Social media remains one of the most influential sources of information for the majority of people worldwide. Some fade, like Google+, if you even remember such a network, while others become increasingly popular, like TikTok or Instagram. Nevertheless, since the world has become mobile-first, everyone can now generate and share content in a matter of seconds. Marketers must also accelerate their social media analytics efforts to stay on the same page with their audiences.
Most brands use social media platforms as one of the marketing channels, forgetting that the main reason why people use these platforms is to communicate. You might argue that social media has become overly commercialized, as you can now buy directly from Instagram, for example, using Instagram shopping tags. However, the actual value, which may be less obvious at first glance, is the consumer insights brands can discover using social media listening tools.
Not only do people post reviews on products and services in their social feeds, but they also share consumption moments, even without realizing it. Tracking this data is essential for brands who want to meet the demands of their target audience and better appeal to prospects.
So, what are the key elements of listening to your audiences like a pro? In this article, you’ll learn how to use social media monitoring to improve your business processes.
1. Get to know your audience better
As a marketer, you probably want to tailor the perfect marketing messaging that will make your audience believe you can read their minds and truly understand their needs. Also, as a marketer, you should know that the process of learning about your consumers is never-ending. At the early stage, brands must ensure that their hypotheses about “the buyer persona” were correct and that the people they are targeting truly need the product or service. Following that, it’s time to test new audiences to win new markets. Then comes expanding to new countries and learning about local cultural differences, and so on. The list of situations in which you require to look at your audience in a new light is endless.
But where can you start and which social listening tools should you use?
The most common method is to start with general information such as demographics including geography, age, and gender. Even if this information appears to be obvious, it can serve as a foundation for further research of the situation. Social media is the ideal place to obtain all the listed information, as it is the primary platform where people share their lives, including their experiences with various brands, products, and services,
Social media data analytics platforms such as YouScan allow monitoring even those brand mentions that don’t have a hashtag or an active @ tag. These tools enable the collection of mentions from hundreds of thousands of sources, such as social media networks, online news outlets and blogs, review platforms, and so on. When you have complete data and know how frequently the brand is mentioned, you can make sure that the analysis is full and accurate.
Powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence, sophisticated tools can help define what men and women mention about particular products, and know what is commonly discussed in communities (and find specific communities).
Apart from that, examining social mentions in detail can reveal previously hidden insights about your customers, their preferences, and motivations. It might turn out that the majority of your buyers are not end consumers. Many brands, for example, target women since they buy more than men. According to Bloomberg, women are responsible for 70-80% of all consumer purchasing decisions. However, the real reason is not that women themselves use all those things, but rather that females continue to have major caregiving duties for children, parents, and even their partners, resulting in purchases on their behalf.
Meanwhile, demographics are also useful to determine the difference between women’s and men’s perception of the brand. Based on this data you can tailor engaging messaging and make data-driven decisions regarding the aspects that are discussed online.
For example, KFC is mainly discussed by men, while the general split by sentiment is nearly equal for both genders. Meanwhile, if we dig deeper and filter mentions by aspect, it turns out that women are more concerned with cleanliness, while men mention locations in their posts or comments as well.
It’s even possible to find out which emoji bring more engagement. Adding them to communication will make the brand appear even more human-centered.
A PRO tip: research which terms and phrases are most commonly used by your target audience when speaking positively about you, and then compile a “consumer glossary” that you can use in marketing materials.
2. Discover your strengths and weaknesses
The first and most basic yet significant metric is sentiment. Using machine learning technology, social media analytics tools are getting better at understanding the context of a sentence and automatically assigning sentiment to each post, which can be positive, negative, or neutral. This allows brands to monitor shifts in audience attitudes and respond quickly.
Monitoring spikes in mentions and their sentiment is vital, but it’s even more important to understand the reasons behind these changes. For example, someone shared a photo of a KFC-themed birthday party for a small boy. The scene was so cute that it triggered a very positive reaction online, and people began actively sharing the post, resulting in an increase in mentions.
