Despite protests against essays and term papers in school, it turns out people actually love creating content, especially when it is broadcast in real time.
Ninety percent of the data humans have amassed from the first cave painting to the latest tweet emerged in the last two years, largely thanks to people’s passion for creating and sharing content online.
Yes, the number of tweets has stagnated at 500 million per day, but emerging social platforms and tried-and-true media outlets and blogs have set us on a trajectory in terms of content creation.
According to social influencer Mark Schaefer in 2014, 500 percent is a conservative estimate for how much the Web will grow by 2020. Yes, people are sharing selfies and brunch pictures, but they also are increasingly engaging in intelligent, meaningful conversations that brands can harness for strategic insights.
“If a brand isn’t analyzing social [conversations and behaviors], it’s going to miss a majority of the conversation now and especially in the not-too-distant future,” says James Rubec, Cision Canada’s Content Marketing Manager.
“Millennials are poised to ratchet up social media volume, making it the primary means of content distribution and real-time analysis essential.”
The volume of conversation may seem intimidating, but with the right strategies and contextual social insights, you can build audience personas, track influences along the path to purchase and leverage social data for a more targeted business strategy that hits your bottom line.
Companies that understand social media’s impact on their brand, business, and marketing strategy benefit in myriad ways. Below we’ll take a look at how social intelligence helps you better understand your:
- Target audiences
But first, let's explain a little further why this is something you should bother with at all.
Why Social Analysis Is Essential to Success
If you are not analyzing social data, you are missing an opportunity to generate nuanced insights faster and less expensively than via other research modalities such as surveys, focus groups, ethnographies and more. The ability to quickly hone content and messaging strategy on the fly to improve relevance allows you to pivot mid-campaign and recognize better results rather than waiting until four to six weeks after a campaign is completed.
Social data can help to connect the dots for marketers and communicators as well. Social analysis can be used to help explain a drop in NPS scores in July, for example, or why you’re seeing a drop in sales among millennials in a specific region. The ability to align research frameworks and utilize various lenses and segmentations to view the data produces richer, more actionable findings.
Despite those capabilities, two-thirds of brands don’t have contextual social insights into the motivating factors behind audience behavior. Moving beyond understanding what is being said about the brand to more insight into what attitudes and perceptions exist and how they shift over time, or in relation to particular campaigns and initiatives, can inform strategic planning. What content drives engagement, interaction and behaviors? What drivers move a consumer along the path to purchase or influence a response to a call to action?
Insight into consumers’ habits and preferences, unmet needs and pain points helps both marketers and communicators make better strategic decisions.
Discover What Your Target Audiences Are Talking About
“As an industry, we are moving beyond blunt metrics like share of voice and sentiment toward contextual insights drawn from integrated media intelligence,” says Michelle Vangel, Vice President, Insight Solutions at Cision. “The ability to understand perceptions about your brand and reputation risks among various audiences you are targeting such as customers, prospects, employees, or investors informs strategy for objective setting, content and messaging direction, operational tactics, measurement frameworks and more.”
A better understanding of where you are and what you’re up against competitively provides the ability to see how you’re moving the needle over time. What is working against your objectives and what needs adjustment?
The enormous amount of data available via social analysis makes it easier for brands to understand the demographic and psychographic profiles of those audiences as well.
Demographic profiling helps to determine who your target audience is in terms of age, sex and location among many other variables. Psychography helps you understand that audience’s personality, values and interests based on how they behave on social media. What do they post? What do they like? Being understanding both who your audience is and what they value will allow you to create more targeted campaigns.
“For a long time in marketing and public relations, building personas was a time-consuming challenge,” Rubec says.“With social analysis and the amount of data it provides, persona building becomes much less resource-intensive.”
In some instances, whether analyzing a real-time event or your brand in general, you may find audiences you had never considered before. The maker of a hair removal product, for example, found that many in the cross-dressing and transgender communities discussed and recommended their products.
“This was a group the brand had never considered before and through social listening were able to identify an entirely new group with a specific set of needs,” said Cision Senior Insights Analyst David Cullen. “You can also use social data to determine if people are using your product in new or off-label ways. It may shed light on ways to expand an offering or fulfill a need that a brand was unaware of.”
Here’s how you go about it:
Step 1: Separate by demography
Segmenting your target audience by age, industry, geography and other identifying factors enables you to better visualize their needs and speak to them with more targeted messages and content.
Cision recently analyzed the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and broke down where the most conversation came from by state. California led the way in total volume of social mentions, but if you were to adjust for the population of each state, you would see that Washington, D.C., as one may guess, had a much more engaged audience.
Identifying the regions in which people have the most to say, for example, can help you provide targeted communication without bothering those likely less interested in an event with an extra touch.
Step 2: Segment by psychography
A psychographic picture of your industry allows you to understand how your target audience feels about issues and reacts to the content you share.
Considering that 67 percent of B2Bs and 63 percent of B2Cs rate their content marketing as less than effective, most brands would stand to benefit. Even if you are in the minority, your brand can likely still find opportunities for improvement.
“[Social analysis] can help you truly understand purchase drivers among different audiences and where share of voice fits into that so you can see how you are moving the needle over time,” says Vangel. “If your goal is to create awareness with millennials but driving engagement with generation x, you have to look at things more granularly to provide more value.”
