Salt Experiential Commerce Social Media

Five Tips for Using Social Media to Build a First-party Database

Social media is fertile ground for collecting quality first-party data—owned insights to help brands navigate around cookies, reimagine integrated campaigns, personalize engagements, compete with e-commerce brands, and build actionable steps into the consumer journey along the path to purchase.

“Not enough brands have put significant thought into the role social media plays within their entire marketing and sales ecosystem as it relates to audience insights,” says Jil Lohnes, VP at Salt XC. “If you think of social media as part of the brand ecosystem that houses your brand audience, there is a large opportunity to transfer these consumer profiles from third-party data to owned first-party data.”

The smartest brands are using social media to build a first-party database, which leads to more personalized marketing down the road toward the end goal: an eventual purchase. Here, we explore five ways to do it. And it starts with earning consumers’ attention.


1. Run a Simple Entry Contest.

Create a call to action, such as a low-commitment, entertaining contest, that invites consumers to share a little bit of their data for the chance to win a prize, or vote for something that will make them feel as though they’re a “contributor” to the brand.

For example, Kraft Kitchen Canada invited followers to vote on a cast iron grill pan “stamp” to personalize grilled cheese sandwiches. Through the contest, the brand collected emails for “intenders” of Kraft Singles cheese in a move that would help the marketers engage Singles consumers more deeply to figure out what other Kraft products they might enjoy and purchase.

Kraft Kitchen also experimented with an offer for followers, and a spoonful of irony: the chance to be one of 1,000 consumers to receive a sample of “pumpkin spice macaroni and cheese”—served in a coffee cup complete with a misspelled name label, of course. In this way, the PSL phenomenon successfully invaded the pantry and generated social media buzz, in addition to data.


2. Partner with an Influencer as an Affiliate.

On social media, your brand isn’t only competing with other brands. It’s competing with talented, digital creators who are today’s biggest influencers. These robust personalities often have tight-knit, niche communities that enable brands to market within different passion points—effectively allowing brands to “jump into” a variety of conversations authentically.

One of the easiest ways to collect first-party data through these partnerships is affiliate marketing, where brands “borrow” audiences while influencers earn a commission by promoting a product with a discount through a trackable link. This allows brands to analyze clicks, sales, and compile juicy stats on consumer preferences in the process.


3. Leverage Click-to-Purchase Features.

And speaking of shopping. You never know when consumers will be inspired to make a transaction—and most likely, it’ll happen while they’re scrolling on social media late at night. With social media platforms now offering in-platform ecommerce services (like Instagram’s Shoppable Posts, Feeds, and Reels), brands that embrace these tools not only make sales around the clock, but collect valuable first-party data in the process based on shopping habits and purchases.


4. Create Broadcast-worthy Owned Events.

U.K.-based Gymshark, which grew out of YouTube and TikTok influencer partnerships and the e-commerce platform Shopify, has leaned heavily on social media to drive the business and support marketing extensions, like events, that add to the brand’s bounty of first-party data.

Gymshark’s influencer-fueled “#Gymshark66 challenge” on TikTok “required followers to take on a personal goal, upload an initial photo of themselves, and then 66 days later upload a new photo for a chance to win a year’s worth of Gymshark products,” according to The Startup. From diet preferences to workout routines, consumers shelled out data in exchange for being a part of a community of “goal-oriented” fitness enthusiasts.

In addition to showing up at trade shows and opening pop-ups, Gymshark launched its own World Tour, documenting it all on YouTube to capture social media audiences and data from registrations.


5. Dig Deep on Metadata.

Defined widely as “data about data,” metadata is the pinnacle of first-party data. By compiling psychographics on target consumers, brands can better understand how audiences will want to engage in the future, allowing marketers to implement personalization at scale and serve up promos that have a higher chance of resulting in a purchase.

An easy way to enrich your database with metadata is to lean on social media quizzes that allow consumers to weigh in on products while giving you data on personal preferences and aspirations. Quizzes can offer product education and can help brands identify pain points among audiences, too.

A host of e-commerce brands lean on this approach, like Zenni Optical, whose “You’ve Been Framed” quiz asks personal style and general lifestyle questions and makes the quiz “instantly shareable” to friends—after inputting an email. The quiz resulted in “29,410 lead conversions and a 9,655% ROI in six months,” after launch, e-consultancy reported.

No matter the approach on social media, the key is to deliver something of value in exchange for that piece of data. Most of these tactics create space for consumers to simply focus on themselves for a few minutes—and in this fast-paced, content-flooded world, that’s valuable in and of itself.


To learn more about Salt XC, click here.

Learn more about Experiential Commerce here.

Image credit: iStock/Lesia_G

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