With the exponential growth of social media networks, most businesses, particularly their marketing teams, appreciate the power those channels provide. However, the views many have on social media are one-dimensional, seeing it as a broadcast tool to shout out messaging and promotions. While there is certainly value in this approach, it only addresses a portion of the strategic impact social media can have on marketing initiatives.
A Universal View
First, many marketing organizations see the “social universe” as focused on Facebook and Twitter, with perhaps YouTube and Pinterest included for some. This view is equivalent to seeing only a limited portion of one’s own galaxy. Sure, these sites are massive in terms of volume, but the “social universe” goes way out beyond these networks to include millions of blogs, communities, boards, forums, news sites, etc. that are often more relevant to finding insight from the customers of your brand.
It’s understandable why many marketers limit their social focus to one or two networks. After all, managing and tracking millions of channels becomes a daunting task, even for an entire team. However, the biggest sources do not typically equate to the best for your product and business when it comes to consumer insight. Often, the consumers, advocates and evangelists of your brands are interacting in specialized communities or channels. To find them, you have to expand the scope of your view holistically to the entire social universe relevant to your brand.
Can You Hear Me?
There’s a lot of discussion about listening to your customers across social networks. This provides a wealth of insight no survey or focus group could ever provide – if done correctly and effectively – to deliver immediate, actionable insight. Many companies today are using limited keyword-based tools to simply search across a small segment of posts to get “buzz” and sentiment on their brands. The problem is that “buzz” and sentiment are often inaccurate, difficult to translate and rarely, if ever, actionable. Coca-Cola is one of the most recent companies to concede this fact, saying “buzz” has no impact on their sales and that they are often unable to discern if sentiment is positive or negative.
“Buzz” may show, accurately or not, that your brand is liked or disliked in the market, but it won’t tell you why or provide the intelligence to actually act and make an impact on this sentiment. Rather than running some keywords against a snippet of social commentary posts, many leading companies are realizing that the size and complexity of social media makes it a big-data problem.
As such, these companies are turning to streaming big-data solutions that have the ability to ask complex questions against millions of posts in a second. Questions like:
- Who is ready to buy my product at this moment?
- Why do customers decide to abandon my brand?
- What is the consumer’s path-to-purchase for my product?
- What are the unmet consumer needs that exist within my space?
- What are the specific demand moments and decision points impacting my brand?
To answer these sorts of specific, complex questions to get actionable intelligence, smart companies are using a combination of streaming big-data processing and concept model networks in place of keyword lists. Keyword lists will find the consumer who posts using the identical keywords selected, but it will miss the majority of consumers who post a concept in infinitely different ways, never mentioning a defined keyword, brand or product specifically. And, with social media, finding a consistent pattern of lexicon is nearly impossible, making the keyword methodology increasingly obsolete.
For example, a consumer posting, “Heard the grinding again for the third time this morning,” indicates having repeated issues with a car. However, there was no mention of straightforward keywords like “car” or a specific make or model. Our brains can identify this through parallel processing, which complex concept models can also accomplish. The issue with keywords is that selecting them is essentially a guessing game, and in today’s social age, consumers don’t post using traditional lexicon. This is why complex concept models, which identify concepts using thousands of potential inputs, are critical to social discovery.
A Big Data Over “Buzz” Perspective
For marketing organizations using basic keyword tools to “listen” to (typically a snapshot of) the social universe, the best they typically can hope for is superficial “buzz” on their product or brand. The issue is that this “buzz” is vague and often inaccurate, and, what’s worse, it is largely not actionable.
Social and open commentary is big data – billions of daily posts from hundreds of millions of individuals across millions of sources. Marketers wanting to gain the advantage of what essentially is the ultimate unbiased focus group need to adopt an adequate big-data solution that can handle the streaming volume, velocity and variety of the data, while asking very complex questions using the concept models discussed above.
Those companies using an advanced big data social intelligence solution gain an incredible advantage over their competitors by understanding their consumers, markets, products, brands, influencers and, yes, even competitors better than ever before.
A Widespread Impact
Companies adopting advanced social intelligence solutions find a wide array of valuable applications for their marketing organizations. Among these common applications are:
- Demand Moments: Identification of consumer interests and activities to pinpoint engagement channels to build market strategies and media plans.
- Consumer Personas: Deep understanding of consumer behaviors, preferences, themes, interests, lexicon and activities to construct personas for enhanced reach.
- Path-to-Purchase: Robust analysis of the path-to-purchase for specific products, including decision factors, milestones and trends.
- Competitive Inspection: Comprehensive analysis of competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as consumer decision points and abandonment motivators.
- Market Entry: Market evaluation of established products in terms of consumer sentiment, market traction and unmet needs for opportunity identification.
- Innovation Drivers: Powerful consumer insights on a variety of levels that drive product development, brand positioning and overall marketing strategy.
- Market Testing: Efficacy measurement and validation of promotional campaigns, marketing channels, product quality, packaging, positioning and messaging.
A Changing World
The ability to understand consumers, markets and competitors has never been more powerful, allowing organizations to bypass the bias of surveys and focus groups and go way beyond “buzz” to achieve true consumer insight. They do this by treating social media as streaming big data that requires advanced processing technology and concept model networks to address the volume, speed and complexity of the open social content.
Once unlocked, this advanced social intelligence is making a company-wide impact across marketing, products, brands, research, insights and innovation by delivering true, unbiased insight like never before to drive decision making, market strategy and innovation.