Understanding people’s interests is extremely valuable to persona building and driving sales. By gathering contextual insights from segmented social analysis, your brand can avoid losing opportunities and increase the competitive edge by focusing on what your audience wants to read, share and engage with on social.
Step 3: Filter
“Filtering data enables brands to really sift through and find the needle in the haystack, which is the person most interested in your content,”
Rubec says. “With the right social analysis, you can automate that search and act as a magnet to find that needle, filtering through layers of data to find your target consumer.” Retailers, for example, might want to have filters for mothers, fathers, millennials among others, to identify the needs, wants and pain points of each group, and provide the messaging and content to introduce them to your brand and its offerings.
Better Understand Your Industry and Competitors
At the most basic level, social analysis will show you what messages, content and tactics competitors use on which channels and how their audiences respond. You can use these insights to inform your own communication strategy, whether it’s to directly compete with them or to simply pivot the strategies you’re using.
Synthesizing these conversations enables you to identify what resonates, and what doesn’t, with a particular audience. From there you know when to engage with them in a particular moment or whether to pivot content strategies.
Here are four steps to better understanding your industry through social analysis:
Step 1: Plan in advance
The key to being able to react quickly to a real-time event involves taking time to think about and set up your program to get the relevant, valuable data you need.
“It’s more difficult to backtrack when attempting to analyze social media,” says Rubec. “The more time you take at the front end, the less time it will take at the back end.”
To make data analysis easier, Rubec recommends structuring your analysis around the user handles, topic hashtags, and industry keywords you want to evaluate. Analyze even the smallest competitors because the biggest innovation and disruptors could be coming from them. To build those filters, speak with subject matter experts or third-party analysts, like the Cision Global Insights team, who can help you foresee what will be discussed.
Step 2: Cast a wide net
One mistake many make in social analysis is focusing only on branded conversation. “Traditionally brands look at themselves and their competitors but are missing opportunities at thematic or industry levels to uncover emerging issues, up-and-coming competitors, and unmet needs of consumers,” says Vangel. “[Social analysis] is a discovery mechanism to maintain or gain a competitive advantage.”
Remember, people may not mention your brand by name or use the hashtag you so carefully crafted. Cast a side net to include misspellings and parodies of your brand’s name to better enable you to catch all that is relevant.
For example, if your brand needed to identify new potential customers, you wouldn’t want to limit yourself to those already interacting with your social posts. With a strategic social analysis program, you could focus on conversations around similar topics and among competitors’ followers to understand what motivates people to get involved in the discussion. Pinpointing those motivators enables your brand to shift its communication and content strategies to include them, thereby increasing the size of your audience and eventually your customer base.
Step 3: Benchmark against competitors
Understanding the performance of your campaigns and real-time interactions versus your competitors provides an idea of the true effectiveness of your communication.
For example, if you’re only focusing on share of voice, you may think you’re losing the social media battle. But without moving past the quantifiable data to the qualifiable data you won’t be able to truly know how your brand stacks up against your competitors.
Your analysis should include looks into how often your competitors post on social media, what do they like or favorite, what types of posts do they comment on, how they respond to their audiences as well as the type—and context—of content distributed.
Step 4: Analyze pre/post campaign
Just because an event or a campaign might last only days or weeks, if it’s successful, it will have ripples for days or weeks after. It’s best to analyze for at least two to three times as long as you think the conversation will be happening, even if that's after the campaign has ended.
Even if there isn’t a lot of buzz about the event long after its conclusion, you may be able to use the remaining chatter to pinpoint those who are truly engaged and cater future campaigns or messaging to them.
What This Means For Your Brand
Social analysis allows you to listen in on what your identified audiences and competitors are talking about in an organic and inexpensive way. No posed questions, no multiple choice answers, no drawn out focus groups that drain both your time and budgets, but truly unrestricted, direct-from-the-source insights on what matters to your customers and prospects.
“We find the deepest insights in the discussion forums where people have a shared purpose,” says Vangel. “They come together, establish trust and build relationships and then their discussion spans topics or issues that drew them to a community in the first place. This behavior provides a great opportunity for very inexpensive research that is unprompted and quick.”
From these conversations you can gather contextual insights about your audiences unfiltered sentiment towards your brand. Then create a plan to pivot your messaging as needed to harness their successes as testimonials for your product or service, create relevant content, and address the unmet needs.
Social Media’s Importance Poised to Grow
Millennials are making social the primary means of communication, and for the most part, older generations are accepting social media as a necessary part of daily life, too. This will only become more prevalent as social platforms develop new ways to engage consumers—enter Facebook Live and Snapchat’s Discover feature built specifically for brands.
Additionally, Twitter recently signed a contract to broadcast 10 NFL games live on its platform at a cost of $1 million each. Comcast, long resistant to cord-cutters, recently raised its data cap to 1 terabyte, more than triple the previous cap of 300 gigabytes. “
Social intelligence is important today, but as we transition to a social-first world, it will become the most important thing,” Cullen says. “That’s not a far-off prognostication. It will happen in short order. Today more than 60 percent of North Americans use social media. In a generation, that will be closer to 100 percent.