Somewhere in the west coast of the United States, a Sales Manager of a leading insurance broker was skimming through the list of potential leads for future business. These are the key influential decision makers in the corporations from where he had to procure business. However he was not sure on how to get introduced and reach them. For the first time in his career he felt his contacts for making a deal was insufficient.
Back in India the young and enthusiastic CEO of a newly launched e-commerce portal was gazing through the web analytics report of his website. The percentage of sales compared to the total hits for his website was dwindling. He knew that he had used one of the best web content management products available in the market and the user interface was equally good. He was pondering on innovative ways to convert the hits into meaningful sales.
In another part of the world, the Hiring Manager of a multinational corporation had just concluded the interview with an aspiring candidate. The profile of the candidate looked good and matched the urgent demand that his organization had. However he was skeptical about the background verification process for the candidate since the third-party agency which takes care of it will atleast take two to three weeks for sending him the report.
Today, there are a lot of social networking applications available on the internet – Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, My Space etc. to name a few. These social networking sites have millions of users and every average user will have a profile in more than one of these sites. Some of the profile data is private while some are public and most of the sites offer capability for configuring the privacy settings. So there are tremendous amount of public data that are available with these social networking providers. Such data can be aggregated and used to build the profile of people as well as establish ways to connect with them.
The aggregated profiles can be put to use in many scenarios
- Gets the shortest and efficient network to connect and establish relation with individuals
- Helping sales and marketing teams target people with products based on their interests
- Employers could run background checks of potential candidates online
This article explores the power of social networking and how it can be leveraged for specific needs.
The Social Connect Platform
A web based data aggregation platform can aggregate the publicly available data about a person from social networking websites like Facebook, LinkedIn etc. The platform can interface with the social networking providers to get real time data based on the name of the person and a meaningful profile can be built. The public connection information can be gathered from these social networking sites to build a virtual social network to connect with the person in question. Moreover, with the information about the location of the person available, the home value index can also be determined by integrating with such providers.
At a high level, following functionalities are achievable
- Search - Search based on first name, last name, organization or similar
- Profile Information - Build a meaningful profile with the aggregated data of the searched person
- Social Network Connections - The contacts or connections of the searched person and how a relation can be established
- Interests - With the publicly available data it would be possible to associate keywords or tags with the profile which could be correlated with products on e-commerce websites
- Customized Marketing - Based on the searched person’s location, home value index or potential products of interests could be determined
A Practical Solution for the Social Connect Platform
A web based application could be built where users can search for profiles. The search request will be routed to the respective social networking provider like LinkedIn and Facebook. These sites will return the results for the searched profile in XML or JSON format. For fetching the details of the selected profile, a second API call could be issued to the providers.
Facebook and LinkedIn provides APIs for integrating and exchanging data with third party applications. The supported authentication and authorization mechanism is via OAuth. The aggregator needs to be configured as an integrating application in Facebook and LinkedIn. These providers issue secret keys that have to be used for generating tokens. Once a token is requested for, the provider redirects the user and is challenged for the credentials. Upon entering valid credentials, the provider issues an access token for making API calls. For every API calls invoked, the access token along with the secret keys are passed to authenticate the user. Based on the search criteria, the publicly available data is pulled by means of API calls and the data hence received can be aggregated and displayed as people profiles.
A simplified architecture for the aggregator platform using Microsoft stack is shown below. The copyrights of logos are owned by the respective products/companies
This concept can be scaled up further to build meaningful people profile. It can be integrated with almost all social networking providers like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, MySpace etc. More integrations yield better results. This could also be integrated with enterprise search engines which has the capability of clustering the results and tagging with keywords based on people parameters such as likes, location, interests etc. The data extracted from the social networking provider can be fed into such search engines and more meaningful profiles could be built. Such profiles would give more insight to the character of a person and will help in customized marketing.
The Sales Manager is much more confident now since he can reach to his potential clients leveraging the power of social networks.
The Indian e-commerce portal now shows more personalized products based on people’s likes, interests and location thus converting more sales from footfalls.
The background verification process of the multinational corporation is now made more streamlined with candidate’s background verified and screened even before interviews!