Social Media in 2017: Data Insights + Being Human = Wins Your Customers in Their Moments

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the first ever Sysomos Summit in Raleigh, NC. The summit was full of beneficial sessions, and I was thrilled to have the chance to learn from industry leaders at Coca-Cola, Facebook, Google, etc. on the current state, and the future of social media marketing.

Sysomos Social Media 2017

Peter Heffring, CEO of Sysomos, kicked off the summit by addressing the challenge all marketers are facing in nowadays. With 2 million news articles published and 5 billion posts shared on Facebook per day, not only are customers are overwhelmed, but also marketers. Peter used an excellent analogy to describe the situation – a lot of us are stuck in the hunter/gatherer mode, in which we, as marketers, are collecting a huge amount of data, but are not turning them into insight that will help us take further action.

A recent study from Microsoft shows that human attention span is now 8 seconds, shorter than goldfish! So how can marketers get themselves out of the hunter/gatherer mode and take action to win customers’ attention?

By reviewing the huge pile of notes I took during the summit, my conclusion is that:

Data Insights + Being Human = Wins Your Customers in Their Moments

Data to Actionable Insights

We’ve all been asked by clients and stakeholders to prove ROI and business value from our recommended strategies and tactics, so we naturally turn to data to tell a compelling story.

Well, it turns out that less than 0.5% of all data we generate or uncover is ever analyzed and used, among which social media data has to be the goldmine marketers need to exploit more. In a world where people post every little thing about their lives on social media, there lie insights that will help brands to develop new products, collect feedback, and most importantly, understand their customers.

We all agreed with Kunal Merchant from Facebook when he said social data is our clearest signal into understanding human behavior at scale. Quite a few of the speakers at the summit shared with us how social media works better than traditional research methods when trying to understand audiences.

Bob Pearson from W2O and Jason Falls from Conversation Research Institute shared vivid examples demonstrating how behavioral and conversational data from social media channels can generate unique insights.

From their experience, traditional audience research sometimes provides structured, directed feedback that’s subject to bias, not to mention how time-consuming and costly the process can be. With social media data, we have access to a larger audience group and can observe their subconscious behaviors and get unsolicited feedback in real-time.

Being Human

“Be human” was one of the top buzz phrases during the summit. It resonated with me so much because at Delightful we also believe brilliant brands are built through people, not just pixels.

Human minds are complicated. A study showed by Peter suggests that to simulate a human mind, we need a city block of computers powered by a nuclear plant. Using data and technology can sometimes solve problems more efficiently. But they were not that powerful when it comes to understanding feeling, emotion, and culture.

During the keynote “We Are All Human After All,” Kunal Merchant, described great marketers as ethnographers – people who study and systematically record human culture.

To gain true insight that will help brands to tell amazing stories that resonate with their audience, marketers need to find the sweet spot in amongst people, culture, and the brand.


Melissa Parish from Forrester also reminded us that social media’s core value is in people. She thinks many brands and marketers have oversimplified the concept of social media by thinking of it as just a technology platform or a marketing channel. Instead, social media is a collection of technologies that brands use to interact with humans as humans. It is a powerful tool that allows us to listen to what the people are saying about the brand, have conversations with them, and get the data to understand further who they are and what they like.

Another huge takeaway I learned about how to “Be Human” on social media is the “1,9,90 model” introduced by Bob Pearson, President at W2O.

The rule shows us how audiences are different across the internet and how we should take different strategies to communicate with them.

Social Media 2017 Table

Moreover, brands are using social media not only to connect with their customers but also to communicate with their employees and empower them to tell brand stories as advocates. The speakers from big companies like UPS, Google, and GE, all shared stories on how they are using social media to empower their employees for communication, recruitment, and advocating products.

Create Moment in Real Time

Simon Cowart’s keynote speech was all about “moments.” As the Global Social Media Strategist for Coca-Cola, he believes “moments” are the key for brands to connect and engage with their customers, and it’s the job of every marketer to create moments for their customers around emotions and feelings.

Creating moments is unprecedentedly important for marketers because that’s the direction in which social media platforms and audiences are heading. Social platforms now enable creating and distributing real-time content, the spontaneity and the authenticity of which attracts billions of people to consume content on social media:

  • Snapchat sees 10 billion videos uploaded a day
  • Instagram stories reached 100 million daily active users in 2 months
  • and Facebook users watch content three times longer if they are live versus content that is not


Social media cannot only help marketers create and distribute content to create moments, but more importantly, provide data to help notice and understand the existing moments to which marketers can add value. To capture and take advantage of these moments, Coca-cola built a global social hub network that connects 200 markets and 43 social centers.

Simon shared with us a series of insightful success stories, among which I found the Dinnertime Moments campaign in Romania most impressive. By listening to social media, the hub noticed a key moment for a group of their key audience during dinner time – what to cook. To provide value to this audience, the social team leveraged Facebook live and invited professional cooks to inspire the viewers on what and how to cook in real-time. As a result, the campaign reached more than 816,000 live viewers and reached 4.8 million consumers.

What’s Next?

So, what’s next? I believe this is one of the toughest questions for marketers who are working in digital and social media to answer, as the landscape changes so rapidly.

Margaret Czeisler shed some light on what digital will look like in the near future by sharing her insights on Gen Z – the demographic cohort after the Millennials. I was so impressed by how Gen Z is already shaking up the digital world by creating and revolutionizing culture. For example, 27% of Gen Z’ers create and share original video weekly, and that is more than average Americans do in their entire life.

It is hard to imagine how much the marketing world will change in the next 20 years when Gen Z’ers become the millennials of today. But the unknown and serendipity are exactly what I love about digital and social media marketing.

Thanks for reading!

Bianca Hu– Digital Marketing Strategist at Delightful Communications

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