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Why Social Data Is Critical To Data Cleansing

  • Written by Brian Hession, Oceanos
  • Published in Demanding Views

brian hession imageHaving clean contact data is an essential component to any sales or marketing program.  With more accurate and complete data, you improve segmentation, lead scoring and content alignment.  Bad data? It can not only cost you time and money, but key opportunities as well.

The traditional way of ensuring your contact data is clean is by email verification. Whether it’s through an API solution that runs MX and Syntax checks or in-house deployments, it’s common practice to load up a campaign, deploy it and then isolate the bad data by seeing which emails get bounced back. But it’s not enough anymore. Today, to get a complete, accurate and relevant assessment of the validity of your data, you need a holistic, 360-degree view of your contacts — and that’s not possible by relying solely on machine-driven, email initiatives.

The State Of Data Cleansing Today

Let’s first see what’s wrong with relying solely on email verification. Maintaining your contact names by eliminating bounce back emails is part of an overall data cleansing strategy, and works to an extent. But what about the ubiquitous issue of the catch-all box, which essentially acts as a black hole where emails addressed to non-existent users (previously deleted users or misspelled user names, for example) are routed, never to be seen again?  From the marketer’s standpoint, if an email is routed to a catch-all box, it’s not bouncing — and by all estimations it appears to be deliverable. Accordingly, if you’re using email verification alone, you wouldn’t delete that record or flag it because it didn’t hard bounce.

There’s clearly a dollar savings a company realizes by removing this bad data, which can end up filtering into sales.  If email verification doesn’t catch it as bad data, but that person’s no longer employed at the company, sales may end up picking up the phone to call that person and only then realize that that person no longer works with the company.  What’s the cost of the salesperson’s time to make that call?  Now multiply that by endless bad contacts.

Adding Social Data Is Next-Generation Cleansing 

So what’s the solution for this all too commonplace challenge? By using professional social data in the cleanse process, the insight you can glean from a contact’s profile is infinitely more robust than that which you can get by using email bounce-backs alone.

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At Oceanos, if a client is routing their house data through a cleanse process in our cloud portal, we do a match back to over 100 million social profiles, and we essentially walk through the contact’s work experience. The first step is finding the company name on the client’s input record in the work experience section of their profile — and if it’s not the current one, then we know they no longer work at that company. Additionally, sometimes a contact has two companies on their profile, both with the date range saying “present.” Because we also assess the dates, we can recognize when we’re looking at past employers if there’s a start date and a confirmed end date. If it’s determined that the title is right and the person works at the company, the contact can be mapped into the right persona. And if the information isn’t aligned, the contact is flagged as potentially bad data.

It’s not just about weeding out the bad data; it’s about maximizing the good.

But it goes even deeper. By socially verifying the contacts, you not only exclude bad, inaccurate data, but in the process, you also get more strategic insight into the contacts. The end result is that they can be more properly nurtured, and potentially more responsive.

Here’s an example. Let’s say the job title on a third party contact record is flagged. On the input record, this person is listed as Chief Operating Officer, but by using social data, it’s determined that in fact, this person is the Chief Sales Officer. This person indeed works at the same company, so by using email verification alone the email would have gone through — but the contact would potentially be routed into the wrong persona or nurture track.

By miscommunicating to the person, there’s a potential lost business opportunity. But if the person was mapped properly and routed into the most optimal communications, there’s heightened potential for a response. Plus, the velocity through the funnel could be faster because you’re communicating to them with messaging that resonates most strongly with their business objectives.

Ultimately, when it comes to contact data, it’s about quality, not quantity. Using email verification to assess the validity of your contact data is a tried-and-true method of data cleansing. And while the quantity might be vast, the quality is compromised by a lack of insight and completeness. But if you start using data that’s been carefully culled by tapping into each of your contact’s own social profiles, you’ll most likely end up with less overall contacts, but the quality of those you have will be top-notch.


 Brian Hession is the founder and CEO of Oceanos. He advises internal teams and clients, ensuring the optimal application of data and technology to produce results. Under his leadership, Oceanos has held a market leader position for a decade earning numerous accolades from business and industry sources. Prior to Oceanos, Brian held a senior marketing operations position at Digitas.