Trends & Features

Are you Social Listening?

“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” Oscar Wilde wasn’t necessarily referring to brands and products or retailers when he offered that wisdom, but the phrase reflected (if not informed) a generation or two of marketing and advertising.

Mad Men style ad strategy decreed that your brand or product needed to be in front of as many people as possible to maximise its potential. The view was that if you threw enough mud, then some of it will stick. But times have changed.

Recently I attended a presentation on Social Listening, which isn’t quite the legalised snooping as the name might suggest, but is an amazingly powerful data mining and analysis technique which can show us just about everything that is being talked about on social media – anywhere in the world.

We all accept that the volume of tweets, posts and comments posted is almost incomprehensible (for example 6,000 tweets, 800 Instagram posts per second – you get the idea), but to see them all brought together on one screen is quite something.

Many businesses struggle to commit enough resources for even minimal cultivating or maintaining of their social channels, whether that is customer services responses on Twitter or posting product photos on Instagram, but Social Listening takes things to a whole new level. It took me a couple of minutes to get past the Spooks-esque graphical presentation of the data which involved dragging one “influencer” node across the screen and watching how it affected the rest of the network, but the power of this was immediately clear. What I found mind-blowing was the speed and ability to manipulate so much data in real-time, in front of my eyes.

In 2018, Social Listening isn’t a science for simply informing best practice for social media content, it should be a way of managing and directing a business from top to bottom.

FMCG brands have entire teams monitoring global comments about their brand or their competitors, retailers can check the sentiments of posts made within fifty metres of their stores and product managers can immediately research what colours their consumers find desirable (maybe even using the image recognition software to scan images posted to Facebook or Instagram!). This instant research, instant feedback and instant measurement are invaluable for almost all departments of the business, and though it is a massive undertaking, both in terms of budgets and resourcing to harness and utilise effectively, when it’s done right it can lead to little short of world domination.

Our objectives are slightly more realistic than that but how can we put this phenomenal resource to work?

The overriding direction is simply that we don’t need to put our logos or products in front of everyone. Some people are never going to buy a pair of running shoes no matter what campaign we run. And that doesn’t matter, social listening and digital marketing in general gives us the power to market significantly more efficiently. It helps us find the layers of potential consumers who are open to our messaging. We can to use data to target every potential consumer with pinpoint accuracy. You’re paying per view or per click, so you need to make them count. Whether it is simple database management and sending tailored emails, or Facebook campaigns that only appear to users who have “running” or “sport” in their “likes”, we can now pick our segment and go for it.

There are brands out there who have built their entire business on this focussed approach.

There’s no need for anyone outside their target market to see this communication and take up focus and spend. These brands may be unheard of to consumers outside their target group, but to the parts of the socio graphic segment that has been identified, they will often appear much larger than they really are. By serving focussed social media and retargeted digital ads on the websites that consumers regularly visit, that group will feel that they see the brand everywhere. By making this content engaging and more than simple display ads or banners, we can increase that feeling even more.

Three brands who register in this scope would be Harry’s (men’s shaving products), Spoke (men’s apparel) and Glossier (women’s skincare and cosmetics). They are each at different points of their development, but through their respective (aggressive) growth, each punches well above its weight using the power of social media amplification.

I’ve never seen an ad for Glossier in my life, but that’s because I’m not often in the market for women’s skincare and cosmetics. Yet after three separate colleagues mentioned them independently to me I did a little research: millions of consumers have found this brand through its targeted marketing. Glossier started as a beauty blog and is now taking on the huge brands it used to blog about. That is monumental growth and in a marketplace which a whole lot more competitive than ours.

If those little guys can harness the power of targeted digital marketing, just by taking the first steps, surely we can too.

It turns out that the listening is the easy part, it’s talking back to the right people that takes the effort, but boy, it can be worth it.

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