Incorporating data capture into your social strategy

Start-ups often ask how they can enrich their email marketing pool in a cost-effective and ethical way. Here, Victoria Browne gives some tips.

With a limited budget available and time already invested in social media promotion, creating a dedicated social app is one of the most effective ways to plump up an email marketing bank and collect insights from your potential customers.

You don’t need the skills of a PHP developer to build a Facebook-hosted app and place a well-designed survey in front of your audience. Our six-point plan covers simple data capture and identifies how we capitalise on any identifiable trends in future content marketing campaigns.

This is primarily about hosting an app on Facebook, as Facebook is ideal for displaying customised forms and the platform is widely used by brands. If Facebook is unsuitable for your business, the app can also be hosted on your site and promoted via any social channels you use.

1. Capture the data that matters to your brand

Whole postgraduate degrees centre on effective research and qualitative data collection.

Put simply, finding out about your audience takes a little thought. It’s important to consider what information you already have and how much value any new information will reap.

For example, does your e-commerce analytics tell you that orders hair loss shampoo every month? Opportunities for tailored marketing already exist here.

If you have a content marketing team inhouse, you should be thinking beyond targeted business questions too. Consider some topics that would benefit from greater insight and use your data capture to inform this.

For example, how do small businesses feel about the financial support available to them? You could gauge this with a ‘very unsatisfied-very satisfied’ scale. Any ‘hard’ data can be enriched further with quotes and insight from yourself and your team.

A sizeable response can allow you to create really unique content for outreach purposes – just ensure that any respondents remain completely confidential.

Before finalising any questions, ask your team to review them. All it takes is for somebody to ask ‘what will you gain from that?’ to realise that a question is misplaced.

Don’t have a copywriting team at your disposal? If your data is collated and explained clearly, journalists and editors are still likely to be interested.

Quantitative vs. qualitative

Quantitative data is obviously much better for visual representations and will be simpler for your team to collate, however consider the odd open-ended question too. Quotes will give context to your figures and will make for more engaging articles.

2. Incentivising

Incentivising your audience is important for attracting the type of engagement which will build you a sizeable, tailored email marketing list.

Giving away a MacBook Air won’t endear people to your brand if you’re selling kitchen tiles. Depending on the nature of your brand, consider giving away a product or offering a discount on orders.

Set aside a small advertising budget to attract attention and wherever possible get coverage on industry sites with a link to your app. If budget permits consider a rolling incentive (ie monthly draws) to keep a strong engagement rate on a longer-term basis.

3. Understanding when your audience are interacting

We see so many brands posting on social media only when it suits them, and failing to address that their target market will typically be interacting outside of working hours. You may have seen this just from a passing glance, with interactions increasing during lunch times and evenings.

Working out when your audience is online is simple with both Facebook Insights and a number of user-friendly Twitter metrics tools. Once you’ve found out when your audience is receptive, scheduling promotional posts for your app is possible with a choice of free tools.


Insights > Posts > When your fans are online

It might not be convenient to interact with your fans at 9pm, but for a typical B2C e-commerce brand, this is likely to be when they’re receptive. Schedule your posts using Facebook’s helpful timer icon at the bottom of each status update. Keep reviewing the insights and play around to see which posts perform well for you (pictures, links or text updates).


Unfortunately, many of the once comprehensive free Twitter metrics tools now require ongoing paid subscriptions, or have stopped operating due to changes in Twitter’s API. You don’t need to pay to gain an insight into your social audience and our favourite Twitter metrics tools are detailed below:

Twitter analytics

Twitter analytics requires a little more exploration than some of the paid insights tools, but it’s well worth spending some time getting to grips with this – it’s free and very comprehensive.

Simply sign in with your Twitter account and head to ‘tweets’ to get a breakdown of your Twitter performance. While this will give you a top level overview of impressions, engagement and engagement rate, selecting ‘view tweet details’ will give you greater insight into how individual updates have performed.