While general sentiment analysis is a must-have for any social media analytics software, this data is still too superficial and cannot give you the whole picture of your brand. Hence, it’s essential to have additional features that will provide more details and make your social media analytics report way more insightful.
Assume you’ve discovered what people think about your brand in general. But what are their motivations and arguments for feeling this way? Could that be a sign of poor customer service in the store? Or was it the taste of your product that was so good?
Knowing what exactly causes this or that feeling in your consumers is critical to improving their entire experience and increasing your company’s performance. Here is when aspect-based sentiment analysis comes in handy. Again, all credit goes to artificial intelligence and machine learning, which analyze both the context and tone of posts to provide brands with helpful analytics.
Instead of analyzing general aspects for the entire audience, you can narrow them down by filtering by gender (as we already did in the first part of our article), geography, or tags representing specific products or services. For example, if your consumers complain about the availability of a specific product or the location of your brick-and-mortar store, perhaps it’s time to rethink your logistics and start looking for a more convenient location? Furthermore, remember to respond to all criticisms to make your consumers feel appreciated and demonstrate your care.
When talking about KFC, users mostly praise the taste of its food, but, unfortunately, many mentions include complaints on customer service. Even though it’s a fast-food chain, not a glamorous restaurant, guests still expect to get the service they deserve, and not receiving it can influence their decision to buy from KFC in the future. So, improving service should be the brand’s top priority in order to increase customer loyalty, average bill, returning visitors, and, as a result, revenue.
3. Compare your brand with your competitors
Aside from monitoring their own performance, marketers are always looking for ways to learn about their competitors’ metrics, and social media listening is an excellent tool for gathering this data. Of course, you won’t get “secret” information, but understanding how your brand compares will help you create your strategy and adapt to significant shifts in your competitors’ methods.
Modern social media analytics tools will allow you to create multiple topics at once. Some may feature your products or brands, while others may collect information on your competitors. That is, you may examine their demographics, most popular sources, analyze aspects, uncover the authors of the most influential mentions, and much more.
Fast food restaurants like KFC, McDonald’s, and Subway have a lot in common, yet their audiences vary slightly, at least in terms of how they leave feedback. As you can see from the dashboard, McDonald’s customers prefer to leave reviews on Google Maps, but Twitter is the most popular source for KFC and Subway. This data can be used by a brand’s customer service to determine where to focus first and which channels require greater attention and resources.
It’s also important to understand which topics are associated with your brand and your competitors when they’re discussed online. For example, aside from food (obviously), McDonald’s is frequently mentioned in conjunction with economic information. When you tap on the named indicator on the dashboard, you can go deeper and see that people are talking about the company’s employee wages and brand earnings in 2021. On the other hand, Subway is regularly discussed in terms of incidents that occur in its restaurants.
Yet, mentions can also be analyzed based on visual content, namely images containing your brand’s logos and competitors. When comparing fast-food brands, for example, it turns out that Subway’s logo appears on images with sports, particularly American football, more frequently than McDonald’s and KFC. What’s the reason behind it? Because Subway is working hard on its brand awareness and loyalty by sponsoring the National Football League and other sporting events.
While visual sports mentions are more general data, you can also make a more detailed breakdown and compare which particular sports are associated with your brand.
For example, if a brand wants to expand its efforts and choose a new direction, it can track whether a particular sport is “claimed” by competitors or if there is a free niche to fill.
Meanwhile, when it comes to analyzing objects such as food and liquids, KFC leads the pack on images featuring meals, while McDonald’s drinks appear on more photos than its competitors. One of the reasons for this is the variety of seasonal beverages offered by the chain and its dedicated coffee brand, McCafe.
It is critical for brands to understand which categories they are most closely associated with in order to tailor their marketing strategy accordingly.
