Using Social Profile Data to Know Your Customers with Janrain VP of Marketing, Jamie Beckland

Today's Open Source Marketer podcast guest is Jamie Beckland, VP of Marketing and Customer Success for Janrain. Janrain provides customer profile management across a variety of social networks, online platforms, and devices. Jamie runs the Digital and Social Media Strategy team for Janrain. He built his first international social community in 2004, and since then has developed digital marketing strategies for clients including Fox, Schlage, Dr Pepper, AOL, Wells Fargo, KinderCare, The Brookings Institution and many others. He frequently speaks and writes for Mashable, Social Media Examiner, iMediaConnection and other publications.

During our conversation, Jamie provided insights into the changing landscape of customer profile management. We discussed the importance of having a complete picture of customer preferences and we talked about why cookie based tracking doesn't work and what we can do to ensure that customers are having a good user experience across multiple properties and devices.

A full transcript of the conversation is provided below. It's an excellent read with lots of great insights. I highly recommend, you either listen to the podcast, watch the video, or read the transcript. What Jamie shares is truly eye-opening.

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Charles McKeever

Full Transcript:

CHARLES MCKEEVER: All right! Welcome back to Open Source Marketer!

I’m your host, Charles McKeever, and today we’re talking about how to customize interactions with your customers using social profile data.

Joining us to explore the topic is Jamie Beckland, VP of Customer Success at Janrain.

Jamie, thanks for being here!

JAMIE BECKLAND: Yeah, thanks for having me!

CHARLES: Jamie is an expert in today’s topic.

He’s helped Fortune 1000 companies integrate social media technologies into their websites to improve their acquisition and engagement. He’s worked with private entities, government, universities, and non-profit, and he’s also written for a variety of publications including Mashable, Social Media Examiner, and iMediaConnnection. So, we’re thrilled to have him here with us today on Open Source Marketer.

Now, in addition to personalizing your user’s experience, we’re also going to touch on social media privacy, managing your brand’s reputation without being creepy, and the end of online identity demographics.

So, before we dive into all of that, Jamie, tell us about Janrain. What does Janrain do?

JAMIE: Sure. Janrain manages customer profiles for brands and websites. So, any time you want to create an account, that could be a traditional username and password, or it could be using a social profile to manage the authentication. We’re very concerned with making sure that a user is who they say they are, so that means they have to have control over a password or a social media account in order to be able to authenticate. And then, sharing and managing all of the data that comes back about that user and integrating it into the rest of the marketing technology stack.

CHARLES: Okay. So, you guys are the data providers to larger organizations then? I mean, it sounds like you’re kind of a central hub for that kind of thing.

JAMIE: That’s right. We really do act as a central database or a central record for understanding all of those different aspects about who your customer is. So, you have interactions that happen on your website – you know, clickstream data, sort of when they watch a video, when they interact with a certain piece of content – and we’d store and manage all of that data.

You also have social profile data. So, the information that’s on your Facebook profile or your Twitter profile, Google+, et cetera. Each one of those has a different idea of who that user is and has different data. So, whenever the user authenticates with any of those identities, we pull that data back also.

And then, you have the notion of sort of third-party data that you might want to integrate into your infrastructure also. So, data assets around sort of what kind of car do they drive, how big their mortgage is – that kind of data. We can also store and manage that.

And then, of course, we want to push it around to everyone in the marketing technology infrastructure. So, if you want to personalize emails, if you want to change the content on your CMS, if you want to sort of create audience segmentation to use in offline channels – all of that can be managed from within our platform.

CHARLES: So then, as a business owner, I’d be collecting information about my customer locally, but then I don’t have the overall bigger picture about some of their other preferences that might be outside the context of our normal conversations with the customer. Is that accurate?

