Social listening for consumer intelligence
by Hephzibah Dutt on February 3, 2023
What is social listening intelligence?
Social listening intelligence is the process of discovering and then analyzing what is being said about a topic – usually a brand, company, or individual – online.
Why is social listening important?
It can help you identify potential customers, understand what people say about your brand, and respond to customer feedback. It is essential for so many reasons but one of the simplest and most impactful is this: it allows you to stay connected to your customers (including potential customers!), and truly understand their consumer wants and needs.
Top social listening platforms gather a broad range of social media information across various social platforms and online sources – including blogs, news sources, etc. They clean, and structure the data, and equip you with tools – filters, metrics and data visualizations – to assist you in analyzing all the data so that you have actual consumer intelligence that you can act on!
What’s the difference between social listening and social monitoring?
Social monitoring is the act of tracking mentions of your brand online, while social listening lets you in on the thoughts, opinions and pain points of audiences and consumers. Both are forms of social media intelligence and require social media intelligence tools.
Since social conversations are not prompted by surveys, it gives you consumer voice in unfiltered and unbiased form, allowing you to understand them on a deeper level. This includes what they’re saying about your brand. Ultimately, social listening equips you with consumer intelligence that can help you identify potential customers, respond to consumer feedback, and build relationships with your customers.
However, social listening isn’t just for brands. It provides consumer intelligence that can be used for enterprise. It can equip you with research and data for strategy, planning, program-development, and campaigns across multiple sectors and industries.
What to look for in a social listening platform
The ability to analyze not just the quantitative aspects, but also the qualitative sentiments and intents in the posts requires a tool dedicated to social media analysis. In this regard, not all social listening and consumer intelligence platforms are created equal.
An industry-leading social media listening and analysis tool, like Infegy Atlas, should be able to facilitate four main applications of social listening: brand management, competitive intelligence, consumer behavior & insights, and market research.
Brand management: Social listening can help you understand how people feel about your brand and identify opportunities to improve your brand image. It can also help you monitor competitor activity and understand what strategies are working for them.
Competitive intelligence: Social listening can help you understand what people say about your competitors and identify opportunities to gain market share.
Consumer behavior & insights: Social listening can help you understand consumer behavior and trends. It can also help you identify potential customers and understand their needs and wants.
Market research: Social listening can help you understand the market, identify opportunities, and create marketing strategies.
Now, let's look at these individually.
How to use social listening for brand and business wins
Social listening for brand management
Brand management is the ongoing process of maintaining a consistent brand identity. Since your brand is the overall impression you leave with people – not simply your logo, products, or color-scheme – it is so important to have a means by which you can:
- Ascertain how people feel about your brand.
- Learn how to effectively shape consumers’ impressions of your brand.
- Discover how to get people to engage with your brand.
Social listening is not just a helpful tool in this regard, it is a critical one. People share their feelings, experiences and opinions about brands online all the time! Use a social listening tool for the following brand management processes:
Monitor your brand’s health
One of the most valuable benefits of social listening is capturing consumer and market intelligence on how people talk about your brand. Moreover, since social media users post organically, you get their authentic perspectives and feelings when they discuss your brand; survey data is often skewed by bias. This consumer intelligence can help you accurately assess your brand’s health.
There are several different ways that social listening can help you monitor the health of your brand. Social listening sentiment analysis offers data on whether the net feeling of the online conversation around your brand is positive, negative, or neutral. You can also determine people’s willingness to recommend or purchase your products based on linguistic analysis of thousands or even millions of social posts.
Measure brand awareness
Do people know about your brand? Is your new product trending? Since online conversations generally represent real-life interest in a topic, brand, or person, social listening can give you data about people's awareness and engagement with your brand!
The volume of posts, shares, likes, and responses all represent engagement. And then social listening tools convert all these engagements into structured, empirical data. When combined with site traffic numbers and other metrics, social listening is a great way to measure your brand awareness. It also gives your data on your share of voice compared to your competitors.
Measure customer perception of your brand
How do consumers see your brand? Is your brand trusted or not? Would consumers recommend your brand? Why or why not? Social listening tools allow you to zoom in on public conversations about your brand and see for yourself what people are saying about your brand. This works literally – most social listening tools provide samples of posts so you can read posts from users directly – and metaphorically through a variety of social listening metrics (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Emotions analysis of 15 years of social data reveals that Trust remains the dominant emotion in the conversation around Paypal; Infegy Atlas data.
Within Infegy Atlas, the metrics that help point to brand perception include:
- Infegy Sentiment Analysis - measures positive and negative feelings towards the subject of the discussion.
- Infegy Passion Score - measures how strongly people feel about the subject their discussing.
- Infegy Emotions - determines specific emotions that are being expressed in the conversation.
Build a loyal customer base and reduce churn
One of the most powerful aspects of social listening is that it can give you insights into every part of your customer’s journey. You can hear in their own words how they genuinely feel about their experience with your products and services.
Surveys are a valuable tool for gathering feedback but respondents often won’t express their true feelings, or they will sugarcoat their answers – similar to how you might tell a server that the food is great after they ask about a meal, even when it was just okay.
