4 Ways Brands can Turn Social Data into Consumer Insights


Using social media data to measure the impact of marketing campaigns is a thing of the past. Crimson Hexagon, CMO, Lou Jordano shares how marketers can use this data to uncover consumer insights

Too many managers say they use social media data “to measure audience engagement.” Cringe.

But the days of using social media data solely to measure marketing effectiveness are numbered. In the new order of things, **social media data should be a powerful force for uncovering consumer insights, which brands can use to follow the digital breadcrumbs that consumers leave behind on their path to purchase**.

The idea that social media should play a role in consumer insights research—and not just a channel for engagement and content sharing—is relatively new. Within the last few years, companies have begun to realize that, by expanding their focus beyond just brand interactions, social media can be a way for brands to better understand their audience, industry and reputation.

In other words, social media data has changed from a method for measuring marketing performance into an invaluable source of consumer and customer insights.

Digital marketing expert (and former Forrester analyst) Nate Elliot wrote about social media disconnectOpens a new window saying, “Most companies try to use social data for something it can’t do: proving marketing success. And when they try to use social for something it can do — providing insights — they very often fail.”

**The key difference between using social data to test marketing success and gaining consumer insights lies in what you measure and report on**. While marketing campaigns can be evaluated by counting followers, likes and shares, more nuanced metrics like customer opinion, emotion analysis, audience interests and demographics can help understand and better predict consumer behavior.

In this post we look specifically at how social data can help brands:

  • Analyze their audience
  • Understand emerging trends
  • Improve their products
  • Track their brand reputation

**Audience analysis Is at the core of mining social conversations for consumer insights**. If a brand is looking to identify their ideal target market, they should ask questions specific to their demographic profile to segment audiences better. Like how airline companies appease their frequent fliers to keep them satisfied with their service. Or how retail brands understand how millennials shop during holidays, so they can lure them into purchasing items. 

Brands can identify the target segment discussing relevant topics and the sentiment or perception they associate with the brand or product.

Studying the target audience proactively helps tailor the messaging and marketing campaign more efficiently. For example, identifying audience affinities can reveal a lot about an audience’s interests and topics of conversation.

Trend analysis — How can Lyft and Uber cash in on dwindling car sales? How can consumer product companies keep track of evolving diet fadsOpens a new window that influence shopping carts? Are millennials finally starting to care about personal finance?

The answers to such broad questions lie in noticing the winds of change in an industry. When companies identify common motivation and behavioral denominators underlying consumer dialogue, they can begin to spot the large shifts in an industry, which is critical to product innovation.

Spotting popular discussion topics, share of voice for each of them, and audience sentiment and perception towards a rising trend can provide insights on a paradigm shift.

Product strategy: What prodded Disney to think about a streaming service? Is Starbucks’ pumpkin spiced latte facing new competition in maple pecan? How did Kraft know to drop preservatives in its classic mac-n-cheese and Pepsi to do away with aspartame? They knew because they listened to consumer conversations on social and picked up on cues, then made the necessary changes to their product strategy. It’s the same reason why General Mills brought back artificial flavors to its best-selling cereal, Trix.

**Social media analysis of consumer conversations can save brands a lot of retroactive effort with product innovation**. As the market evolves with the consumer, brands need to stop to ask, “How quickly are consumers adopting these changes?” And, “How exactly can companies fill the white space between demand and supply of products?” Social media data is often the perfect place to look for answers to these questions and identify gaps in consumer demand and market supply.

Brand analysis: Shoppers love natural, organic produce at Whole Foods but not how much it costs. Uber needs a constant check on its brand perception and Chipotle can measure the consumer response to its GMO-free food.Opens a new window

When companies can identify key conversation around and audience sentiment of a brand, it helps them monitor perception and evaluate what’s working and what’s not. It can also incorporate those insights into their brand strategy. When marketing managers tune into brand-specific conversations on social, they can understand their audiences better. This goes a long way in making the dialogue more engaging, and the brand more personable. Analyzing the sentiment allows marketers to understand consumers with granularity and accuracy about what’s truly driving the conversation.

Marketers: Here’s what you need to do

If marketers are only using social media data to measure brand equity in likes and shares, they are blind to a treasure trove of insights waiting to be gleaned from social conversations. Social media analysis today serves different purposes for different use cases — whether it’s ridesharing companies like Lyft and Uber looking to gain competitive intelligence or Whole Foods Supermarket looking to understand what price point works for its customers. When you ask the right questions about a tailored dataset, it can open up a whole new realm of useful consumer insights.