JAMIE: Yeah, that’s right. What we’ve found is that the notion of a customer identity or a customer profile is something that almost every marketing infrastructure component needs. So, of course, if you want to send somebody emails, you need a place to manage those email addresses. And then, if you want to serve custom content within a content management system, you need a system for that. Each one of those has different requirements about what they need to know about the user. And so, the challenge is how do you get a consolidated view of who your customer is, right? By using somebody like a Janrain, you’re going to centralize all the data about your customer in one place and then share different versions or different portions of the profile with different systems.

CHARLES: Now, how does that work long-term? So, who owns the data in that situation? Is that something that I can get access to that information and then build my own local profile over time? How does that work?

JAMIE: Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, Janrain is very much focused on supporting our customers to get to know their customers better so that means, of course, we don’t want to control or maintain any rights or privileges to your data. Your data is your data. Your customers are your customers. And I think that’s a really important component, especially if you look at the marketing landscape where people are sort of renting your customers, right? You can go buy this customer. Every time you want to, you can come to our channel; you know, buy access to that customer and then talk to them.

We think about it a little bit differently. We think that relationship with your brand or your website is going to be the most important relationship to maintain. Obviously, that means that you can export, you can feed that data into any other system where you want to use it, and we do have a lot of customers who use us in conjunction with a data warehouse – maybe a more back-end process that stores it more for long-term.

But we also find that, you know, the service really becomes crucial when you’re dealing with online real-time interaction landscapes. So, if you want to personalize content on the next page-turn, the next page on the website that the user visits, you really need that data to be accessible in real-time or in near real-time. So, you know, that’s why having both of those aspects, having both of those options to store on the back-end can also make it available on the front-end. It’s so important.

CHARLES: Okay. So, we said one of the things we were going to talk about was managing the brand’s identity and things like that, but it seems like you have to get people to sign up for something before you can even start this process. So, take me through the different phases of interaction. What does that look like?

JAMIE: Yeah, absolutely.

If you think about it from a customer journey perspective, it’s exactly what you’re talking about. The customer needs to go through a process to go from being an anonymous user to a known user, and there’s a bunch of steps along that process. That means that, over time, the user is showing more trust in your brand, they want to learn more, they want to increase their commitment and they want to increase their investment in the relationship.

When we think about that journey that the customer goes through, this notion of what are they giving up and what are they getting at each step of the marketing process becomes so important, right? So, there’s certain moments that are high-value moments – if you want to give access to a discount or an offer; if you want to provide an opportunity to join or participate in a campaign, a contest, or a promotion; if you want to gain an asset or resource that’s very high-value, you know, giving away a lot of information. And then, you can ask for a relatively robust amount of data in return for that. You know, maybe you want to ask for not just their name and their email address, but maybe you also want to know their location, maybe you want to know their social graph because you want to be able to share with their friends and their contacts. So, you want to look at the data assets that the user’s going to be comfortable sharing for the particular asset or experience that they’re participating in.

And then, what you want to do is map out a whole series of different interactions that increase in their depth and commitment over time so that you’re asking for more and more data from different sources about that user to build that profile.

You know, this is a little bit different than the way people think about marketing campaigns now, right? A campaign is a very sort of focused or temporal thing. You know, you’re going to do your summer campaign or your back-to-school campaign. We see it very differently. We see that campaigns need to build off of each other so that you’re having a conversation with your customer over time and you’re getting to know them better. And in getting to know them better, it gives them more and more value.

CHARLES: I have seen that, over time, clients have begun to warm up to this idea of being social. You know, a lot of people have early on said, “I want to be in social media, but I don’t want to be social, all right? I really don’t want to interact with anybody, but I want to somehow benefit from social media,” and it’s kind of a weird juxtaposition, but they’ve warmed up to it and now it seems like just what you said. People are trying to do campaigns, but those campaigns are these pockets or these islands where they want the people to pay attention at the time that they want them to pay attention, but that person has no reason to pay attention at that time. There’s no on-going conversation for them to be invested in. So, it’s interesting.

