Last week, our Research and Insight Director Alice Bresciani took the stage at the Social Intelligence Data Summit to talk about how social listening can be used to unearth powerful insights, which are the foundation for great ideas and on-point communication.

Often many brands and marketers will focus their social listening analysis on metrics such as the volume of conversations, the sentiment behind them, the gender of the audience, and the top-line trends in the conversations; which can be pulled easily from any social listening tool.

In some instances, this type of analysis is exactly what clients need. However, there is so much more which can be uncovered through social listening. At its best, we can use it to understand people’s behaviours and brands can use that understanding to further shape their role in consumers’ lives, in a complex, highly social world.

Some brands have already been using social listening and talkability to inform great campaign ideas - KFC’s Dirty Louisiana campaign is a stand out example of this. But there is a lot of scraping and digging needed to uncover a truly good insight, and it’s easy for brands to get lost or sidetracked by the vast amount of chatter, opinions and complaints on the Internet.

To help brands navigate this, I’ve outlined the four types of social listening analysis - the “tools” - we use at We Are Social to help our clients dig deeper into people’s behaviours.

Identify patterns in conversations
For our clients, we often categorise a sample of conversation across social platforms and group them into themes. These themes feed straight into a client’s existing hypothesis or question. For example:

  • What themes / values is my brand mostly associated with? How about my competitors?
  • What are people’s needs and feelings across each stage of the consumer journey? How do they talk about these needs?

Do some Deep Listening
Deep listening is about conversations bubbling in smaller groups or online communities. It’s not about the big numbers or big trends, but about the smaller, niche truths. Often, these truths are initiated by one or two people and have the potential to spread across the web and spill over into the offline world. The memes subculture, and what it represents, is an example of that.

These can be trends in smaller communities or simply interesting individual examples that can be taken on by a wider group and propagated. Identifying these niche behavioural trends might be particularly helpful for brands that want to connect around specific passions, opinions, needs.

Recreate your brands’ existing segmentation on social
By profiling those people who are already engaging with a brand on social and are rallying around the brands’ owned hashtags, we can add a rich additional layer to who these people are, their passions, and the communities they are already connecting with. Ultimately, we would overlay these rich findings to a client’s existing consumer segments for further understanding.

Use social listening in conjunction with other research methodologies
We often recommend our clients to run social listening projects in conjunction with traditional research approaches (e.g. qualitative focus groups and quantitative surveys). We would then interrogate insights from qualitative and quantitative research with social listening, and use it to find further nuances, often in an iterative and agile process.

So to a recap, social listening can really be a useful tool and enable brands to get closer to understanding their audience than ever before. This process will be different for each brand when deciding how to go about it - picking the right tools from the toolbox is always crucial to any strategy - but when done right, will enable marketers to dig deeper, beyond simple charts and volumes, and straight into people’s true behaviours online.