While it will take time to identify which posts work best and which times you attract the most engagement, understanding when your posts are most well-received will help streamline your social media activities – ideal when you don’t have a dedicated resource in house.

Best paid tool: Sprout Social

Sprout Social is mostly used by agencies who will often be managing several accounts at any one time. Sprout Social allows you to post to Twitter, Facebook and G+, however most marketers prefer this tool for Twitter due to its ‘list’ style layout. Sprout is ideal for scheduling and viewing audience metrics at a glance.

Best free multi-use tool: does so much more than shorten URLs. Simply sign up for an account and download the plugin for on-the-go URL shortening. All URLs are saved to your account and by selecting ‘stats’ and clicking on your shortened link you can see when people are clicking by selecting various time parameters.

Once you have a better idea of when your audience are online, use Tweetdeck for free to schedule tweets and promote your app. Direct users with a custom URL too – make it as easy as possible to find your app.

4. App creation – Shortstack or Thunderpenny

For foolproof app building, Shortstack and Thunderpenny are great choices that give really professional results. While anybody can use these, you’ll need a designer to create a professional skin which will incorporate your copy, imagery and terms and conditions.

Shortstack: Shortstack does have a free option, however as this will only store 25 entries, it realistically isn’t suitable for any sort of data capture campaign.

There is a cost effective $29 per month option though which can store up to 5,000 entries. If you ever need to increase this, Shortstack makes upgrading easy – ideal when you have big aspirations for a fledgling campaign.

Thunderpenny: This is a little simpler than Shortstack as it leads you through the entire process and contextualises how the app will sit and be shown to your users. It’s much more foolproof than Shortstack which generally requires more thought and testing, so we’d recommend starting with Thunderpenny and then testing Shortstack when you get a little more confident – many marketers like Shortstack for the level of customisation it offers.

Hosting on Facebook? A designer will need to create two images which will take users through the entry stage. If you want to display this through video, it is possible to embed a short film, however keep it simple for your users.

Tab image: 111 x 74

Entry form: 600 x 900 (for Facebook and onsite hosting)

NB: As of November 5th 2014, Facebook stopped allowing Fangates (a holding page which requires users’ to like a page before entering).

Once you have your graphics, your custom-built form will sit below your main entry form.

5. Terms and conditions

Your terms and conditions are your chance to ensure that the entrants are likely to be an audience you would generally target. While the specifics are entirely up to you, the following points are useful to include:

  • Only one entry per person.
  • Entrants must be over 18.
  • The prize will consist of…
  • The prize cannot be substituted for cash or vouchers.
  • Entrants agree to be added to the ……… mailing list. We will never share your information with third parties.
  • B2B – Open to UK-based businesses only.
  • A winner will be selected and notified on …….. If the winner doesn’t claim within five days we reserve the right to draw another winner.

6. Taking it further: Content marketing

Powerful content marketing is about offering fresh, original insights and advice. Collating your own data can offer fascinating insights into your industry – as long as they offer insight which is genuinely new.

A good example of a survey which attracted high levels of engagement was the Drum’s Women in Marketing Survey. The topic was contentious and piqued the interest of almost everybody in the industry. Women entered and waited with baited breath for the results. As mentioned above in the quantitative vs qualitative debate, this combined check boxes (on a scale basis, such as salaries) and allowed entrants the option to add some open-ended answers. The result was a well-reasoned report which combined statistics and quotes from women in marketing.


  • What’s topical right now (and still will be in a few months’ time)? (Government changes, industry challenges etc.)
  • What will stir interest? Think emotive but not too controversial.
  • How personal is it to your audience? Think the Drum’s Women in Marketing Survey – who needs a voice?
  • What will fill a gap in the industry – Check it hasn’t been done before.
  • Make sure you have collated all the information which could help with your targeted marketing (name, email, region, size of business etc.)

Victoria Browne is a copywriter and social campaigns manager at Fluid Creativity.

Further reading on digital marketing

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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