There’s something simple that gets overlooked when content creators and online influencers talk about owning data: somebody already does. Data is the lifeblood of social media platforms. They have no requirement to share it with the creators who attract users, and they don’t. To protect their brand (and revenue stream) creators need to take ownership of their data.

What kinds of data do social media platforms collect?

Every action a user takes on a platform is analyzed by custom artificial intelligence-powered programs to build a constantly-evolving user profile for the platform’s use. The exact type varies by platform.

  • Facebook collects at least 63 distinct pieces of data, both demographic (age, facebook-datalocation, income bracket) and psychographic (political ideals, hobbies, opinions). Users who don’t adjust their privacy settings also contribute their browsing history to the platform’s databanks.
  • twitter-data52% of Twitter users consume news through the site, which is more than on Facebook, so Twitter tends to focus on analyzing the issues users care about and celebrities they endorse.
  • pinterest-dataPinterest tracks in real time the products, fashions, and activities people admire. One of their most useful data points is how long products stay popular. 80% of pins are reposts which serve as an indicator of whether trends are waxing or waning.

Platforms share a scant fraction of the data they collect with content creators, even data resulting from that creator’s material. There were once third party programs for pulling publically shared data, but in April 2015 Facebook heavily restricted what kinds of data could be collected from the site by outsiders. Though the data is still there, only Facebook can easily use it.

Why is owning your own data important?

Your content is creating data, and you aren’t getting full use of it. It’s a wasted resource. The information platforms do offer isn’t detailed enough to do more than track general visitor volume. Small details usually give the biggest insight; vanity metrics like follower count and views are easy to misinterpret. You can’t effectively judge ROI on your campaigns without the big picture provided by all your data.

There are other problems with failing to own your data. Having your primary source of metrics parked on social media means you can’t back it up yourself. You also have little say in what gets collected and how it’s secured. That’s a public relations risk.

On the creative side, leaving data on the table leaves you in the dark about potential opportunities. For example, there might be a large overlap between your followers and those of another creator. Knowing that could suggest a lucrative joint project.

How can you take ownership of your data?

The only way to fully own your data is to own the environment where it’s produced. For online influencers, that means one of two things:

Email marketing campaign: Mass email automation software uses embedded analytics to gather data about your followers. However, it’s not as effective with younger fans who are much less email focused. They generally prefer file sharing over social media.

Branded app: Custom mobile apps are the best option for owning data. Everything within the app feeds your data stream. You control what you ask to collect, and you can ensure your followers’ data is protected.

Whatever route you choose for regaining control, remember this: someone owns your brand’s data. Shouldn’t it be you?

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