The Don Draper-style of agency executive and marketer is an enduring one. Big personalities, well connected, they come up with the big creative ideas that impress big (often hard-to-please) clients and result in all-singing, all-dancing campaigns, often devised on the back of long, liquid lunches.

These executives also bring to mind the saying,

‘Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half’

This is widely thought to have come from John Wannamaker, who opened the first department store in Philadelphia in the late 1800s and is considered a forefather of modern advertising, and highlights the lack of focus that came with much of pre-social marketing. This lack of clarity about what works and what doesn’t, and the idea that one creative would instinctively ‘know’ what was a winning campaign, has been a millstone around the neck of many a PR, advertising and marketing agency over the years. Fortunately, it’s time for social data to step into the limelight. Yes, data is becoming sexy and transforming global marketing efforts by being smart, insightful and utterly focused on the audience.

The changing use of social networks in marketing

Social networks have become an essential part of everyday life for billions around the world. Consequently the billions of data points they generate daily have become key ingredients in every agency’s portfolio.

However, in the early years of social networking, much of the value was seen as the ability to listen to what consumers were saying about a brand or topic. After that came the use of social data further upstream to enable agencies and brands to build real-time audience insights for audiences, and for industry and topical research to help build better creative and campaigns.

Now, in the big data era, social data is set to become the new creative brief, and Facebook topic data with its anonymous and aggregated audience insights is set to change the game further. Marketers can gain unparalleled insight into what’s working and what’s not with their audiences, and can tailor their campaigns with incredible accuracy to a specific audience segment.

Foodie Millennials – Facebook topic data in action

Facebook topic data can provide truly tangible insight into an audience. For example, reaching millennials – also referred to as Generation Y or the Net Generation – has been akin to the Holy Grail for many marketers. Millennials grew up in an online and socially-networked world, and are well-versed in swiping left (or right!), emojis, selfies and much more that can bemuse other generations.

But how different are say, millennial eating habits? Facebook topic data can be used to measure and understand any differences, with the insight gleaned used to inform any creative campaigns looking to reach a millennial audience.

All a marketer would need to do, is identify any Facebook posts and engagements (likes, shares, comments) that focused on general interest in food, and also specific trends within that – vegetarian, gluten-free , etc. Food is such a hot topic, with such high levels of engagement on Facebook, that anyone looking into this would collect millions of anonymised interactions in just a few days.

Drilling down – the specifics of Facebook topic data

This data could then be classified by any manner of criteria: eating out or staying in; referring to a pre-defined food trend; people sharing breakfast, lunch or dinner; and much, much more. Facebook topic data comes pre-populated with self-declared demographic information and topics, which allow a marketer to see which food brands and even which foodstuffs people were engaging with.

All the required information on millennial eating habits would now be available, enabling insight that can be used to help build better creative for that audience. So if you wanted to target UK men between the ages of 25 and 34 that were on a non-sugar eating programme, that is now possible.

The insight from Facebook topic data can be used to pinpoint and understand an audience with incredible accuracy. No longer do marketers need to rely on ‘Don Draper’ swaggering into the meeting room after a martini-based lunch and outline a campaign based on hunch and instinct – thanks to the precision of Facebook topic data, knowing an audience and preparing specific creative to target that audience, is the new reality in marketing.

Zuzanna is responsible for driving all the aspects of DataSift’s marketing strategy. A marketing leader with 15+ years of experience, Zuzanna most recently led brand and marketing for Huddle, the leader in cloud collaboration for the enterprise and government. Former published sociologist, Zuzanna co-founded Custard, a consultancy specializing in digital media and mobile. Its client list boasted innovative startups such as AdMob (now Google) as well as top global brands, including Disney, Nokia and Garmin. Her previous experience spans working with 50+ companies across software, hardware, mobile, telecommunications & networking and engineering.