People often turn to social media to express their joy, frustration, ambivalence, or other feelings about interactions with your products and brand. Social listening can get you elusive intel on these consumer pain points and frustrations (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Word cloud of a conversation around a top beauty brand reveals customer frustrations about their shipping; Infegy Atlas.
You can use this information to respond directly to customers to address your issues and take proactive internal measures to ensure they don’t happen again. By improving the customer experience, you improve perceptions of your brand. This will also help you retain customers and build brand loyalty.
We’d love to hear from you to discuss a project or if you’d like to learn more. Click here to contact us!
Measure awareness and reaction to marketing activities, promotions, and campaigns
Consumer intelligence gathered through social data is one of the fastest ways to determine whether your marketing and brand management efforts have paid off.
Start by asking yourself these questions: Was your target audience aware of your campaign? What were the conversations about your brand during the campaign? How many conversations were there about the campaign, specifically? Were those conversations positive or negative?
Tracking trends, hashtags, engagement and post volume are some of the crucial social listening metrics that provide answers to the questions above. A social listening platform like Infegy Atlas can provide you with demographic and persona details of who’s responding to your campaign – you can tell with just a glance whether you’ve reached your target audience.
The metrics above, in correlation to sales provides a powerful indicator of ROI and effectiveness of campaigns. You can then use this valuable consumer and sales intel to create more effective campaigns in the future. Occasionally, commercial data is insufficient, or the right KPIs were not put in place to measure campaign effectiveness. In this case, social listening data is vital to measure whether your campaign was successful.
Drive revenue through better targeted messages and products
Social listening can help you understand what consumers want from your brand, product, or services and you can use that information to improve your customer personas. With improved customer personas, you’ll be able to adjust your strategies to provide them with the services and products they desire. Learning more about your current customers through social listening can point to product expansion or refinement opportunities.
For example, the social conversation around a major beauty brand shows that consumers are increasingly talking about a certain clean ingredient in their products. Sentiment analysis of the conversation is highly positive, indicating that consumers love that ingredient. Furthermore, the post volume on the ingredient in general beauty product-related conversations has recently begun to trend up, indicating interest and possible market expansion. Backed by social listening data and evidence, the brand could expand that line of products or even highlight the ingredient in their marketing to capture new consumers.
Learn how you can better understand your customers' pain points by using a social media intelligence platform. Request a custom demo today!
Social listening for competitive intelligence
Social media intel for a competitive advantage
Competitive intelligence is the process of monitoring the activities of your competitors to gain a competitive edge. This could mean:
- Leaning into their markets or market-gaps.
- Being faster and better at responding to the pain points of their consumers.
- Creating a product or service that has higher value for consumers.
- Discovering audience segments that your competitor doesn’t attend to and targeting messaging and products to that segment.
- Discovering new players in your space.
These are just a few of the strategies by which you can gain an edge on a competitor, but all of them require having the right intel at the ready.
While social media monitoring is integral to any competitive intelligence strategy, it is often overlooked when it comes to competitive intelligence. And yet, social listening data and social media audience insights can provide valuable insights into the competition that would be difficult to obtain otherwise.
People are often quick to share their thoughts and opinions about brands. This transparency can be a great way to understand how people feel about your competitors. You can gain valuable insight into what people like and don't like about your competitor's products and services by monitoring social media conversations (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Infegy Trust score trends. Using social listening to monitor consumer expressions of trust Brand 2 and their major competitor, Brand 1. Trends suggest success of Brand 2's new strategies beginning in July 2022; Infegy Atlas data.
Social media intel to monitor the full landscape of your market
Another useful application of social listening for competitive intelligence is general market research in your industry. A platform like Infegy Atlas allows you to gain a bird’s-eye-view of an entire industry or market using a topic-clustering capability. Force graphs group and summarize all the main narratives so you can see the important areas of conversation, and identify areas of opportunity (Figure 4).
Figure 4: Infegy Narratives supercluster showing the conversation around a meal prep home-delivery brand (on the right), and a highlighted topic subcluster within a general conversation on easy meal-prepping needs (left); Infegy Atlas data.
Social Listening for Consumer Behavior & Insights
As we mentioned above, people share unfiltered, and unprompted opinions and feelings on social media. By diving into social conversations, you can gather fresh consumer perspectives that may not be divulged, or even prompted, in surveys or feedback questionnaires.
Related: Top 5 Gen Z Personas (free eBook)
Social media intelligence to discover and understand your audiences
People put a lot of information about themselves on social media, both in their posts and in their bios. The right type of social listening platform can make all this publicly shared personal information (demographic data, hobbies, likes, dislikes, profession, etc.) available.
Not only can you learn more about the consumers who share opinions and preferences, this information can be aggregated and quantified into reliable data. Demographic insights from social listening can help you understand who your audiences are, to build better audience segments and personas for product development, marketing, and sales strategies (Figure 5).
Figure 5: Key topics - when filtered to Canada, the conversation from the social persona of a particular beverage brand pointed to a new audience segment - streamers and gamers.; Infegy Atlas data.
But what about thoughts and feelings? How can those be considered valid forms of data?
