Watching Out in the Wild: Affinity Based Insights from 4C



“You think you know, but you have no idea.”


Access exclusive SMW+ content by marketers whose careers you can emulate with a free 30-day trial!

Aaron Goldman, 4C Insight‘s Chief Marketing Officer invoked the one-time tagline of MTV’s True Life for his session: “you think you know, but you have no idea.” And the theme played out at several points during his talk- including during some real-time quizzing to demonstrate the insight that affinity matching can bring to the table.

During that quizzing, we learned people who engaged with Netflix on social media engaged most often with not Stranger Things or Jessica Jones, but The CW’s breakout hit Black Lightning. We learned that people interested in Coachella were more excited to see Miley Cyrus than Future. And in one of the strangest turns of data, we learned that people who engage with the president on social media engaged most often (after Fox and Friends) not with Hannity or Morning Joe, but Anderson Cooper 360. In some cases the affinity felt logical or like a short leap. But at others, it was…well, wild.

You Think You Know…

Market insights are traditionally framed by creating avatars from assumptions. Goldman reminded us of the prevalence of surveys and focus groups in years past, dedicated to taking people at their word when they revealed their likes, dislikes, and buying patterns. Accordingly, marketers predicted their affinity based on the information they gathered.

But there was a problem with this: the window into the mind we thought it provided, gave us a flawed view. New trends in social media marketing are giving us the opportunity to not just take people at their word, but determine their affinity by what they do and who they talk to. “What people do versus what they say, is paramount,” Goldman confirmed. “Any person, when we look a little deeper and start to look at how they behave, we could build a richer profile about.”  That “deeper” means looking not just at what people’s listed preferences and likes are on their profiles, but exploring what individual posts they like, comment on, share, and otherwise interact with.

Yes, we learned this with the 2016 election (which, Goldman quickly qualified, was “not a comment on who won; it’s a comment on how polling failed”), but we have also learned it in a number of ways elsewhere. Take the generational divide that is driven by assumptions about Boomers, Gen X’ers, and millennials. Those data points are meticulously researched, widely shared and acted upon- and, for many people, untrue assumptions. “Conventional wisdom is almost always wrong,” Goldman reminded us. “We need to throw that out the window. There’s almost always a better way to understand what people are interested in.”

…But Now We Have an Idea.

Affinity matching removes the idea of trusting what people say they’ll do, and instead developing user profiles based on what they actually do. Goldman’s example? Santa Claus. And cigarettes. Mindful watching of social media user habits revealed that people who engage with Santa Claus on social media – and why wouldn’t he have a profile? – are 355% more likely to engage with Nicorette in the same space. The smoking cessation brand capitalized on that knowledge, deploying a successful “Get Off the Naughty List” campaign that raised brand awareness in a seemingly unfathomable segment.

And indeed, the numbers confirm that this matching of otherwise disparate interests and habits works. Sharing some key stats from 4C’s platform Scope, 85% of their clients see at least a 10% increase in brand awareness by using affinity matching. 80% of clients see a greater than 10% increase in sales revenue, 77% see an increase in lead volume that exceeds 10%. What’s more, it can help cut costs. Goldman reported that affinity matching is often cheaper than the more “intuitive” connections- and appears to be paying off for clients who use it.

“Getting it wrong [when it comes to data] can have disastrous results, but getting it right can have amazing results,” Goldman reassured the audience, as they buzzed from the high-energy trivia interlude. He cited examples of a cable company that cut costs per subscriber by 50% using this affinity matching strategy, a weight loss company whose conversion rate increased tenfold, and the cutest example of all: a guidedog charity in the UK that increased revenue by 223% with an unconventional look at what other things dog lovers did online.

If the process Goldman advocates for feels random, he doesn’t mean for it to. “Understanding what your customers care about, and knowing what values they hold most dear, can help inform your plan of attack.” And indeed, watching not the word of your target audience but their “true life” as reflected through their movements and engagements “in the wild”, can change the way you earn and maintain their respect and attention.

4C is a global data science and marketing technology platform for planning, buying, and measuring TV and social media.


Learn the latest trends, insights and best practices from the brightest minds in media and technology. Sign up for SMW Insider to watch full-length sessions from official Social Media Week conferences live and on-demand.

Newsletter Subscription

Get the latest insights, trends and best practices from today's leading industry voices.

Learn More

Write for Us

Interested in sharing your ideas and insights with the world? Become a SMW News contributor and reach 300k readers each month.

Apply Here