What’s next for Social Listening?

Eleazar Santos

1 August 2019

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The Cambridge Analytica scandal has certainly made things a little more complicated when it comes to monitoring online conversations. Users are becoming increasingly concerned with protecting their privacy online and it’s now harder than ever to access Facebook’s API in order to collect information. Customers define brands by their voice, and our task is to find ways of gathering and processing data that take into account privacy, help us to improve engagement and strengthen the consumer experience.

The social listening currently relies mostly on platforms like Twitter, blogs and forums as social sources by default; the Facebook ecosystem is highly restricted. This scope could be useful though depending on the industry and the country, said Carla Domingo, Account Executive at Clarabridge, arguing that telecom companies profit from valuable conversations about their brand or competitors. However, in other cases, the listening scope may be too short to be useful.

We need to tap into the right methodology if we want to extract the best and most valuable insights, with a robust automation technology to ease and speed up the process. Most importantly, we need to be able to look back and to understand past interactions in order to anticipate future interactions. Social listening offers great intelligence capabilities, as long as we blend this technique with other research tools to provide a better understanding of our stakeholders… and if you wonder which other techniques, check out our webinar Data driven research marketing tools.

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A matter of data sources 

Listening may have some apparent limitations if we rely on vanity metrics (likes, comments and shares). Asking the right questions upfront and making sure our query set up is accurate may lead us to where and what we should listen to. Moreover, it is recommendable to have a reasonable volume to extract conclusions from (we love to start from roughly 5,000 valid conversations). 

Data policies are continuously becoming more restrictive, and working alongside platforms is a top priority for social listening vendors. The volume of data from Twitter is bigger as it is an important partner for them, but they are also working alongside Facebook, given recent changes to meet transparency and data privacy policies fulfilment. It is very important to bring social data along with other sources for a compelling vision.

“Brandwatch monitors up to 95 million online sources and more could be added on demand (…) we must combine social data with other key sources, such as Salesforce, Google Analytics, sales, product stock, etc.,” pointed out Isabel Pelaez, Content Creator and Community Manager at Brandwatch. On the other hand, data may be conclusive only given a time and context, and it is very important to be aware of potential cognitive bias, as recommended Ivan Fanego, Branded Content and Social Manager from ING Spain and a recent post for the vendor.

A recap of social listening utility 

What can we accomplish through social listening? Here is a series of examples:

  • Brand management:
  • Content strategy:
    • Creating compelling content is the only way to rise above the social media noise. With social sharing on the decline and news feed algorithms continuously changing, we need to understand what kinds of conversations align most closely with our brand ethos – solo or third party? It’s not enough just to broadcast your message to the world – it’s all about listening to and engaging with your audience.
    • Good Rebels was hired by Deutsche Bank in order to design a communications strategy that would raise awareness of their product portfolio within the Spanish market. We analysed their publica communications agenda, the practices of their competitors, and the practices of independent financial influencers using Brandwatch, Twitter trending topics and Google Trends. We analysed topics related to investment funds, personal finance, mortgages, pension plans and business solutions. In this case, social listening revealed a number of valuable insights including insecurities around financial terminology, the most effective times throughout the year to broadcast messages related to finance, as well as how to use football to explain finance to non-financially minded people.
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  • Influencer marketing: 
    • Effective influencer marketing is difficult to achieve – many social media experts have suggested that the influencer bubble may be about to burst. When identifying influencers, it’s not about size of community but engagement rate. Our advice would be to put together an army of ambassadors – a mix of micro and macro influencers – in order to avoid burnout. 
    • If you’re working in an industry like fashion, retail, video games or sport – influencers may be relatively easy to find. Other industries – like mental health – prove more challenging. When Good Rebels was asked by Otsuka Laboratories to identify relevant influencers – we developed an index where we assessed the most impactful influencers in the mental health space, organised by type (amplifiers or broadcasters?) and platform. Social listening allowed us to build relationships based on shared values and not on financial incentive. 
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  • Customer experience:
  • Crisis management:
    • Sometimes brand management means handling a crisis – or avoiding them where possible. There are plenty of platforms that can help us identify potential threats through variations in conversation volume or the appearance of relevant keywords, and then send out automatic notifications in real-time to relevant stakeholders. For instance, we defined a crisis protocol for Chiesi Lab and its medicine portfolio in order to gather intelligence from the market to support its decision making process.

What’s the future for vendors? 

Social listening companies are no longer just technology providers, but market analysis tools (and consultants). As for their future, Carla Domingo, from Clarabridge, pointed out that, as content is mostly visual and with little text, current efforts aim to extract valuable insights from videos and images through artificial intelligence.

Isabel Pelaez, from Brandwatch, expressed that product development will be focused on extracting better insights in a shorter period of time. ”Artificial intelligence will simplify and shorten processes, but it also depends on the data corporate culture, as it must be used for better marketing decisions at all levels, from the community manager up to the CEO.”

We are entering the Digital Consumer Intelligence era, where consumers are the true centre of business. By developing a fuller understanding of our competitors, the industry at large, and consumer perceptions of our brand, we can be proactive about shaping our brand and our business.