JAMIE: Yeah. I mean, I think the fact of the matter is that marketers are not in control anymore – if they ever were in the first place. Well, I mean, maybe there was a time – you know, when we all watched the Ed Sullivan Show – that a marketer really had a chance to drive a national dialogue or a national conversation to say, you know, when the audience is so concentrated, it becomes easy for the marketer to say, “Okay. Well, they don’t have anything better to do. They have to watch one of these three television channels, right?”

That’s not the world we live in and there are so many competing priorities for attention, and it’s not just digital versus digital, right? It’s digital versus TV versus radio versus spending time with your kids versus your iPad and your Amazon Fire and all of this. So, in that increasingly fragmented landscape, attention goes where the most interesting or engaging opportunity is.

And so, I think you’re right; I think the initial thoughts for marketers were, “Okay. This is another channel. This is another channel where I start to have a voice and I participate, but I get to control when this happens and what the level of dialogue is.” What we’re seeing now is that, you know, if you want to attract attention, you need to have something that fits in with the user’s lifestyle, with the way the customer’s thinking about you.

CHARLES: That makes a lot of sense, and I like what you said about matching the value proposition – whatever it is that you’re offering – to the ask. So, you know, you’re not asking that person for an inordinate amount of information if they’re just going to register. So, I think that’s along those lines of not being creepy, you know?

JAMIE: Yeah, exactly! I mean, it’s such a key part of the privacy conversation, right? It’s very top-of-mind right now because people know, they understand that they’re adding value into these channels, into these social channels, but what they don’t have a good feeling of is what’s available, what’s public. What am I sharing with different brands? Is what I’m sharing with different brands the same or different? And what do my friends see about my interactions on some of these other websites when they use my social data?

So, it creates this discomfort with users and, you know, it’s just this notion of, “What data am I sharing with you? What are you going to do with that data? Why is it valuable? And why should I feel comfortable sharing it with you?” It really gets down to some core issues of trust in your brand, in your website, and in your products that it really is dependent. That’s why, you know, sometimes, people talk about marketing as a weak force. I think that marketing has incredible power and potential, but if people don’t have trust or confidence in the product or in your brand, then there’s no amount of marketing that’s going to be able to overcome that right from the social perspective.

CHARLES: Absolutely. Yeah, Facebook’s going through a lot of that, having to figure out exactly where people’s comfort zones are and how far they can go with sharing their private information and what constitutes frictionless sharing versus “I don’t want people to know that.” It’s a very interesting topic.

JAMIE: Yeah.

CHARLES: So, along those lines, I saw on the Janrain website that you guys have a login widget or an offering where people can kind of register quickly for a service or a website. How is that different than something like a Facebook login plug-in for a WordPress site?

JAMIE: Yeah, sure. So, Facebook login, you know, this Facebook identity product has been around since about 2009 and it was at that time where we really looked at this landscape and said, “Identity on the internet is a complicated proposition and it’s difficult for users to feel comfortable putting all of their identity eggs in one basket.”

So, the reality is that, for some brands, for some websites, a user might be comfortable using their Facebook account; for others, they may feel more comfortable with Google+; with others, they may be more comfortable with Twitter. What we said was, “Look, it’s really important for developers and marketing teams to have an easy way to interact with all of these different identity providers.” So, that’s what we designed in our social login product and it’s what’s really sort of different or broader than a Facebook login.

With Facebook, you’re doing the technical integration for one identity provider. With Janrain, you’re doing the technical integration once, but you have access to over thirty different identity providers. So, you get your Facebook – you know, that comes with it – but you have other options too, and that means that you can align with different customers, what they’re more comfortable with, and you also have opportunities to gather data from additional identity providers too. And, if you think about your own experience using social media, you probably share different kind of content and different parts of yourself on, say, a LinkedIn than you do on Facebook. So, getting an understanding of that holistic customer perspective through multiple identities, I think it ends up being really important.

CHARLES: That’s great. And so, you guys then pull all that together on the back side so that, regardless of how they log in, you can still track their profile and their preferences and things like that. Is that kind of what I’m understanding?