4. Find new ideas for your marketing with visual listening
Now let’s examine visual listening in detail. First of all, only a few social media analytics tools can track both text and visual mentions, where the brand’s name was not even mentioned in the caption but appeared on the image. How can it do that, you may ask? The star of this feature is logo recognition, which can recognize logos even when they are rotated, small, or not fully visible.
But, you may wonder, what value do visual mentions bring? “Great value,” we’d say! Let’s start with the numbers. The amount of photographs shared on social media has skyrocketed in recent years. For instance, every second, 1,074 photos are uploaded to Instagram alone.
Meanwhile, social media images are the most authentic, representing our daily lives or the world around us. Consciously or not, we frequently include brand names in our pictures. Let’s say you ordered crispy and spicy wings from KFC and posted them on Twitter without a tag. Your friends and followers may not realize it, but after seeing this post in their feed, they may feel the need to grab a bucket as well.
KFC is so popular that parents make Halloween costumes for their children in the shape of the iconic bucket or dress them up as Colonel Sanders. Aside from this example, the Starbucks logo is frequently used on things that the business does not manufacture but that customers would like to have. For example, there are countless stationery goods, t-shirts and other clothing, decorations, and so on that the audience is willing to purchase even though they are not authentic. Perhaps it’s time for the brand to form partnerships with other manufacturers and develop a broader line of merchandise to meet the needs of its customers?
Aside from the brand itself, social media photographs provide significant customer insights. People share their habits and consumption situations, whether sipping coffee at work, in the park, or while driving a car. But how can you analyze a large amount of visual content to get those insights? Many social media analytics tools now feature AI-powered technology which can recognize thousands of scenes, objects, persons, and activities. All this data is then visualized in the form of simple graphs and interactive widgets.
Access to images that feature brands allows marketers to analyze the most common use cases as well as find promising scenarios. You might be surprised by how people actually use your product and how they combine it with other things. This is especially useful if your product is fresh to the market and consumers aren’t sure how it works. For example, if you discover that buyers experience difficulties, you can run a series of instructions or enhance your product communication.
Image recognition also helps determine the most engaging visual content. Knowing which settings generate the most likes, shares, or comments makes creating visual assets for marketing campaigns much easier. Alternatively, you might explore the most appealing photo locations in order to set your branded spot there or arrange an event.
5. Track the results of marketing campaigns
Last but not least, tracking and analyzing your marketing or communication campaigns is another way to leverage social media analytics. When conducting many PR or marketing campaigns at the same time, it can be difficult to track their effectiveness. Make sure the tool that you use gives you the ability to create custom dashboards, which are fully customized boards that can be filled with interactive widgets.
There are various techniques for gathering and visualizing the necessary performance metrics. The first approach is to design individual dashboards for each campaign. This could be useful if these campaigns are managed by different people and do not overlap in the same tab. Alternatively, if you need to compare multiple marketing campaigns in a single file, you can set the same metrics next to each other to see which campaign is more effective. Another method is to combine “before the campaign,” “during the campaign,” and “after the campaign” data on a single dashboard to track results over time.
Thus, you can always design a dashboard that is convenient for you and your team and track only the metrics that are relevant to your situation. For example, KFC’s most important widgets might look like this in the first few weeks of their pre-Christmas campaign in the US. The brand launched a limited-edition bucket accessory – Mitten Bucket Hugger. According to the brand’s Instagram post, the product was so desired that it sold out faster than you could say Finger Lickin’ Chicken Mitten Bucket Hugger.
The widgets on the screenshot below allow marketers to monitor which states and social networks people are actively posting in, as well as the overall sentiment at the time.
As you can see, social media listening tools have progressed well beyond simply gathering brand mentions and can now deliver extensive data to marketers.
Whether you’ve decided to try social media listening to improve your business or already have a software in place, it’s critical to select a vendor who can cover all use-cases and deliver actionable insights.
So, when selecting “the right one,” make sure you’ve double-checked all the capabilities that a tool may provide you, including pioneering ones like image recognition.
This is a post contributed from one of my marketing partners.
Hero photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash