RapLeaf, one of the largest social data providers, has been banned from mining social data on Facebook. This denial of access by Facebook has opened the flood gates for other social networks to put a stop to the practice of selling social data. How did direct marketers lose one of the most valuable information strategies in their arsenal? A lawsuit leveled by a Virginia woman against Facebook, RapLeaf, and Zynga, along with a spate of other reported lawsuits in waiting, have created a sea change in the way social data can be used, bought, and sold by marketers.

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Social Data: Enriching Marketing Databases

Before Facebook's decision to pull the plug, companies were able to purchase social media url addresses for their customer list(s) with only an email address as input information. For pennies on the dollar, marketing departments could receive automated lists that included:

  • Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn customer urls
  • Demographic information
  • Full name

Utilizing Social Data: Marketer's Advantage

There is huge value in being able to identify and append social network urls and demographic information to a marketing database. The key benefits:

  • Preferences: understand your customer's communication preferences
  • Channels: identify new direct marketing channels your customers participate within
  • Segmentation: companies can create segmented campaigns within social channels like Twitter and Facebook
  • List Fatigue: social media campaigns will reduce the "fatigue" placed on the overused email channel
  • Reactivation: reactivate old customers using social network channels
  • Customer Lifetime Value: measure the value of each customer of the life of his/her relationship with a company
  • Channel Lifetime Value: measure the dollar value of Twitter, Facebook and other social networks vs. the traditional direct marketing channels of postal, telephone, and email

Last Chance Opportunity

Until December 31, 2010 one social data provider is still selling information for companies to append to their databases. Beginning in 2011, companies will not have sources in which they can receive automated lists of social data. The cost to manually harvest data will be very high if available at all. In essence the ability for companies to truly align with their customer's communication preferences and create one on one engagement will be significantly hindered.