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What Is Social Identity Data?

For starters, it’s a term that our team uses a lot.

It’s what we’ve identified as the wave of the future, not by our own creativity, but by the witness of our fellow data geeks and social analysts.

“Social identity,” originally coined by British psychologists Henri Tajfel and John Turner in 1979 to mean a person’s sense of self depending on the groups to which they belong, has taken on new meanings in today’s day and age.

social media identity unscripted

Our sense of self now goes well beyond the physical world and into the virtual world, where we spend a considerable amount of time building up our relationships and individuality. Our very president illustrates social media’s immersion in our day-to-day communications and opinions-sharing.

With the growth of activity, there’s also a richer stack-up of data around each social media user. This goes beyond the digital footprints that are traceable via cookies or other means, and includes the information that a user willingly shares about him or herself.

Our social profiles serve as a reflection of ourselves—a phenomenon that has been closely watched since the early days of Facebook. In 2006, Time magazine even declared that The Person of The Year was you, replacing the customary photos that have graced their awards issues since 1927 with a mirror.

Time person of the year 2006

“For seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, Time’s Person of the Year for 2006 is you,” the magazine’s Lev Grossman wrote.

Fast forward 11 years, and the core of social media is even more visibly you.


Social Identity, a User’s Personal Brand

Intentional or not, we’ve all become more public than before. In fact, 78% of U.S. Americans now have social profiles, according to a Statista survey taken last year.

Many of us don’t think twice before posting a picture of our friends, families, or pets on Instagram. We share blogs and articles that strike a chord with us. We happily (or angrily) tweet about our latest encounters with our favorite brands.

Countless memories and fragments of our history with social media make up our social identity—making some of our digital identities as intricate as our real-world personalities.

At the same time, we control what others see about ourselves. We manufacture our online reputations by tweaking our LinkedIn bios, sharing our most impressive vacation videos, and throwing filters on our selfies to mimic flawless skin.

We share bits and pieces of our real selves next to a breadcrumb trail pointing to what we want other people to notice.

In a sense, this is music to every marketer’s ears. With social media readily revealing a person’s values and priorities, we address an age-old problem of not knowing what our customers want and having to rely on surveys or focus groups to tap into the minds of our target consumers.

The biggest inconvenience is filtering through all the noise to collect the right data (which is where our platform comes in 🙂 ).

While imperfect, social media remains the most accurate measure of what a person cares about right now. Unlike any other medium, it can keep up with an individual’s evolving values the longer and more frequently he or she remains connected.


Social Identity: Today’s Definition

Social identity can be boiled down to this: “An individual’s personal brand, as reflected in his or her social media relationships, profile data, and ongoing activity.”

social identity data definition (1)


It accounts for all the information about a person that is both explicitly and implicitly shared online.

Moreover, social identity data is the backbone of our analytics platform, and what we’ve identified as the key for marketers who want to know their customers at a human level.


The New Age of “Identity Marketing”

Let’s look at the larger landscape of marketing. The advent of social media has catalyzed the demand for “identity-based” marketing.

“While individuals may be at the center of their own universes, those universes can be very large thanks to the social networking potential of ubiquitous communication technologies,” a SAGE study on identity politics, or the personalization of politics, said.

Today, the expectation that organizations and movements bend to personal lifestyles touches everything between politics and civic engagement, to sales and marketing.

Still, many brands struggle with knowing their consumers beyond the context of their transactions.

As their customers are linking to one another, and earning recognition (plus validation) for their personal opinions, brands are still fumbling to understand what those raw emotions and thoughts are.

Social identity data thereby becomes essential for streamlining social media customer discovery into your everyday business functions. It’s impossible for one or two of your team members to locate every single customer you have online, then keep an updated profile on their backgrounds, needs, wants, and sentiments.

Integrating clean, first-party data into your existing CRM or marketing-automation system can automate identity discovery and accurately cull up real-time customer intelligence. Social identity API, like ours, also provides rich association and affinity information by examining a user’s lifelong social connections and engagements.

On HubSpot?  Learn about our social identity integration, free for 30 days!

By updating your systems with social identity data, you essentially reverse-engineer persona development. Rather than building fictional archetypes, then finding people who fit the mold, you can identify the distinct traits of your existing customers, and find like-minded individuals among their real-world social connections.

5 Benefits of Identity Marketing

  • Piece together your customer’s journey across various social channels, and understand what he or she already knows about your brand
  • Deliver more personalized customer experiences and messages
  • Customize loyalty programs and promotions to individual affinities
  • Segment your contact lists by more than transaction history, basic demographics, or customer surveys
  • Discover new opportunities by viewing a customer’s personal network, sentiments, and everyday behaviors

Want to learn more about our social identity data? Click here to schedule a free demo!

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