What does the landscape look like on the other side?

COVID-19 has prompted rapid and profound changes in consumer attitudes and behaviours, many of which look set to continue. As we emerge from lockdown, brands need to quickly acquaint themselves with their audience’s new needs and wants. 

But what are they?

Traditional forms of research – qual or quant – can be time-consuming and expensive. But, there is another way: social data.

Social data gives marketers an opportunity to listen to what their audience is telling them on a daily basis, in order to surface valuable insight.

And as of this moment, social data is more useful and robust than ever before. There’s never been a higher volume of social conversation and engagement. During lockdown, social media gained an even greater share of people’s attention, with 39% saying that they have increased their social consumption. 

Here are just seven examples of questions that brands could answer using social data, to better understand their audience, in order to make more well-informed and insightful marketing and communications decisions.

How has the reputation of your organisation been impacted by COVID-19?

It’s no secret there have been corporate winners and losers in the crisis. Some brands have enjoyed new-found levels of trust or demand, while others have mis-stepped by being seen as opportunistic.

Example: During the Royal Commission we undertook a piece of research for one of the big four banks. Social data enabled us to analyse key themes and drivers of positive and negative conversations, and identify the critical audience cohorts who were active detractors or advocates. This then informed a sharper segmentation for their communications strategy.

What are audiences saying about your category, product or brand?

Simply listening to who’s talking and what they’re saying can be incredibly enlightening. As is always the case with research, there’s an art to asking the right questions of the data, but it holds great power of insight within it.

Example: We were engaged by the Australian Government to provide guidance on Australia’s efforts to counter violent extremism. They wanted to better understand where and how people were being radicalised online, in order to better inform their strategy to moderate extremism. Through social listening, we identified insights into who was influencing the conversation, what was triggering extremists’ narratives, and where they were talking. 

How has the competitive landscape shifted?

Share of voice has always been a critical metric for ensuring a brand is cutting through with awareness. As communication has shifted more and more heavily online, brands have not kept up by adapting their methodology for tracking share of voice on Social, especially earned conversation. 

Example: During the launch period for Samsung’s most recent mobile device, we delivered 24-hourly reports on Samsung global branded conversation, as well as that of their key competitors. Conversation analysis helped us draw out the pain points of their competitor’s products and the gain points that product reviewers were calling out about their new product. In this way, Samsung was able to amplify the messages that were resonating most strongly with the audience.

What are the triggers and barriers for usage or purchase of your brand or product?

In our experience, passionate marketers have an insatiable appetite for listening to what consumers think about their brands and products. Insights are being surfaced on Social daily, just waiting to be analysed.

Example: We work with a premium car brand, and in a recent review of their social channels we found that conversation around electric vehicles was polarised. Some consumers are eagerly awaiting their arrival, anticipating a more environmentally friendly alternative, while others are resistant to the innovation. We’re currently doing further analysis to better understand the profile of those who are most receptive to the product, in order to inform targeting as well as the messaging triggers and barriers to inform the campaign messaging.

In a world where physical interactions with customers have been inhibited, how do you keep your audience engaged in a dialogue to keep awareness, consideration and frequency alive?

COVID-19 has accelerated the growth of a number of online behaviours, including the uptake of online banking and arguably, once you’ve crossed the digital threshold, there’ll be no going back.

Historically, convenience of location of branch or ATM has consistently been one of the top three drivers of deciding which bank to choose. In a world where people are banking online and no longer using cash, banks are faced with the challenge of how to keep customers engaged, how to cross-sell, how to ensure a human face to the organisation and build a relationship when they may never see or speak to their customers directly.

Example: For a large telecommunications company we undertook a conversation audit to help them understand what topics enabled them to engage their audience in a conversation, rather than just act as a lightning rod for complaints. This helped to inform a wide-ranging community building programme to drive customer engagement, loyalty and advocacy. With social platforms now optimising for meaningful interaction (i.e. conversation, not ‘likes’), success on Social now depends on this.

How do you need to evolve your customer service in a social-first environment?

For the last five years, the volume of customer service shifting to social has increased dramatically, yet service standards have not necessarily been benchmarked for the channel. We often talk to clients about the need to be responsive to their customers’ expectations on Social using this analogy: if an angry customer walked into a service centre to complain about an issue and you left them waiting there for 14 hours, without any sort of response or managing their expectations about how long it would take you to respond, they would be very pissed off. Organisations need to see social service in a similar way. Especially as the customer’s experience will be overheard by others.

Example: For the last 3 years, we have audited the social service standards of Australia’s top service brands on behalf of a major energy provider. In the audit, we benchmark the brand across paid, owned, earned and social service channels to identify what is working and what needs improving so that they can continually lift their brand in comparison to the competition - crucial in the midst of rising energy prices. 

Who are the people influencing your audience? 

Just putting your ear to the ground on social makes it remarkably easy to listen to who and what are driving brand sentiment, so you can identify the naturally occurring signals around your product, or any unmet customer needs. You can then spend your precious marketing dollars on amplifying the lovemarks and solving for customer pain-points.

Example: We were engaged by a large sponsor of the 2016 Olympics to activate their partnership but needed a strategy that would help us cut through the clutter of other sponsor’s campaigns. We developed a campaign that aimed to drive consumer participation, but needed to identify the right voices to seed and ignite the conversations in order to create the groundswell of awareness and engagement. We used social listening to identify the loudest voices in sport and map their networks. We then did outreach to these communities to enlist their support with the campaign. The campaign was incredibly successful, driving strong engagement and helped our client win the largest share of voice of any sponsor throughout the entire period. It also drove strong uplifts in brand consideration, which was the ultimate objective of the campaign.

These are just a few examples of questions we’ve helped organisations answer using social data, but now more than ever, I see it as a marketing superpower waiting to be deployed.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash