the American flag out into the Dolphins’ stadium before a game and meet them team,” Fain said. “One flew all the way in from California. These are rewards you just can’t buy.”

Knowing who your customers are is important, but knowing what they’re doing is even more important.

Loyalty program on steroids?

“Loyalty programs were created to measure consumer impact,” Fain says. “But the only point they could identify me was when I spent money. So there was a 1:1 correlation between dollars spent and customer value.”

That doesn’t reflect a customers’ true value when you take into account word-of-mouth, social sharing, and the impact that one customers can have on two, five, or a hundred others. So CrowdTwist has created what Fain calls an “Impact Score,” which measures individual consumers’ impact on a brand, beyond their spend.

“In one program, the average spend was$45,” Fain told me. “One woman spent $43, so in a traditional program you would have just ignored her — she was completely average. But it turned out she had impacted over a thousand dollars all on her own.”

Once you find super-sharers like that woman, Fain says, you can start to create “look-alike” models by finding common trends around those consumers, creating profiles of what they look like, how they act, where they are, who they are. And then you can focus your marketing dollars, retention efforts, and campaigns on those who are most likely to “infect” others.

“In one example, a consumer that checks in on Foursquare at Zumiez spends five times more than others,” Fain said.

Second screen

Understanding your customers and where they are also helps you understand where to meet them.

“The second screen becomes another touch point in which consumers and fans are engaging with the brand on a day-to-day basis,” Fain said. “We want to measure that.”

X Factor Norway 2010For X Factor, mobile app usage grew from under 40 percent in week one to over 60 percent by week two. Fans “syncing” their apps to the show increase almost 20 times during the first hour of the live show, as fans unlocked bonus features and content.  “The X Factor did a really strong job of integrating mobile into the show, and then we were able to provide Fox with the data to let them know what worked and what didn’t work,” Fain says.

The Miami Dolphins provided an interesting insight into fan behavior. CrowdTwist saw an “enormous” uptick in site traffic before the games, but during the game, most of the traffic — and the chatter — moved to the social networks: Twitter and Facebook. Traffic dropped, but social mentions were up. Then, after the game, fans returned to the website for analysis, video highlights and interviews, and more.

“Watching sports is a fundamentally social endeavor,” Fain explains. “Prior to the game it’s about personal information, content, consumption … then when the game actually starts to happen it becomes a social endeavor — relating with other people. Then after the game, people return.”

The goal is personalization

All this aggregation of social data, web data, app data, and personal information sounds like classic big data: vast, impersonal, and perhaps even clinical. But the focus and the plan is actually quite different.

“It’s really about aggregating the information across all these systems and bringing it back to individual people … about actually improving personalization,” Fain says.

If you know that a customer who checks in spends more, you can spend some time saying hello and getting to know him or her. (How many store and restaurant managers actually know who is the Foursquare mayor of their location?)

And if you know that Bob and BJ are the same person, you can send him one message, not two, and be much more aware about what he already knows about you, and does for you. Which means you can, essentially, be more real and personal.

At least in theory. Once you’ve got this data, the really hard work is using it well.

photo credit: Haags Uitburo via photopin cc, San Diego Shooter via photopin cc, Ernst Vikne via photopin cc