This is the second in a series of blog posts sponsored by the Social Science for Social Media Research Center at the Institute for Public Relations
Today’s savvy PR experts are utilizing social listening and analysis for myriad purposes in the course of their day-to-day work – not merely during a crisis. Psychographic profiling, campaign analysis, competitive intelligence and reputation analysis are among the ways that PR teams are using social intelligence to help them be more nimble and effective in planning, executing and measuring programs.
Social listening and analysis are tools that enable a brand to get inside its customer’s head and uncover her top concerns, where she shops, whether or not she is bargain-focused and what key topics are most likely to engage her interest. Companies that formerly considered social intelligence as an addendum to traditional psychographic research have learned that using social intelligence first uncovers key themes, which has a two-fold benefit:
- It better informs the questions the client will choose to explore through traditional research (frequently reducing the time and cost of traditional research), and
- These key themes can be used as a launching pad for future outreach to the target customer. (Example – target customer is prone to discussing how busy the back-to-school time of year is for her; the client could craft outreach that would appeal to her during those weeks).
Social intelligence is a tool that can be used to great effect during all phases of a campaign, enabling teams to identify broad themes of topic discussion, craft messages that will resonate with their target audience, see real-time results of a campaign’s impact and analyze the success of a campaign to inform future improvements:
- Early in campaign planning, clients find social listening extremely useful in its ability to identify key themes in social discussion about a certain topic or question. (Think ‘how are people talking about sugar?’ and “how are people discussing a healthy lifestyle?’). Social listening allows PR teams to glean information from a large audience and use that information to bring a better-informed, more targeted approach to traditional research, such as focus groups.
- During the development of campaign messages PR teams utilize social intelligence to determine whether messages are crafted in a language that will resonate with their target audience. This can be particularly informative in helping to refine message language for unique social channels.
- Social listening can provide real-time monitoring of a how a campaign is playing out during a product launch or an event. It can also prompt on-the-fly adjustments (think Oreo and its Super Bowl XLVII “Dunk in the Dark” tweet).
- Post-campaign analysis utilizing social intelligence tools provides valuable feedback for evaluating program efforts.
When marketers think about competitive intelligence, they usually imagine market research projects and timelines that range from six weeks to six months. Today however, competitive social intelligence gives PR and marketing a real-time tool for tracking a brand’s competitors and determining that brand’s personae.
Why is this valuable? At any time of day, a PR professional can see how that brand is behaving online, determine the type of content (and consistency of that content) and understand its social media platforms of choice. Insights could include:
- Why one brand trends higher than others for discussion during the holiday season (think Starbucks),
- How certain audiences are discussing brands (think teens and Taco Bell), and
- Where discussion goes beyond the obvious topic (think weightwatchers.com, where forum members discuss everything)!
Using this information, a smart PR team can determine messaging strategies that will upstage competitors’ efforts. The same social intelligence can help identify areas of the social ecosystem where those competitors do not have a strong presence, giving the brand an opportunity to shine.
Social discussion has joined traditional media coverage in having an integral impact on corporate reputation. By segmenting social discussion using proven reputation drivers, clients learn how their company and their competitors fare on each driver over time, allowing them to quickly adjust communication plans to strengthen reputation. If a crisis does occur, clients with an established program for tracking corporate reputation are in a better position because the impact of the crisis can be assessed in context of long term trend rather than a mere point-in-time analysis.
An Evolving Space
The reasons for utilizing social listening and analysis are constantly evolving as are the social channels themselves. The beauty of this is that PR teams are not confined to a rigid approach to social intelligence; thinking outside the box is both necessary and beneficial. The most agile social intelligence tools will allow clients the flexibility to choose different approaches to discussion analysis as needs evolve. With the tremendous growth of stakeholders talking in social media, listening and gleaning insights from the discussion has never been as important as it is today.
Marsha Robie is a lead analyst at Visible Technologies with more than 15 years of experience focusing on the power of media research.