They can, through the capabilities of a top social listening platform (like Infegy Atlas)!
These platforms are powered by AI and Natural Language Processing that can contextualize and convert subjective conversations (feelings, opinions, thoughts) into quantifiable data. Infegy Atlas’ linguistic analysis provides sentiment analysis, emotions analysis and word clouds of top topics and hashtags so that you can understand what people are talking about and how they feel about it (Figure 6).
Figure 6: Sentiment over time; the conversation around Budweiser during the World Cup 2022 showed that consumers maintained a net positive sentiment towards the brand, despite the ban on alcoholic sales.; Infegy Atlas data.
Use Social media intelligence to learn about consumer’s purchasing behavior
Social listening providers that give you the flexibility for deep social listening research (unlimited search, no caps on data or mentioned, unlimited queries) make it possible for you to hear and learn about all phases of the customer journey. Listening into conversations, you can learn what interests people, which products and services are on their radar, why they want to buy something, where they eventually spend their money, and how they feel about their purchase.we discuss social listening for market research).
Certain platforms even give you insight into how passionate consumers feel about certain products or topics – this is vital to understanding what motivates and drives certain groups of people over others (Figure 7). In fact, social listening is a great way to get robust, aggregate data (we discuss this further below when we discuss social listening for market research).
Figure 7: Top hashtags in the conversation from mom's discussing spiked sparkling drinks shows a decided interests in running, rather than dieting or losing weight; Infegy Atlas data.
Whether it's understanding their needs and desires, or discovering the next big trend that’s sweeping over your target personas, keeping a close ear on social conversations can help you understand audiences like no other data source. You can then use this to inform marketing and product strategies to connect with your audiences, and stay more relevant with them, and get them the goods and services they are interested in purchasing.
Social Listening for Market Research
Social listening is a great way to supplement traditional market research methods. Not only can it offer large, aggregate datasets, it can provide fast, qualitative insights that these methods typically lack.
Social media intel to inform product roadmap
Since social media users are quite open with what they enjoy, dislike, dread or eagerly anticipate, once these conversations are structured and analyzed through a social listening and analytics platform, you’ll find yourself with real, high-quality data. You can then use this for insights to inform product innovation, and net-new development.
For example, product development for non-medical goods for breast cancer patients had a heavy focus on hair loss. But the social conversation around hair loss from breast cancer patients showed high positivity and topics reflecting beauty, joy and acceptance. This led researchers to dive further into the conversation where they discovered that they should focus their R&D on products to alleviate nausea (Figure 8).
Figure 8: Post-volume showing conversation on fatigue and nausea was larger than conversation on hair loss; Infegy Atlas data.
Another example comes from the Buy Now Pay Later conversation, where demographic distribution (age) shows that different BNPL programs motivate varying volumes of conversation from different age groups (Figure 9). Insights like this can be used to create competitive programs or shape marketing strategies to target specific age groups.
Figure 9: Age distribution of the conversation and BNPL programs; Infegy Atlas data.
Related: Learn about key players and emerging credit concerns in the Buy Now Pay Later space (Insight Brief)
Social listening for trend analysis
Social listening data is one of the fastest ways to get data on trends. This is because social conversations are lively indicators of the volume of interest in a topic: rising and falling topics, hashtags, emotions, sentiment – all these metrics can be displayed as trends within a capable social listening platform. It can also uncover new and emerging customers!
Also, depending on the historical dataset captured by your social listening platform, you could review back as far as 10-15 years to examine historical trends on your brand health, the correlation between seasons and sales, or even the ebbs and flows in nostalgia items and retro styles.
Identified early, trends can present tremendous advantages in heavily competitive markets.
Social listening to identify new partnerships
When laying the groundwork to discover options for brand partnerships, collaborations, or endorsement matchmaking, you need immediate and comprehensive data on several fronts.
Social listening is a great place to start examining whether the options you have considered are:
- A reputational match for your brand.
- Whether the potential reach of your partner is sufficient for the campaign or market needs.
- If partnership gets your brand in front of the audience you are targeting.
Figure 10: Query overview of 3 months of conversation around a celebrity commonly known to be popular with Gen Z shows that they capture the interest of younger millennials as well; Infegy Atlas data.
If you already have a short-list of options prepared, you can quickly assess each of them, using social listening (Figure 10). Social listening for brand sentiment points to reputation, as does a sampling of the conversation around the brand in question. Social media metrics such as post volume and engagement can quantify how much online buzz a potential partner will generate, while also giving you an estimation of their fan or consumer base. And finally, a quick glance at the demographics can assure you whether the potential partner will draw the correct audience for your product or service.
Related: Learn how our client 20ten discovered the perfect videogame brand partnership for their CPG client (Case Study).
Whether you add it to your research matrix or use it independently for quick insights, social listening today is a necessary part of any process that requires consumer intelligence.
With more and more consumers sharing their perspectives online, it is the fastest and most efficient way to track what people are saying about you, your competitor or a topic that is vital to your work. So, stay ahead of the competition by making quick, data-backed business decisions.
See how Infegy Atlas could improve your research metric, request a free custom demo today.