Tre creation of Adam on the wall with the sunlight

The Art (not Science) of Audience Data


Organizations worldwide are pouring resources into audience data: its collection, storage, protection, analysis, and business applications. Data science prowess is now seen as a vital competitive advantage. And rightly so. However, data science alone won’t help you realize the full potential of your audience data. You’re going to need the right side of your brain too.

The Good. The Bad. (and the Ugly)

The potential for the smart use of audience data is so vast. We have the opportunity to reap tremendous business opportunities while delivering unmatched value for our audiences. That’s the good news. Unfortunately, the bad news is that the data collection relationship between us and our audiences tends to be very adversarial. And it’s about to get a lot uglier. With the impending shift from 3rd party cookies, organizations are already trying to build a first-party data advantage. The collection of audience data is consequently going to get a lot more mercenary.

So how do you win in this environment? You apply a little art to science.

The 5-Step Path to Conscious (and Conscientious) Data Collection

1. Collect Only What You Want to Know

So many organizations have followed the lead of the big tech platforms (Google, Facebook, Amazon, when formulating their data collection strategy. But you’re not one of them; so don’t vacuum up EVERYTHING. Don’t fall into that trap. Your audience database is an essential utility for your business, as well as a key differentiator vis-à-vis your competition. Don’t fill it with garbage you’re not going to use. Be very thoughtful and strategic about what data you need, why you need it, and how its collection will impact your audience and your business. Always start with: “How are we going to use this information?” If you don’t have a good answer; don’t collect it.

2. Edit…Brutally

Once you’ve finalized how you to plan to use the data and developed a plan to collect it, go over it again—and be brutal. Examine each data input. First, do you really need it? Second, do you already have it? It’s important that you understand the data you already have (and from where you got it). Many organizations don’t notice that they often ask the same things over and over again. Pro Tip: Your audience notices.

3. Make It An Experience

If you’re still only using forms to collect audience data, just shut down your AOL modem now and pack it in. Seriously—when it comes to digital content, audience expectations are very high. Savvy organizations create rich, interactive experiences that engage their audiences and compel them to progress through an activity, providing data collection opportunities along the way. It makes data collection a rewarding, participatory experience instead of an intrusion. Need inspiration? See how CredSpark clients create rich, data-generating audience experiences in our Client Example Gallery.  Which brings us to the next step…

4. Provide Tangible Value in Return

Data privacy is no longer just industry jargon. Audiences are now keenly aware of it and are much more sophisticated about how their data is being collected and used. When collecting data, it’s crucial that organizations signal to audiences “the how,” “the why,” and “the what do I get in return?” Create experiences that directly showcase the value to your audience of each piece of data you’re collecting. Instead of a one-way Dyson sucking up customer info, you’re creating a two-way conversation with each audience member with both of you getting value in return. It’s not just smart data strategy; it’s audience engagement on steroids.

5. Actually Use it and Remind Your Audience Why You Collected It In the First Place

Most organizations would be surprised at how much data they already have but don’t use. If you’re asking for info just for the sheer exercise of asking for it, it’s not only bad business; it’s downright rude. It’s so important to positively reinforce the benefits of your audience handing over their data. If you used it to build better products, remind them. If you used it to personalize their experience, remind them. Show them the quid pro quo.

Human (and Humane) Intervention is Needed

First-Party audience data is going to be the currency of the next-generation digital economy. That’s why it’s so crucial that you don’t put its collection on autopilot. Bot traffic aside, the audience you want is very much human. Your data strategy and activities have to be human-centric and humane. Competition for audience attention and information is going to be tough. However the winners won’t be the ones with the most data, they’ll be the ones with the smartest data, gathered through the deepest audience relationships.

Michelangelo may have started his famous sculpture, David, with a sledgehammer; but he finished it with delicate chisel work. Your data strategy needs to be equally finessed. 

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