Can Facebook, Instagram posts predict buying behavior?

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There’s an interesting way marketers are reaching out to customers through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. When users post that they’re pregnant, or recently engaged — or another significant life event — that’s data marketers can use to predict buying behavior.

Viralheat, a social marketing management firm, says that many clients are seeing success by tracking this type of conversation. For instance, a variety of retailers could target ads toward a user (or join the discussion) who posts a picture of a ring on Instagram with the hashtag #Engaged or makes a public post about an engagement.

Viralheat spoke with Inside Facebook about how brands can use more information that users freely post in order to turn fans into influencers.

Viralheat, using its proprietary program, tracked the amount of public posts from mid-March to mid-April on Facebook that had the hashtags #ImEngaged, #JustEngaged, #WereEngaged, #Engaged, #ISaidYes, #SheSaidYes, along with just the phrase “I’m engaged.” They found more than 19,000 posts with these terms — with one post getting as many as 9,200 likes.

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 2.10.21 PMWhile this can be a great way to target ads at Facebook users, Viralheat CEO Jeff Revoy said that on Instagram or Twitter, a brand can join the conversation by simply responding to the post announcing some sort of buying intention. This can be a good way to turn a potential customer into someone who would be willing to become a brand advocate, since the brand took the time to respond.

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 2.11.00 PMViralheat’s social prediction program can also track who has the biggest sphere of influence, and brand managers also look at Klout scores and other measuring sticks to see who would have the biggest impact if they chose to share. As organic reach on Facebook dwindles, a way that a brand can still achieve reach is by getting content out there that people want to share.

Utilizing information like this can be huge for brands looking to Instagram or Facebook to drive sales. T-Mobile used this technology for a B2B campaign where the company launched a VoIP product aimed at small businesses.

Paul Sebastien, Chief Marketing Officer at T-Mobile’s Deutsche Telekom Hosted Business Services, said that he was surprised at the positive response, calling the campaign “very successful.” He talked with Inside Facebook about what he was trying to achieve by reaching people through Instagram and Facebook, picking up on posted cues that could lead to purchasing:

Before launching this pilot campaign, we had done some mass email marketing and things like that were just not effective at all. We decided to turn to social media and wanted to understand the competitive landscape.

Sebastien did a search for terms such as #VoIP or even just “moving offices,” and reached out to some clients directly:

For those customers, almost eery for them. “Hey I just had this need, how did you know?” It felt like we had predicted their needs in advance.

Readers: How often do you look for social cues that could lead to purchases via Facebook and Instagram?

Top image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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