Before social media, when transparency was considerably less in vogue, aquiring new customers and serving the needs of loyal already existing customers was not an easy feat and there certainly were not many options for conquering this feat. In order to aid this process, marketers formulated methods such as segementation, and even sub-segmentation to narrow down their target audiences and best utilize resources. In order to most accurately identify segements within the population, different software tools became imperative so a business was not aiming blind-folded. Software tools identifying different geodemographics became a necessity, clustering people with the same zip code or census blocks into a segment. The premise of this segmentation was that people who live near each other are like "birds of a feather" having similar needs and wants. A marketing campaign was devised, and different flocks were targeted.
Now, consider I am the maker of Pert Plus. Recently (true story), I tweeted that while each morning I have many choices of shampoo to pick from, I continuously keep coming back to Pert Plus. Within 45 minutes, Pert Plus was following me. Now, consider what this means for Pert Plus.
A) they know that I am a loyal consumer of their product
B) they know I am female
C) they know that I am probably in the age range of 20-40 (from my picture, or elsewhere)
D) they know something about my general likings/dislikings from which info can be extrapolated
E) they know whatever else my bio highlights
...the list keeps going on depending on how much mining and interpretation you can do.
The same goes for Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
I am the Marketing Manager for Computech, an IT firm. While we do not sell a product targeting consumers, knowing our customer is still just as important (whether it is an agency we are contracting with, or a potential new employee that will make us more robust). As the following grows, learning how to engage with the listening ears, asking questions, responding to questions, and in turn redefining/refining a better service, experience, outcome seems to be a social media path worth forging.