We’ve frequently discussed the importance of context in making data-driven decisions.
Context helps us answer the question: what’s unique about our data? What separates our brand from our competitors?
When you look at a volume map of conversation across the US, unless you’re examining local dialect, New York and California will almost always garner the highest volume. You’re not special – it’s not that your brand is necessarily more loved in coastal states. Rather, these states just house more people online.
Context is key. When there’s an average to compare to, we can begin to see which states a topic over or under-indexes in.
Of course, when it comes to social media data, identifying the mean can be difficult. More specifically, it means capturing a massive volume of data.
But when the marketing team started to debate what it meant to prefer vodka, tequila, or beer, it became abundantly apparent that we’d need that data to put the question to rest.
Naturally, the first step would be to identify our benchmark dataset. We ended monitoring the Twitter activity directed at 47 alcoholic brand-owned Twitter accounts.
We then examined the interests of authors discussing each of the brands over the course of three months (July – September), gathering the interests of the authors behind 234,067 mentions of alcohol brands. That’s a lot of booze.
That helped us identify our first core benchmark: the average audience interest across all alcohol brands.
Unsurprisingly, Food & Drinks, Sports, and Music are among the most prevalent interests for alcohol brands, followed by Family & Parenting, Books, and Business.
Again, on its own, this tells us little about the alcohol industry. But comparing alcohol interest data against a set of other industries, as we did in The Social Outlook, we can begin to understand what is unique about the alcohol industry.
People that engage with alcohol brands are more likely to be into Sports, Food & Drinks, and Music than people that engage with other industries. They’re less likely to interested in Books, Technology, and Politics.
Now we’re getting somewhere. But we still haven’t answered the initial question: what does your affinity for whiskey say about you?
To find out what separates the beer drinkers from the whiskey drinkers, we needed to compare how the interests of those discussing each subgroup or alcohol type deviate from the average of those discussing the entire group or all alcohol types.
By measuring within that context, we’re able to find out what’s unique about each type of booze.
We measured those deviations across 22 different interests. The figure below reveals some of the key differentiators between alcohol types.
Beer: ranked highest in sports and music, but lowest in food & drinks, books, and business.
Rum: ranked highest in travel and books, strong in food & drinks, and lowest in sports.
Tequila: ranked highest in family & parenting, strong in business, low in food & drinks and low in music.
Vodka: ranked highest in business, low for sports and lowest in family & parenting.
Whiskey: ranked highest amongst foodies, strong in books, lowest in music, and low in sports.
This figure only provides a snapshot of the 22 interests examined, but already we begin to a get a better understanding of the consumers surrounding various types of alcohol.
But for businesses, we’ve still really only examined the context in which they operate. Now that we have that context, we can take a closer, more informed look at the unique aspects of individual brands’ audiences.
For whiskey brands, the profiles of their consumers are as varied as the brands and styles themselves.
Consider Ballantine’s, which over-indexes for books, fine arts, travel and science.
Knowing this, Ballantine’s can begin to align marketing and strategy around the unique aspects of their core online audience that make their following and brand distinct.
As another example, Johnnie Walker indexes above average for automotive, sports, and politics.
They may use that information to then explore why they’re so much more popular among those interested in automotive and how they can capitalize on that connection. Perhaps Johnnie Walker tests campaigns at automotive events, considers automotive sponsorships, or explores other ways of promoting that association.
When businesses understand not just their own brands, but also the brands of their competitors, they can uncover their comparative advantage. And by reinforcing the areas in which they are relatively strong, even small businesses can build a powerful and well-recognized brand within smaller communities.
In this post we’ve quickly reviewed the comparative advantage surrounding the audience interests of a few brands online – but social media analytics can be used to uncover discrepancies in profession, gender, location, time of day and more.