Turning Social Media Listening Data into Actionable Insights

by Jen Bruce

posted on 10-18-2016

When people find products they love, they talk about them. Likewise, when they find products they don’t like, they also talk about those. The data we gather from these interactions is called social-listening data. The earned media that we gain from people talking about us and our products paints a true picture of our customers’ satisfaction levels. From our happy, devoted customers to our casual consumers and everyone in between — the good, the bad, and the ugly — we can learn a lot from this data. But, many companies struggle with how best to use the social-listening data they gather. They may acquire tons of quality data, but how does that help them drive better business decisions?

What Is Social-Listening Data?
Social-listening data is important — not to mention awesome — because it’s unsolicited insight that literally costs nothing to obtain. But, what is it, exactly? Social-listening data is content: earned media from our audience — our customers, the industry at large, even our competitors! This doesn’t include content that we or our representatives create; it’s content created by anyone but us. For example, if someone loves our products — or even our entire brand — and tweets about how awesome they are, we can gain insights just from viewing the level of consumer response generated by the tweet. Digital media gives everyone a voice, and we can leverage that by putting it in a context that will help us improve our products. We are not only hearing our customers’ thoughts and feelings, but also using those insights to drive important decisions regarding business operations.

How Can Social Listening Help Your Business?
So, people are talking about your product. Great! But now, we need to get down and dirty and really examine what people are actually saying about it. If you just released a new product and start seeing tons of social chatter and feedback about it, you really need to pay attention. What do customers like (or not like) about the product? Is it lacking in some way? How can you improve it?

Emotion plays a big part as well. Take into account not only who is contributing the content, but also what their emotional responses are. Passionate customers can truly drive product innovation. If experts — or, even better, your competitors — are talking in any way about your products, negatively or positively, the insights you stand to gain from them are invaluable. Let’s say, for example, you create a fantastic product that addresses customers’ needs better than any other product currently on the market. Your competitors might downplay the awesomeness of the product. Listening to both your customers’ and your competitors’ reactions to your products can help define your product marketing-strategy and -roadmap.

What Does the Data Mean?
Many people talking about a topic means a lot of people are interested. However, does lower volume automatically mean people are less interested? Perhaps people just don’t know about your product yet. Even having very little earned media — and thus, little data — can provide insights into the importance and relevance of a topic. Companies should also pay attention to whether interest is increasing or declining.

Sometimes, we may see a significant increase in volume surrounding a real-time event — a problem with a product, for instance. Social responses to product issues can have detrimental effects on the popularity of our products — or even our brand. If we were to discover that an increase in volume was due to some type of negative activity, we would certainly want to know what the volume of that topic was. Knowing those details helps companies make decisions regarding whether they should make proactive or reactive statements. The sentiment of the conversation is also very important. If there is a ton of chatter, but it is not relative to or contingent on the topic, a company may not need to make a statement.

One of the biggest considerations is, “What is the trend?” How much are they talking about the topic? Has it increased or decreased? And who’s participating in the social conversation? Are they experts? Brands? Customers? What topics are they discussing, and how deep can we go in that topical analysis? Virtual reality, for example. What about virtual reality are they discussing — new technology, specific products, how brands can leverage it? Who are the people who are talking about virtual reality? Are they gamers? Brands? Knowing who’s driving the discussion, and about what, can determine how your brand should insert itself into the relevant conversation.

The question then becomes, “What is the value in this data we have gathered?” How do we make it meaningful? Consider the trending topics in discussions people are having about your product or brand. If their feedback — whether negative or positive — is relevant and helpful, it is important.

The Bottom Line
A really important aspect of social listening is to actually listen as part of your content strategy. If you strive for thought leadership, you should have your finger on the pulse of what people need and want to learn and talk about. This can also allow you to proactively stay ahead of your competitors by answering the needs of your consumers. Are your customers even interested in that topic? Looking at volume data and trend data can be very helpful in the decisionmaking process for your thought-leadership role.

One can very easily be inundated with too much data, so you need to be very efficient in the type of data you listen to. Developing a focus for your needs — rather than looking at the entirety of your data — will help you make better business decisions.

Topics: Social