JAMIE: Yes, exactly. So, of course, from Janrain’s perspective, we want to have a unified view of the customer at all times so we do provide account mapping functionality to map that same user’s Facebook profile to their Twitter profile to the next and the next profile. That sort of comes out of the box from our perspective. The data is stored within a single customer record, but then you can always look at that specific view. “Let’s look at the Facebook-only data or the Twitter-only data.” So, you could see, you know, who is this user? How are they different in different places?

CHARLES: Okay. And do you see more people using the social logins than over traditional registration forms? How does that break down?

JAMIE: Yeah, it’s a great question.

You know, social login is the answer to a user experience nightmare which is a username and password. What we’ve seen is that 96 percent of users – we’ve been running surveys for five years – almost 100 percent of users have gotten mis-targeted information and communications because the data is not really good enough.

About 77 percent of users would rather use a social login than to create a new traditional username and password. We did a kind of fun survey that looked at how loved are passwords, right? 40 percent of internet users would rather clean the toilet than create another password to remember. So, it solves a real problem from the user’s perspective. I mean, I don’t know about you, but that’s probably about the last thing on my list.


From a personal perspective, I tend to use social logins just because all my information is already there. You know, why should I have to fill all that stuff out again? It’s kind of like going to the doctor. You know, they make you fill out the form and then you have to fill out the form again. You’re like, “Well, I’ve already filled out the form. Why do I need to do this twice?” So, social logins definitely make a lot of sense.

So, let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about this concept of the end of online identity demographics. Okay. What does that mean?

JAMIE: Yeah. So, the web is about twenty years old now and I think what we’ve learned, we went through a sort of a long phase – and, you know, we’re at the tail-end of it – where there was a really robust conversation about whether people should be able to be anonymous online. I think we’re at the point now where we can see there always going to be a place where people can be anonymous and you can sort of go into the dark corners of the internet if you want to. But, for the most part, you’re going to have to be known in some way, shape, or form. And what you’re seeing on top of that is this fragmentation. We talked about fragmentation in terms of media, right? You have a lot of different media channels that you can access. What it does is it takes traditional marketing objectives around demographics and adds this new overlay on top of it which is all of your psychographic concerns.

So, demographics, you know, traditionally, if you could get ZIP, age, and gender, that was about as much targeting as you could do from a marketing perspective, right? So, you know, you can buy your billboards, you can buy your TV ads, you can buy your radio spots with just those three data points alone and you didn’t need to know a lot about an individual person in order to get that kind of information or get that information aggregated.

What we’re moving to now is people in different parts of the buying cycle at different time and much more fragmented interests. So, demographics aren’t really enough. I mean, I would even make the argument that demographics do a very poor job now of indicating what somebody’s going to be interested in.

I’ll take a really small example. I’m sure every one of the people in the audience knows somebody who is not sort of a “Gen-Y” or not a “millennial,” but they have made a commitment to being a digital native, right? So, if you’re a digital native, it means that you want to experiment with new digital platforms. It means that you naturally can see a use case or some interest or excitement when you download a new app. Those are things that you’re doing not because you’re forced to because it’s your job but because, you know, that’s who you are, right? You sort of embrace that.

I would say that a digital native, regardless of their age, has much more in common with each other than they do with somebody who just happens to be the same age or the same gender as them and that’s this notion of interest – this notion of psychographics being so much more powerful than demographics. So, what it does is, you know, people still think about demographics a lot, but they’re a relatively weak force and they’re getting weaker and weaker over time. And what’s sort of rising in their place is this notion that, if you can find people who share a like-mind around a topic, around an interest, that’s what’s going to drive conversation, that’s what’s going to drive engagement, and, ultimately, that’s what’s going to drive customers.

CHARLES: That’s a very good point, yeah, because knowing someone’s age might tell you whether or not they have kids, it might tell you whether or not they have stability in their job or something like that, but it only goes so far. You’re absolutely right so that makes a lot of sense.

