Social listening has been the key component of the marketing technology stack for quite some time now. The entire landscape of social listening has been evolving continuously with new tools, greater adoption and its growing applications across business units. In this article, we will review some of the latest social listening trends that every marketer needs to watch out for.
Trend 1: Social Listening is going to remain crucial but brands would be re-evaluating the surface-level metrics
Social listening will continue to play a crucial role for the marketers in 2020 and beyond. While the focus of social listening was to gather actionable insights from a larger universe in the early days, marketers are now realizing that capturing what is being said by those who matter is more important than capturing everything that everyone is saying. Diving into conversations and sentiment analysis, marketers are getting more focused towards what’s being said rather than how many people are talking about a single post. For example, back in 2010, Wendy’s introduced its new fries. These fries were called “natural cut with sea salt.” For the first time in its 41-year history they gave their fries such a redesign. The inspiration to bring about this change came from insights through continuous social listening of a target group. Wendy’s was continuously listening to conversations of its customers on various digital properties and noticed that overall sentiment around sea salt was more positive, while their old-fashioned salt had more detractors. Wendy’s worked on that insight immediately and revitalized its fries. Brand Managers and Marketers have realized that long-term engagement far outweighs short-term spike in Likes. Instead of chasing a few viral moments, brands are interested in deeply analyzing what’s driving conversations, engagements, and even sales. And although Likes and Shares are certainly not going to become irrelevant, the trends towards the need for brands for deeper engagement hints that surface-level data is not going to suffice alone.
Trend 2: Focused Social listening would become more important than gathering data from just everyone
This is in continuation with my last statement. Marketers are going to be zeroing in increasingly on capturing engagement data of their target audience versus anybody and everybody. Target audience is the key here. Sure, brands would always want to reach as many individuals as possible because every prospect from the larger audience pool is a potential customer at the end of the day. But as far as social listening is concerned, the importance of data from target groups and communities defined by shared interests, a certain demographic segmentation, or passions would always make more sense than the generic data. For example, Nike aggressively uses social media marketing and it has social media profiles on almost all major platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc. Nike, instead of getting insights from non-users of Nike, decided to micro target its existing customers. They diversified their online presence by creating separate pages for most of its product lines catering to various target audiences. Brands would want to focus on actually talking with their targeted individuals rather than scratching the surface of wide-ranging demographics. And this strategy of focused social listening would pay off as it did in the recent past for brands such as Nike. Brands now feel more empowered than ever to respond directly to customers and speak their language.
Trend 3: Social Listening would play a key role in helping brands create more advanced, targeted and dynamic content
Most big brands would further increase their budgets for digital ads. And social media is going to be their best as far as digital channels are concerned. A few reports indicate that many brands prefer social channels to drive engagements now as compared to various other display networks they have been counting on in the past. One of the key factors driving this move is the availability of better engagement data and hence deeper insights of targeted audiences. Social listening will help marketers create more engaging social ads that convert – at least they would be able to create more relevant and more timely ads that would increase engagement by a huge percentage. For example, brands using inputs from social listening would create ads using tools such as Facebook’s personalized ad experiences. This tool helps brands reach out to their target audience dynamically just by changing formats (carousel, collection) and calls-to-action based on who it’s being served to. The recent introduction of Instagram shopping has also been triggered by the brand’s ability to serve customized ads based on the insights gathered through social listening. LinkedIn, too, introduced its dynamic ads featured. Very soon all social media platforms would join the bandwagon. Dynamic ads would continue to be innovative and delight their customers. McDonald’s, for example, showed a classic example of dynamic ads in Malaysia. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims take an early breakfast before sunrise and then fast until sunset. McDonald’s ran ads with customized Ramadan messaging, inviting Muslims to come in and break fast at McDonald’s. This has by far been the best example of distributing creatives precisely targeting the right audience with relevant content, context, and language. This campaign on social media by McDonald’s inspired by insights gathered through social listening drove a significantly higher engagement and sales.
Brands no longer would shy away from selling directly on social media platforms because they would very soon have plenty of options to be more targeted and use their social media accounts as the extension of their e-commerce platform.
Trend 4: Social Listening would push brands to re-define influencer marketing
As we read above, engagement matters more than mere likes. Insights from social media monitoring and listening has been helping marketers identify influencers that bring in more engagements vis-a-vis the influencers that bring in more likes and shares but no real engagement. The rise of fake influencers and the potential de-emphasis on “Likes” as an engagement metrics would gradually push marketers to shift their focus from mega influencers to more niche nano-influencers, a category that represents accounts with only a couple thousand followers. The concept is simple: smaller audiences are more meaningful and engaged versus an “influencer” that’s just chasing “Likes”. As per a recent “State of Influencer Marketing, 2019” survey by HypeAuditor, “the engagement rate of nano-influencers is twice as high as that of other groups of influencers”. The popularity of user-generated content has been on rise. Customers prefer to get social proof that a product is worth buying. They get this social proof by paying attention to the real customers who have bought a given product. And this trend of social proof for purchase is going to continue. So, unless a brand has an army of loyal customers who would continuously create real UGC, collaborating with nano-influencers to generate this content would be the best idea.
