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September 15, 2017

Using Social Media to Predict and Influence Behavior

The number of people using social media around the world officially passed the three billion mark just last month. With one million new social media users every day, it makes good business sense to leverage platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram to gain insight into your target market, as well as influence public opinion.

Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican strategist and researcher, does just that. Soltis Anderson earned the name “leading millennial pollster” for her ability to understand that as technology moves forward, so must the way people gather information about public opinion. When she first started in the polling industry, voting behaviors were captured via landlines and paper surveys—a process that was incredibly tedious and time consuming. Now, she is able to capture massive amounts of information and analyze data with the snap of her fingers.

During President Obama’s State of the Union Address in 2015, Soltis Anderson and her team closely monitored Twitter and discovered that whenever he mentioned anything about trade, people in the West became incredibly excited. Soltis Anderson refers to this discovery as a “canary in a coal mine.” Learning that trade was a topic that ignited interest in Western states, those who wanted to influence public opinion in the West would know what topic to start with. Similarly, those who wanted to sway legislators on trade issues would know who to turn to first.

Understanding how someone feels about certain topics goes beyond what they write and post on social media. It can be learned through a simple click. Did you know that you can look at someone’s “likes” or “favorites” and learn everything from their political affiliation to their ethnicity and sexual orientation? Take Facebook for example. If you click “like” your friend’s post that links to a Wall Street Journal op-ed on the severe ag labor shortage and the need for immigration reform, Facebook will take that data and start putting more stories and ads about similar topics in front of you. Based on how often you engage with those posts, it will be easy to determine your beliefs.

Big data—the analysis of large sets of data to reveal patterns, trends and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions—does not just apply to social media; it applies to all aspects of the internet. Have you ever answered a set of questions before you were granted access to read an article online? That information is being captured and political pollsters such as Soltis Anderson and advertisers can utilize that information to better understand (and shape) your behavior.

While having the data to predict behaviors is beneficial, organizations need to take it a step further and effectively use smart campaigns to influence the biggest player in the game: millennials. Millennials have become the largest generation in the U.S. workforce and are also the fastest-growing generation of customers in the marketplace. They will have the biggest impact on your business, and Soltis Anderson stresses that if you are to thrive, you need to start communicating to her generation in their language.

During the upcoming WG Annual Meeting, Soltis Anderson plans to speak about the millennial generation and the secret behind getting them to buy into certain beliefs in both the political and corporate world.

She will expand upon her key recommendations on how politicos and corporations can build support among a new generation:

1.  Be on social media platforms: You need to get your message on a place where millennial eyes can consume it.

2.  Revise your old message to fit the new medium: You can be on new mediums, but if you have a message that only resonates with Baby Boomers or Generation X, it is not going to be effective.

3.  Be trendy: One of the biggest trends is the rise of mobile video and visual story apps such as Snapchat and Instagram Stories. Companies have to learn how to adapt to trends quickly and be storytellers via social media.

Want to learn more about big data, social media and reaching millennials? Join Soltis Anderson at the Western Growers 92nd Annual Meeting in Las Vegas October 29 – November 1 as she shares what she has learned about understanding millennials as it relates to politics, business, academics and this rapidly changing world.