Marketers have realised that social media is a great place to start researching trends, competition and consumer feedbacks – in a cost-and-time-effective way.
In a current example, doing social listening work made Nivea realise they had got consumers’ concerns about deodorant all wrong. For their customers, what mattered most was not scent or the length of protection, but the stains left by residues on their clothes. The new product they formulated as a result was the most successful launch Nivea ever experienced.
According to Added Value North America strategic director, Andrea Hackett, 74% of online adults use social networking sites in the U.S., and this is no longer limited to the young as we see increased numbers of users aged 50+.
The proliferation of smartphones means social media data is being captured in real-time as consumers post in the moment. As a result, brands are investing more of their marketing budget in social media (predicted to reach over 20% of budgets over the next five years) to engage with consumers and also manage the increase in customer service needs.
“From a strategic marketing perspective, social media provides brands with a wealth of data that can inform their brand strategy,” she said.
“Consumers are posting comments about the brands they like and the ones they don’t like; they capture negative and positive experiences related to products and services, and provide reasons for their opinions.
“This information is accessible via social listening tools (unless privacy settings are activated) and brands that listen and respond in a nimble fashion will stay ahead of competitors.”
Hackett pointed out that social media listening can be a standalone exercise or can complement traditional research methods to inform brand positioning, portfolio planning and product development.
She listed five ways in which social listening can benefit a brand:
1. Generate hypotheses
Before launching into questionnaire development, get an understanding of your consumer by listening to what they are talking about today.
What is annoying them about your product or category, what they love, what they wish they could change. If they are taking the time to tweet or mention you in a blog post, it is worth taking the time to listen and build this into your thinking.
These hypotheses can then be tested using quantitative or qualitative methods to dig deeper into the issue, and once validated can feed your brand strategy and even extend into your communication strategy.
2. Uncover surprising insights
Social media platforms provide consumers with a space to communicate freely about the things that are important to them.
It’s surprising how revealing some people are – especially in forums that focus on a niche subject such as parenting or a medical condition.
These trusted environments allow consumers to be anonymous if they prefer, and provide a window into the challenges they are facing, how they feel, what worries them, and enables you to uncover new and surprising insights that you wouldn’t necessarily expose in a focus group setting.
3. Recruit brand advocates
Brand advocates can be very active on social media and are often referred to as ‘Superfans’. Depending on their level of influence (number of followers), they are frequently engaged by brands to produce branded content because it helps them reach a new audience.
These Superfans know the brand inside out and are highly engaged, which makes them perfect candidates to take part in research when you are searching for authentic brand advocates.
4. Speak the same language
When researching technical subjects such as health or finance, it is important to make sure you use the same language and terminology as consumers.
Listening to how people talk about your products and services online helps you build a bank of words and phrases that can then be built into a questionnaire and inform your communications strategy.
5. Competitor landscape
Social listening tools allow you to enter searches related to your brand and competitors, so you can understand where your brand fits in the competitor landscape and why.
You can determine share of voice over time (how many mentions of your brand vs. competitors), what caused peaks in conversation on a given date, how many times people mention your brand vs. competitors, the sentiment of posts and which platforms consumers are most active on.
“Some brands have been taking social listening even further by creating sleek ‘Command Centers’ set up with multiple large screens that update in real-time to present social media data on a dynamic dashboard,” says Hackett.
“This enables them to listen to their consumers in real-time, and most importantly, identify and immediately act on the insights. The pioneers of this movement were Gatorade, Dell and Cisco, and now we are seeing temporary Command Centers set up during cultural events such as the Oscars or the Superbowl, which helps to streamline budgets,” she said.
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