Trend 5: Social media listening would play a key role in driving innovation
The internet is flooded with examples of how brands are driving real innovations through social listening. There are no limits of innovations that brands can do in future as well by implementing strategies based on insights drawn from social listening. For example, by analyzing over a million comments about mascara online, the beauty giant, Avon, was able to come up with a product that it believes is their ultimate flagship product in its category. Through continued social listening, Netflix found out that a number of viewers fell asleep while watching shows. Although it is common for people to fall asleep while watching TV, Netflix saw an opportunity to show that they listen, and they are as creative as a great brand should be. So, based on this insight, they invented Netflix Socks – smart socks that can detect when a user starts dozing off. These socks send a signal to the user’s TV and pause the show. How innovative it is! All Netflix did was listen to its audience carefully on social media. In the next few years, we would witness more and more innovations that would be inspired by insights from social listening.
Trend 6: Monitoring Stories, Videos and Gamified Content would offer much deeper engagement data
Compared to the glossy, polished images in the regular Instagram feed, Stories open up opportunities to publish more authentic, off-the-cuff content. There is no value for Marketers in just pointing and shooting. The best brands on Facebook and Instagram track performance, perform A/B tests and replicate their successes. Story analytics primarily offer three types of insights – Interactions, Discovery, and Navigation. In addition, game analytics, in case of gamified content, offer a ton of additional engagement data. As the Swipe Up games are mostly custom designed, they can be customized for literally any kind of data a marketer needs. Stories analytics by the platform such as Facebook and Instagram, coupled with the game analytics can offer literally every insight that would ever be required by the marketers to achieve the best results. Domino’s Pizza Catcher is a classic example. What can be a better motivation for a pizza-lover to win a pizza just by playing a super interesting game on their smartphone! All you have to do is move your plate left and right and catch as many pizzas as you can in 30 seconds. 10 points for every pizza caught and 5 points for the elements of the topping! One can play this game 50 times a day to win more and more points without getting bored. Puma Riderball Game
Is another example. This is a very simple and engaging game that targets a young population that would certainly try out a game like this to win a pair of Puma shoes. The game is super simple with easy instructions and a cool interface. All you have to do is to clear the colored bars in the quickest possible time to unlock the hidden shoes. As more and more brands adopt gamified content for hyper engagement, social listening would soon move to the next level.
Trend 7: Social listening would become an integral part of market research, product development and customer service for many brands
Social listening is fuelling the product development for many great brands already. For example, L’Oreal identifies various industry trends using social listening and learns what consumers are asking for. Although thousands of brands depend on social listening for improving their products, L’Oreal goes a step further and uses social listening for some of the major brand decisions. In a classic example, when L’Oreal was once faced with a dilemma of which hair product to develop, they turned to social media to discover the most promising trend. The company researched user-generated content and unveiled their customers’ voice on social media. Analytics from Social listening, together with the analysis of Google trends, helped L’Oreal decide that they should go for “ombre” hair color trend and developed L’Oreal Feria Wild Ombre. The product became an overnight success. Another good example of how the brand uses social listening for product development is the “Reminders to Move” feature by Fitbit – a buzzing reminder that tells the user to get up and move a little bit. Taco Bell, revamped customer service with social listening. Not only do they interact with users just for fun, they also reply to customers’ complaints based on the insights from social listening. For example, when Taco Bell learned that the customers are often disappointed with cheese in their Quesalupa, they took a series of actions to ensure customer satisfaction. Very soon, market research, customer service and product development would depend on social listening insights for most brands. And as we move forward, we would see the increased adoption of social listening by more core and support functions of an organization.
The Road Ahead
The global social listening tools market is poised to rise at a considerable rate between 2020 and 2026. In 2020, the market was growing at a mild rate despite the fact that the entire globe was in the mercy of the pandemic. With the rising adoption of strategies by key players around social listening, the market is expected to rise above the projected numbers.
Sameer Narkar is the Founder & Chief Software Architect at Konnect Insights. Although a techie at heart, Sameer has a flair for story-telling and often wears multiple hats as a marketer, business developer and customer experience. He is been the brains behind Konnect Insights, which is the most preferred social listening and analytics platform.
Tags: Brand Marketing, Content Marketing, Customer Service, Digital Marketing, Gamification, Influencer marketing, Market Research, Marketing Innovation, Marketing Technologies, Product Development, Product Marketing, Social Analytics, Social Listening, Social Listening Tools, Social Listening Trends, Social Media Marketing