Our guest author Nigel Choo says that social listening gives rise to consumer insights, which help brands ask important and better questions.
Social listening in 2022 has evolved into a more sophisticated practice, and its use cases have grown beyond the more commonly known aspects of brand safety and PR measurement. With the right social listening technology, brands today have unparalleled access to analytics covering consumer conversations across print, TV, online and social media.
Social data is proving to be a wellspring of consumer as well as category insights that leading brands leverage in order to fuel brand innovation and become future-ready.
Gone are the days when brands had the luxury to simply react. An advanced social listening strategy can, and should, be a critical component of a brand’s proactive, and even predictive, strategies.
Here are some best practices brands can use. This tutorial takes the nascent category of ‘plant-based foods’ as an example.
Stay on top of consumer trends that travel
Over the COVID pandemic period, our world, under various states of lockdowns, has proven the essential nature of the borderless Internet, as a medium for transmitting critical information, enabling contactless orders and deliveries, and also facilitating entertainment. In the process of becoming hyperconnected, consumers have also proven how both online as well as social media have helped to accelerate the travel of consumer trends.
The plant-based food category was one such topic which gained a lot of traction over the past year, with at least 870k ‘plant-based’-related results recorded across online conversations in the Asia Pacific region.
When mapped across geographical regions, we were able to identify an initial West-to-East travel of the plant-based food conversation. What may have once been a one-way flow of information, however, has now become a hugely engaging, two-way dialogue.
This digital ‘Silk Road’ of travelling trends, has created bountiful opportunities for India’s own traditional, plant-based cultures to travel worldwide through consumers and independent advocates. Take, for example, @BeExtraVegant – a YouTube channel created by Anjali, a France-based PhD candidate in physics, whose vegan Indian recipes have amassed a huge Internet following.
Leverage the power of UGC
UGC (user-generated content) has the potential for hypergrowth, which is why it is prime for brands and marketers to pay attention to its power. And, this is relevant to the content that is being generated by employees, consumers, influencers and even brand partners.
When choosing your influencers, or launching a UGC campaign, the emphasis of monitoring and selection of a target, has to be on quality of conversation and ambassadorship, in addition to the usual quantity metrics – likes, shares and engagements. Influencers within the same tier (by following) can vary largely, in terms of their levels of engagement, and conversation themes also possess different potentials for ‘travel’.
A strong social listening strategy can help you to study past and present conversation trends, in order to ensure that your sponsorship and storytelling strategy is optimised for growth.
Plant stories that last a ‘lifetime’
Insights into the existing stories and storytellers that have gained traction, can give your brand its much needed fuel for consumer awareness, consideration and conversion. In one example from our investigation into plant-based food stories, we saw in a virality map how an article from the Guardian ended up in constant circulation across countries and different mediums for no less than six months.
The mileage one can get out of a well-angled story, such as the example cited from the Guardian, is every PR professional and brand manager’s fantasy. And, with the wealth of social data that is available to each brand, you won’t need an additional business module to be studying some of these past successes – as the data visualisations and real-time reports speak volumes for themselves.
Consumer insights keep the brand love alive
Our final objective is leveraging social listening to discover patterns and connections that point to the consumer’s golden ‘Why’. For plant-based consumers, one of the three key ‘Why’ themes that was identified was consumers’ concern for animal welfare. This resonates with a widespread consumer trend we’ve observed in recent times, in terms of the transition of consumer concerns from the ‘Me’ to the ‘We’.
Both in India and across the world, social consciousness (even if it ends up being self-consciousness) has fast entered the mix of considerations for consumer purchase decisions across categories.
It is vital, however, for marketers to know how precisely this social consciousness translates into expectations of their brands. What does it truly mean for a fashion or a food brand to become more sustainable? Where should a brand’s sustainability strategies start and where should they land?
The beauty of leveraging social listening to get closer to your consumer, is that it becomes an ongoing conversation. For each business question, the technologies that are available to marketers today, ensure that there is a path to query both internal and external consumer data, and even establish important correlations.
An advanced social listening practice, gives rise to consumer insights, which help brands to ask important and better questions – paving the way for the daring and creativity that fuels innovation for future-ready brands.
(Nigel Choo is marketing manager APAC at Talkwalker)