Well, you know, when Facebook first came out and it had all this demographic information, maybe even farther than demographic information, that was kind of a holy grail for marketers, you know? People being able to get down to ten people in Oklahoma who are interested in this one thing, you know? I mean, how does Janrain differ from Facebook demographics?

JAMIE: Yeah. So, we actually take data from Facebook and store it on behalf of the brand. You know, one of the biggest differences is that Facebook is great if you want to access an audience that’s within the Facebook platform and, you know, people spend some time on Facebook, right? They usually spend about an hour a day on Facebook. That means that they’re interacting with media for another eight or nine hours into the day that’s not on Facebook. When you think more broadly about, “how do I connect with this customer everywhere that I might want to talk with them?” it really means that you want the data to live within your own infrastructure. That doesn’t mean that you don’t use those Facebook tools, but you use them for a specific purpose at a specific time in the customer journey.

You know, for us, what we want to do is integrate those same data assets into something that allows you to communicate with them very presently – like, when they’re on your own website – and that’s not something that, typically, people are segmenting within their own website, but it’s really actually not that difficult to take one message and version it into four or six messages and then continue on building more and more personalized content over time. So, it really becomes a way to have that Facebook style experience or Facebook level of personalization across all of your digital touch points.

CHARLES: Okay. So, that’s a great point to transition. A moment ago you mentioned fragmentation with multiple properties, multiple websites, things like that. How has mobile factored into all of this? Because, now, we are on our tablets, we are on our phones and our desktop computers and things like that. How does that factor across? “How is mobile being used to engage customers?” I guess, is my question.

JAMIE: Yeah. I mean, what I’ve been hearing since about 2010 is, you know, this is the year of mobile; 2011, this is the year of mobile. Now it feels like in ’14, it feels like mobile came and smacked a bunch of marketers upside the head, right? I mean, all of a sudden, you know, you sort of hit that tipping point around smartphone adoption and penetration, crossing 50 percent of the cell phone audience. And, all of a sudden, everybody has a browser in their pocket and they’re interacting on mobile. So, you know, we see customers, I don’t think we have a customer where less than 20 percent of their website traffic is from mobile, and some of them, it’s like 70, 80 percent.


JAMIE: And then, you have this mobile-first or mobile-only kind of perspective where you have a bunch of apps and innovation happening there where they don’t even have a website at all. So, it’s really fundamentally changed the way that people think about computing and being connected.

It was interesting, I was talking to somebody from Google the other day and they said that, when you think about why mobile is so important and why it’s so useful, it really comes from this very fundamental concept about people that everything is better when it’s portable. I mean, everything that you could possibly do – you know, food is better when it’s portable and you can throw a granola bar in your backpack and have it any time you want. I mean, everything, just everything that people interact with is better when it’s portable and mobile is just the latest to get there.

So, it’s a natural progression for all of our users. We’re going to have to deal with it. It causes some big challenges when it comes to identity and knowing your customer because we’ve built this infrastructure over fifteen years that’s based on cookies and cookies are tied to a device. So, you have this cookie that gets dropped on your device and then it follows you around as you look at the internet and look at your own properties. And then, the cookie is the thing that approximates, “Well, this is Charles,” or, “This is Jamie.” As soon as you move to another device, they drop a new cookie and you start from zero, and you don’t even have the ability in all the mobile devices to drop cookies.

So, you know, this is where you hear in the landscape people saying that the cookie is dead or that cookies are dying, that’s what they’re talking about. They’re talking about it’s just not that useful anymore. So, you have to look at a different way to connect that user’s identity across multiple devices.

There’s a few different options. I mean, you could look at device fingerprinting and those kinds of things. What we’ve seen when we’ve looked at those technologies is that they really only have about a 40 or 60 percent success rate. So, I mean, it’s like a coin toss. Are you going to really trust that this is the user that you think they are when, you know, 50 percent of the time they’re going to be wrong? Really, the only way to do that is through looking at a login – a login where somebody’s connecting their one single identity to the desktop through the browser and then, also, secondarily, through the tablet or through the phone. So, you know, you use login as that way to connect that user across multiple devices. And, all of a sudden, you’re actually much further accelerated because you have not only that identity, but then you have all the data to be able to push and pull into different places.

