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How to Leverage Social Intent Data for Email Marketing

How to Leverage Social Intent Data for Email Marketing

At this point, many marketing organizations have adopted a digital marketing platform. We nurture our prospects and customers with the goal of increasing conversions and generating revenue, yet many of us are struggling to engage enough of our audience via email.

Recent research found that the average office worker receives 121 emails every day. Your prospects are bombarded with pitches from different vendors. However, the top reason why U.S. internet users unsubscribe from emails isn’t because they don’t like the content of those emails; it’s because they receive too many emails in general.

Here at Socedo, getting our leads to engage with our emails is an ongoing challenge. Since we adopted Marketo in 2015, we’ve been nurturing our leads with weekly emails that provide educational content. We created separate nurtures tracks based on industry and buyer personas, and we have learned a lot of lessons along the way.

Data: The Missing Link in Your Nurture Campaigns

To nurture your prospects effectively, you need a detailed understanding of your buyers, their interests and priorities, and where they are in the buying journey. However, a common challenge is that marketers simply don’t have enough data about their buyers’ interests and timing. When you build an email nurture track based on limited data, you assume that certain groups of prospects share the same interests and buying timeline. In reality, buyers in different roles have different needs, and you shouldn’t lump them together.

In the past six months at Socedo, we’ve shifted our email marketing strategy from persona-driven campaigns to intent-driven campaigns. Instead of sending broad, content-based emails on a weekly basis that may or may not appeal to our segments, we now develop tailored emails grouped by different topics of interest. Rather than sending out an email once a week, we send out behavior-driven emails as soon as our prospects take relevant actions (i.e. read a piece a content on a certain topic).   

This shift to intent-driven email campaigns has helped us dramatically increase our email performance and opportunity creation rates. In this blog post, I’ll explain why an intent-based email marketing strategy is effective and how you can create successful email campaigns from social intent data:

What Is Intent-Based Email Marketing?

An intent-based email marketing campaign is one that targets prospective buyers as soon as they show interest in a particular topic. The email references the prospect’s interest and provides relevant content.

To implement real-time, intent-based email marketing, you need intent data. Intent data, otherwise known as behavioral data, represents any action taken by a prospect that signals what they care about.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of intent data–first party and third party data:

First party intent data includes all the actions people take on your owned digital properties. At this point, most of us are tracking our prospects’ website visits, content downloads, and campaign engagement. This behavioral data is captured in your marketing platform and can be used for a variety of things, such as audience segmentation, website personalization, advertising programs, and to inform your content strategy, campaign strategy, and scoring model.

First party intent data can be extremely useful. But it’s likely that you don’t have this type of data on a portion of the leads or contacts in your database, especially if you’ve acquired contacts from a variety of sources.

Third party (external) intent data represents the collection of activities on channels outside of your owned digital properties. Today, many of your buyers do their own research long before they enter an active sales cycle. They go to industry publications and social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn to learn about and discuss issues in their industry. Some visit Quora to get perspectives on how to tackle certain business challenges or go to to find in-person events where they can gain a broader view of the industry.

At this time, there are a handful of companies in the B2B space (known as third-party intent data providers) that can provide you with data on what your prospects are learning and talking about online.

Together, first party and third party intent data can help you fill in the gaps on your buyers so that you can create better segments and more engaging marketing programs. For example, if you could identify the companies and contacts in your database who are talking about Topic A versus Topic B in the past week, you could put them into the correct topic-based nurture tracks and increase your conversion rates. 

Developing Personas for Intent-Based Marketing

To develop intent-based email campaigns, you need to start by developing buyer personas. Talk to your marketing and sales team to figure out what your target audience cares about. As you do the research, be sure to answer these questions:

  • What issues does your target audience care about?
  • What are the hot topics in your industry?
  • What keywords do they use when they search for solutions in your space?
  • What events does your target audience attend?
  • What industry publications do they trust?
  • Who are the influencers your target audience turns to for educational content?
  • Who are your top competitors?
  • If you’re marketing to other businesses, what solutions are in their technology stack? Do they use products that are complementary to your products?

Once you have answers to these questions, you can use it to build a list of all the activities and keywords that can help you identify the people who are showing interest in your space.

Using Social Intent Data in Your Marketing Campaigns

There’s a wealth of behavioral data that exists within social media platforms. On Twitter, you can identify potential buyers based on their tweets and following relations. On LinkedIn, you can find potential buyers by looking at their job titles, companies, group affiliations (i.e. Marketo User Group in Seattle, WA), the influencers they follow, and the articles they share and comment on. On Quora, you can look at which users are asking questions related to a specific product category. On, you look at the users who attended certain meetups.

At Socedo, we chose to start with Twitter as the basis of our intent data because all of the data generated on Twitter is public (as long as it’s coming from a public profile) and available to third parties who want to build applications on top of this data. We can tap into technology that associates specific Twitter activities to individuals in our database. On the other hand, other social networks such as LinkedIn limit the amount of data third parties can leverage.

To leverage Twitter intent data, we use our own platform to monitor real-time social media activities on any lead in our Marketo database. Of course, you can use any social demand generation platform and marketing platform that integrate and have the same features mentioned below.

By leveraging both platforms, any lead that engages with you on social media is synced to your marketing platform along with valuable data like their company name, job title, and location. You can then create a program in your marketing platform that listens for keywords or hashtags from your prospect’s social media activity. Then, your social demand generation platform will add that action to an activity log, which will be used to trigger emails as well as score leads and enable sales. Some marketing platforms even allow you to create smarts lists from this data to track specific lead activity, such as those who respond to a direct message or click on a link.

