Three steps to putting data to work for you

Step one—create content your customers want

A key step in making data work for you is to create content that will encourage your customers to, as Rajat says, ‘raise their hand and tell you things about themselves.’ Don’t make the mistake many business owners make, which is delivering content that is only about their company and products or services. The most effective way to get your customers to interact with you is to create content that is for them, rather than all about you.

Publish your content on as many places as you can—your website and any of the social media channels your customers engage with—your Facebook page, your YouTube channel, your Twitter stream, Google+ profiles, and so on. If you create content on these services that helps your customers solve problems or improve their lives—they will share and comment, revealing themselves to you.

Step two—collect data

Large companies use complex and sometimes expensive analysis programs like Hadoop and Cloudera to collect data. But for your small business, there are a variety of easy-to-use programs that will give you lots of useful data. Here are some powerful ones (and they’re all free.)

  • Google Analytics—analyzes website traffic and social media data from Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Analytics tells you how people got to your website (from a Google search or a specific website) and how they spend time on your site.
  • Facebook Insights—shows you what content is being viewed the most and also what content is the most viral—what is being shared.
  • Tweriod and Followerwonk—provide you with gender, location and activity data on the people who follow you on Twitter.
  • YouTube Analytics—provides demographic data about the people viewing your videos and will also break out those who “Liked” or “DisLiked” your content.

Step three—turn data into action

Once you’ve started collecting your data your next challenge is to use it to personalize your customers’ experiences. Below, I’ve put together some quick examples based on some success stories of how business owners have used the above data tools to grow their businesses.

Google Analytics

My landscape designer found that a significant number of people who visited her website arrived via Facebook pages created by flower clubs. So she started featuring flowers more on her site and also spent more time contributing to those clubs’ Facebook pages. She ended up growing a solid client base through this and similarly targeted efforts.

Facebook Insights

A fellow business coach discovered that people who came to his page liked and shared his weekly sales advice posts the most. So he stopped publishing his low-performing content and started publishing daily sales coach tips. The number of comments for each of these posts grew steadily over the weeks, as did the number of people wanting his coaching help.

Tweriod and Followerwonk

A friend who runs a side-business used to do a lot of late-night Tweeting till she discovered through Tweriod that her typical clients paid most attention to Tweets that arrived first thing in the morning, probably before work demands took over. After switching to morning Tweeting, she saw a large uptick in responses.

By using Followerwonk the owner of a design agency was able to see that his key clients had networks interested in mobile app design. When he started Tweeting to key influencers in those networks, his clients started seeing Tweets and Retweets about him from the people they followed. He also started tailoring mobile app Tweets for the networks of two of his biggest clients. He soon became a regular in their network, someone they came to for advice, rather than just a business owner who bombarded them with marketing content.

YouTube Analytics

Using YouTube Analytics, the owner of a dog-walking business found that the biggest response to his videos in his east-end neighborhood came from families who enjoy pieces about small-breed dogs. Using this knowledge he started to create a video series that focused on the challenges and rewards of small-dog ownership for families with young children. The positive reaction he got to this eventually led to opportunities to help clients with training as well as dog walking.

The last word

By paying attention to the data available through all your online services, you can tailor your content to the clients you wish to attract, building stronger and deeper relationships with your audience.