It’s 2018 and the rules have changed. For brands, Social Listening is no longer a nice to have, it’s the imperative.
Creating a new kind of participatory democracy, social media has taken on a new, powerful role in reshaping how brands are evaluated and perceived. Netizens, driven by a higher level of passion and intense emotion, are wielding the power of their voice and mobilizing with like-minded people online, calling attention to brands as they navigate societal and cultural shifts. Consumer expectations are changing, and movements like #BoycottNRA and #MeToo are just two recent examples of the power of social media to amplify sentiment en masse.
Rising consumer expectations – amplified by shared opinions on global networks – present both opportunities and challenges for companies. On one hand, it’s the perfect moment to showcase brand character and build meaningful connection with consumers. At the same time, companies must now deal with the reality that shoppers can now easily identify whether brands are aligning with their stated values– and call them out publicly when they aren’t.
Given today’s quickly evolving culture and always connected consumer, it’s imperative that companies listen to the social dialogue and cultural movements surrounding their brand, and consistently align their actions with the values that they stands for.
Power dynamics are changing – fast.
In recent months we’ve seen consumer feedback cause brands like First National Bank, DELTA and Dicks Sporting Goods to swiftly implement business changes in an attempt to avoid being dragged into the spotlight for failing to adapt to cultural shifts. In the same regard, we’ve observed as social media backlash for misaligned brand values and actions have led celebrities to drop, and publicly denounce, brands they once promoted, and businesses to distance themselves from journalists and media outlets. Power dynamics have changed and it’s never been easier for people to publicly shine a light on entities that are not behaving ethically or authentically.
Social Media Monitoring is not enough.
Companies first started leveraging social media data by employing Social Media Monitoring strategies. Tracking engagement, growth and reach of their owned social media content, brands used social media data to gauge consumer receptivity. While Social Media Monitoring is an important way for brands to self-reflect, it presents a limited view into the breadth of consumer insights that can be gleaned from vast digital discussions happening daily.
Social Listening is vital to understanding customers today.
There are billions of unstructured social and digital conversations happening online every day. Social Listening is the process of gathering and organizing social and digital data and processing them into structured insights that help companies more fully understand their customers’ expectations, needs, and motivations. By listening-in and analyzing consumer-led conversations, brands can quickly gather in-real time insights on narratives that are unfolding online. Given the nuances of each digital platform, the ways consumers use them, and the breadth of digital data, Social Listening research needs to be custom tailored and analyzed with a focused approach.
Social Listening in Action
It’s obvious that Social Listening is a necessity in today’s consumer landscape, but how does the research actually look in practice? Below are just a couple of examples of how Social Listening can be applied to solve business challenges and identify opportunities.
Case 1: Navigating Unexpected Media Attention
In 2017, after a client of ours was publicly touted by a politician, mentions of the brand spiked online and the company was eager to understand how people were responding to the attention. Leveraging Social Listening methods, we isolated mentions of the brand and the politician as well as mentions of the topics the politician was discussing to make sense of the public’s immediate reaction. Looking at the subsequent lift in brand attention, the sentiment of conversations and the major narratives unfolding online, we armed our client’s CEO with a summary of the event leading into a meeting with the board of directors.
Case 2: Decoding Cultural Trends Before They Go Mainstream
Our sportswear client came to us with the belief that trends initiate in New York City, and wanted to stay on the pulse of emergent trends before they become more widely adopted. Using Social Listening, Cultural Insights and Rapid Qual, we scraped social channels for nascent trend ‘signals’ being shared by New Yorkers and decoded them as they were being expressed through the cultural codes that are fundamental in NYC culture.
Social Listening provides brands with the ripe opportunity to gather unsolicited responses from an always-on source of consumer data. With 3.03 billion active social media users, the breadth of social and digital data can be unwieldy to manage and analyze. At the same time, it can be challenging to make sense of complex bits of data and digital contextual cues.
Partnering with an insights and strategy firm that has the analytical rigor to mine data and the Qualitative expertise to translate it can help you explore the wider social and cultural context and make sense of the world’s largest focus group: social media.