I’ve become a bit of a Netflix junkie over the past couple years and have seen a lot of awesome shows. Of all the shows I’ve watched, Sherlock truly blew my mind and it quickly became one of my favourites.

Why? Well because Sherlock was able to draw conclusions and make decisions using all the information that’s available to him in a matter of seconds. He didn’t need a laptop or a computer program to tell him the solution, he did it all in his head using only the information in front of him.

In marketing, the decisions we make might not be the difference between life and death like those of Sherlock Holmes, but they definitely matter. Although we might not have all the answers from simply looking at our clients or brands, technology has armed marketers with a chance to make decisions as accurate and well thought out as Sherlock can.

Today’s marketers are plugged-in and connected to their customers through social media. Our social media activity is providing fantastic real-time results in terms of positive customer experiences and the development of customer relationships. But it’s also producing massive amounts of data that can be used to influence marketing decisions.

Here are four strategic and effective ways to use social media to guide marketing decisions:

Get To Know What Your Audience Really Wants
Social media is an effective tool to gain insights into what your audience really wants and how they really feel about your product or service. Even more effective than traditional focus groups, social media can give marketers the qualitative data they need to make strategic decisions.

With focus groups, you often run into bias, censored participants, significant costs, as well as limited and limiting questions.

Social media on the other hand, eliminates the disadvantages of focus groups and offers real-time insights and truths around your customers’ thoughts and feedback on your products.

Furthermore, social media helps marketers understand their customers’ interests to help build a marketing approach that best appeals to this audience. It also makes marketers privy to customer sentiment throughout the entire buying process. This data is simply not found any other way and can have a huge impact on marketing decisions.

For example, if you’re in the automotive industry and you’re marketing a certain brand of car, social media can expose you to customer insights such as their reaction to certain advertisements, experiences with competing brands, and how your customers are conducting product research. This intelligence gives the marketing team insight around the best approach to take and if you dig hard enough, it might even uncover what part of the existing approach, as specific as the ad itself, didn’t resonate with customers.

Keep in mind that before you dive into these analytics, you must first have a solid understanding of who it is you’re marketing to. Understanding your customer profile is most important and should be the first insight you get from your social media efforts. If you don’t know who it is you’re speaking to, you’ll try to speak to everyone and end up speaking to no one.

Be Smarter With Targeting When Using Social Media Ad Buys
One of the biggest benefits of social media is found in our ability to target people based on intelligence surrounding their demographics and psychographics. The right information can provide you with the insight and intelligence you need to communicate the right message to the right audience.

For marketers, channels like Twitter and Facebook are making great strides in developing advertising platforms that allow for very targeted media buying. Earlier this year, Facebook rolled out an easier and more effective way to reach the right people on Facebook with a feature called Core Audience. This feature now offers advertisers a chance to target users based on interests, behaviors, demographics and location.

LeadSift offers brands an opportunity to gather insights that can help gauge what type of targeting they should use. For example, our platform will tell you if your audience is employed, owns a vehicle, has a pet or even owns a home. Here’s a snapshot from our LeadSift dashboard:

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The best marketers will recognize that these insights can guide decisions. It’s insights like these that can make the difference in delivering a message to the right person and the wrong person.

Be Better In Knowing What Content Your Audience Consumes
Social media also gives insight into what media your audience is consuming. For example, you should know what blogs your customers are reading, what type of content they are sharing within their network, what media outlets they get their news from, and what trends they follow.

For marketers, this insight can help guide where we buy ads and what media outlets we should target for press releases and interviews. Knowing where your customers are and placing your content directly in front of them is key to marketing magic.

Craft A Story That Resonates With Them Personally
Social media gives a clear picture as it relates to the psychographics and demographics of your customers.

Beyond simply locating your audience and understanding what they do and where they live, social media gives you a comprehensive look deep inside your customers’ lifestyles to help create a more meaningful customer profile. For example, marketers are able to easily understand customers’ activities, hobbies, interests, opinions, politics, and self-concept.

By leveraging social media, brands can better understand their customers’ tone and the type of content they’re likely to share. This ultimately advises marketers on what content they should build to effectively resonate with their audience. For example, if a brand sees their audience is sharing lots of DIY projects within their network, it makes sense for them to create DIY content.

The takeaway here is that social data is changing marketing for the better. Marketers no longer need to function with limited research, broad assumptions and within the boundaries of traditional tactics. By leveraging insights gained through social data, marketers have the ability to make our efforts relevant again.