In the first post in this series, I talked about the pros and cons of third party data. It is typically inexpensive and easy to obtain, and… it scales! Also the breadth of data points available can be staggering. For example, BlueKai analyzes over 8 Billion data points to construct user profiles.
These are attractive qualities, especially for down ballot races. However, it needs to be combed through to generate actionable insights. This is a challenging feat for smaller campaigns. And let’s not underestimate the effort required by DMPs to compile accurate profiles from countless, disparate data sources. A study by Deloitte found that the truth is often lost in aggregation.
Generally speaking, the further the data has traveled from the source, the less it should be trusted. Considering second party data is much closer to the source, and often not aggregated, it’s more valuable to a campaign.
Okay, what is second party data? Well, let’s say I’m a big Michael Bolton fan (wut? For my money it doesn’t get any better than when he sings when a man loves a woman).
So of course I like his Facebook page, I also search Michael Bolton, and Michael Bolton related products and accessories on Google.
What have I done? Well, I’ve notified both Google and Facebook of my interest in Michael Bolton. I’ve given them data.
Alright now let’s say Kenny Loggins is about drop a forgettable album and wants to promote it on Facebook and Google AdWords. He’s somehow been able to get roughly 500,000 people to like his Facebook page (I know, right?).
However, Kenny’s not going to stop at marketing to his own Facebook likes, he’s been to the danger zone and back (like in every verse). He wants to expand his audience and target those that like similar, terrible musicians. Using Facebook’s ad platform and Google AdWords, Kenny can directly target users of each platform that have expressed an interest in Michael Bolton.
Now, I realize the fact that this type of targeting exists is not news to anyone in the campaign world (except maybe to journalists, gasp!). I used this story because it is a good example of second party data.
Second party data is data obtained through a direct relationship between a user, and an entity (not you), and made available as actionable data to campaigns (you).
In this example, the data owned by Facebook and Google indicating my admiration of Michael Bolton, is second party data to Kenny Loggins (that might be the first time that sentence has been written in human history).
User data owned by de facto data companies like Facebook and Google, that is offered to marketers to target audiences is just one of two types of second party data. The second type is data made available through direct relationships with like minded, or complementary organizations and campaigns.
The obvious example in campaigns is a retiring official, handing over their donor and email lists to the candidate of their party trying to hold onto the seat. While it could be assumed that most of the list would not mind hearing from the new candidate, it is a certainty that not all of them will.
This underlies the problem with data being shared in this way. Done right, the retiring official should ask those on the list if they’d like to hear from the candidate and transfer over only those that have expressed interest. In practice, we all know this doesn’t always happen.
This type of second party data offers more trusted and accurate insights than third party data, but gets pretty murky when you begin to consider the legal issues surrounding user privacy.
With the first type of second party data, any privacy compliance issues fall into the lap of Facebook and Google. But hey, when I liked Michael Bolton’s page I knew exactly what I was getting into.
It also has become increasingly difficult to reach agreements on sharing this type of data as campaigns and organizations realize more and more each day how valuable their data assets are, particularly when they have heavily invested in list building.
So, should you utilize second party data in your campaign? Yes, in fact, you’ve been already been using it if you’ve ever placed a Facebook ad.. But now you will know what to call it, and sound a lot smarter to your friends.
In the end, second party data is far better than third party data for the simple fact that it is more likely to be accurate. Also, it’s easier to make assumptions that you are targeting the right audience since it’s typically less complicated to parse out the data (I like Michael Bolton = likely to like his contemporaries).
In part three of this series, I’ll talk about the grandaddy of them all, first party data.