In this example, anyone who is a prospect in our database and tweets a post containing a content marketing keyword or hashtag will be added to the campaign:

track social media activity

After a minute from when the member is added to the campaign (or however long we set it as), they will receive an email that references content marketing:

trigger intent-based emails

social intent-driven email example

Social Media Activities to Track

Based on our experience running intent-driven email campaigns, we recommend tracking the following activities on Twitter:

1. Usage of relevant topical keywords

Many of your buyers are talking about hot topics in your space on Twitter. Are you listening to them? For example, we know that our target audience (B2B marketers) cares about different domains within marketing such as SEO, content marketing, marketing automation, lead management, and analytics. Many people go on Twitter to discuss, read, or share articles on these topics. We “listen” for keywords and hashtags around these key topics so we can trigger relevant email campaigns.

2. Engagement with industry influencers

Every industry has movers and shakers who are prolific at creating educational and thought leadership content. Many of these influencers are consistently sharing tips, tricks, and the amazing content they create and/or find.

Determine which influences your target audience looks to for this information and track Twitter activities around them. For example, we know that our target audience likes to read articles from industry publications such as Content Marketing Institute and corporate blogs from brands like Marketo and Moz. We track our leads’ Twitter activities around these organizations’ Twitter handles. As soon as a lead in our database follows @CMIContent (Content Marketing Institute) or mentions the publication in a tweet, we send the person an email letting them know that Socedo was featured in a recent article published on their website.

using Twitter intent data to trigger emails

Our target audience also looks to influencers like Matt Heinz, Jay Baer, Rand Fishkin, Ann Handley, Neil Patel, and others for B2B marketing lessons and inspirations. Anyone in our database who follows these influencers on Twitter is a potential lead for our business.

In our case, one of the influencers in our space–Matt Heinz–is also a user of our product, so we track Twitter activities around @HeinzMarketing, his Twitter handle. Anyone who follows @HeinzMarketing in our database will receive an email that includes a quote from Matt on how to use Twitter and Socedo for lead generation.

intent-based email campaign tracking influencers

3. Interest in industry events

Another great indicator of intent is attendance at industry events. Do your research and determine which events your target audience is likely to attend this year. (This is also a great opportunity to look for events to sponsor to generate more leads.)

Nowadays, almost every industry event has its own hashtag for attendees to use as they talk about the event. Hashtags typically pick up volume about a month or so before the event and last a couple of weeks after. By tracking social media activities around the hashtags of key events in your space, you can identify warm leads for your business.

4. Engagement with key brands/technologies in your space

If your product is complementary to well-known technologies or products in your space, it may make sense for you to reach out to people who are engaging with these companies or products on Twitter.

For example, Socedo has integrations with the leading marketing automation and CRM platforms in the market, so that our customers can sync new leads from our system into their system of record. For us, it makes sense to track our leads’ activities around a digital marketing platform like Marketo because we have a story to tell about how our products work together. It’s also reasonable to assume that when someone is engaging with Marketo on Twitter, they are interested in topics such as lead management and content marketing.

Here’s an example of an email we sent out to leads who tweeted about Marketo:

intent-based campaign tracking brand affinity

While this email is plain text and super short, it works because Marketo is top-of-mind for the recipients. This email has helped us convert cold leads–people who have not engaged our emails or visited our website in the past 90 days–into MQLs.

Here’s a real-life example:

Anna is a Marketing Operations Analyst at a technology company. She became a lead in our system on June 1, 2016. We acquired her contact information from a list purchase and we know that she is a Marketo user.

For six months, Anna received our weekly nurture emails. During that time, she only opened one nurture email and never clicked the links. She did not visit our website once during that time. On December 16, 2016, she tweeted about the 2017 Marketing Nation Summit, so we sent her the email above. Within 24 hours, Anna clicked on the link in the email and visited our website. She instantly became an MQL because her activities pushed her lead score over the threshold to be contacted by sales.

Since Anna had shown interest in us and in Marketo, our sales rep sent her an email that references her engagement with the @Marketo handle and provided information about how our product works with Marketo. Anna responded to this email right away and asked to join a demo call for Socedo for the following week. Here’s the email our rep sent to Anna:

using intent data for outbounding

5. Engagement with competitors

If someone in your database is engaging with one of your top competitors on Twitter, it is likely that this person is entering a buying cycle. Perhaps the person is thinking about adopting a new solution or switching products. By reaching out to these leads and explaining your product advantage, you may be able to win new customers from your competition.

Do you have case studies on customers who have switched from a competitor to your product? Or an article authored by an executive that explains how your company approaches a business problem differently from other players in your space? These types of content can be effective lead nurturing assets when delivered at the right time.

As my team continues to iterate on these real-time campaigns, we’ve learned that certain keywords and topics of intent do a better job of engaging leads than others. We have to stay up-to-date on what our audience is talking about online, keep our content fresh, and continue to try new things.

While it does take work and iterations to set up these campaigns, think about the potential ROI downstream. By adding intent data from social media activities into your marketing platform and setting up these real-time emails, you can identify and reach out to qualified leads you wouldn’t have engaged otherwise. And that means you can make sure they’re giving you a fair shot.

Are you currently using intent data to inform your email campaigns? I’d love to hear your tips, tricks, and best practices!