Okay. So, it’s really interesting. When you start doing that, what you find is that the customer journey that you thought that you had is very different from the customer journey that your users actually go through, right? So, you have this idea mapped out in your head, “Oh, they’re going to find me, you know, they’re going to come to my website and then they’re going to download my app and then, you know, they’re going to buy something on the app and then they’re going to look at it in their email or something like that.”

What we’re seeing is that the user journey is actually really, really different from that, right? Instead, you’re finding out through social in your phone, through an email that gets pushed to you so you go do the app download directly. The first experience is mobile then they might get pushed to your website later. It causes you to rethink the whole way that you think about sort of how that customer gets to know you. It’s really, really powerful.

CHARLES: That’s amazing, yeah. That’s incredible and it makes complete sense what you said about mobile being personal because mobile devices are very personal. Like you said, a granola bar. I’ve never thought of it in that way, but it is very personal, and we spend so much time with it that it just makes sense want to bring that into the conversation and track people across all those different devices. It’s amazing stuff.

JAMIE: Yeah. I mean, it’s really interesting, especially on the heels of some of the Apple announcements from WWDC yesterday with the iOS 8 announcements, and that’s sort of building on some of the functionality you see in the Android platform, right?

So, a big push on these mobile devices is, if you use your social identity or your device identity to log into a website, then you could push your mobile app directly without having them sign in again, right? Your Google identity is tied to the Android so they can push you in over there install, right? So, if part of your strategy is to do push notifications from a mobile device, then you need to have that app installed, right? So, if you can get that app installed, that's been a big a big barrier. How do you discover apps if you’ve been in the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store and try to find a new, interesting, exciting app? Like, it’s almost impossible, right?


JAMIE: So, you really need better delivery mechanisms for those apps, and this over-the-air install through social login is a huge value-add. So, if you’re a marketer that’s trying to push more adoption of your mobile apps, this is a huge area to investigate.

CHARLES: Yeah, absolutely. I know that there’s a lot of iOS developers in the Austin area who are very excited by those announcements and, you know, looking at that for marketing purposes, for sure.

Well, all right, Jamie. Thank you for spending some time with us and talking about this topic. I think that we’ve got a good idea of what Janrain can do and what we should be thinking about in the space of marketing to people across multiple platforms using multiple devices and creating a customized experience for them so that we can have a conversation and not just have these pocketed silos of campaigns where we want people to pay attention when we want them to and we can actually have a much better response if we can have a conversation with them that’s on-going. So, thank you for that. I really appreciate it.

How can someone in the audience get started if they want to? What’s the first thing that they should do?

JAMIE: Yeah. The first thing that you should do is take a look at the data assets that are available. We actually have a tool that can help you do that on our website, it’s the Janrain Social Profile Navigator. So, you can go there and you can log in and you can actually see the assets that might be available from within your own platform.

And then, think about how you would use that data if you had access to it. If you knew who that user was and what data you had access to, what would you change in your own experience?

CHARLES: Yeah. Okay. There you go. Go check out They’ve got great videos over there, case studies, white papers. I was really impressed by how much information you guys had on the website. It was really great to kind of navigate and figure out what exactly the conversation was and where we should be focusing. So, definitely go check out Janrain.

And, also, while you’re online, remember to subscribe to Open Source Marketer and rate the podcast on YouTube and iTunes or wherever you listen.

Jamie, thank you again for being here.

Thanks for tuning in and I look forward to seeing you all next time.

JAMIE: Thank you.

About Charles McKeever

Charles McKeever is the founder of Open Source Marketer, an online marketing and mobile, web development company that helps business owners design, build, and market their businesses' online. Connect with him on one of your favorite social channels.

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