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Published July 23rd 2018

Bike Share Battle: What Role Can Social Data Play in the Fierce Fight For Market Domination?

The fight for dominance in the bike sharing market has already seen casualties. Here we'll discuss six ways contenders can use the power of social listening to get an edge on the competition.

With wheels inflated by bloated cash injections from financial giants, the bike share market is a battle for world domination that’s defined by its brutal volatility and aggressive price cutting.

According to the BBC there are close to 1,000 bike sharing schemes across cities worldwide. That’s compared to just four 15 years ago. Companies are disappearing from some cities pop up again in others. Some never re-emerge.

The Brandwatch React team were keen to review how social listening might help give a tech-savvy contender the edge. We tracked nearly 329k mentions of bike sharing across public social media posts in June alone, so we knew there were plenty of insights to glean.

Here are five ways we can see social listening helping bike share companies take on the world.

1. Designing a solution

Bike sharing might sound simple. A company provides the bikes and the tech for hiring them. People either use the bikes or they don’t.

But a bike is a highly customizable piece of machinery. How many gears should it have? Should it have an attachment for carrying a bag or a water bottle? Should helmets or other safety equipment be provided? Should the bike be parked at a particular location or should it be dockless? And, beyond the physical reality of the bike, how easy is it to hire and how much does it cost to use?

Using social listening, bike share providers can monitor interest in all of the above in the cities they are targeting.

Here’s an example of a potential accessory request for bikes that we found while initially scrolling through the data.

2. Selling a shared product

The listening mentioned above can go beyond simply looking at what people are saying about existing bikes. Perhaps in one city a troublesome bus network is leaving commuters despairing because they are often late. Perhaps in another city the subway system is often plagued by foul smells or dirty seats.

Here’s a whole blog post written about New Yorkers’ experiences of the Q Train that a bike sharing business could make good use of with some tongue-in-cheek subway ads.

Identifying pain points for commuters (and day trippers) in different places can help bike share companies position their own offering against the existing modes of transport. City-centric and perhaps even fully personalized ads on social media can help embed your solution as a key part of city living.

3. Tracking competitors

It’s important to keep an eye on how your competitors are being discussed in the media and on social networks both before and after you launch your own product.

Getting alerted to spikes in conversation around competitors, both positive and negative, as well as keeping an eye on sentiment towards their brand and yours can help inform your marketing strategy. By monitoring how competitors are perceived you can position their weaknesses as your strengths.

A basic analysis of the bike share conversation in the US revealed the share of voice between three tech giants who have been involved in bike share schemes between May and July. Uber appears to have made the biggest splash in the last few months in a market where brand recognition is very important.

Brandwatch image

When looking into city specific data around bike sharing, we were able to find the dominant bike share provider being talked about using Explore and Entities.

In New York we found Citi Bike was the top mentioned bike provider, while in Washington DC it was Capital Bikeshare. If you’re going for domination in a particular city, you’ll want to see your brand name at the top of that list.

4. Optimizing launches

Ensuring there is infrastructure for measuring reception to a launch in every city is important. This is a prime opportunity for immediate feedback around your offering which can be used to improve and compare against future launches.

This is something that’s important across all industries where there are multiple launch dates across the world. In our Wargaming case study we show how this can be applied to the games world, namely around the launch of an update to World of Tanks:

Once the release was live in America, Wargaming used Brandwatch real-time analytics to gauge the reaction to the announcement and to keep track of the discussion from its fans.

The team was able to categorize what the common topics were, which platforms its players were concentrating their attention to, and what the overall sentiment was around the announcement. When the update launched in other regions, the Wargaming team were able to share the feedback so they knew what to expect from the launch, and more importantly, how to respond faster to player comments and questions.

5. Iterating based on consumer feedback

Of course, social listening isn’t just for the lead up to a launch. Regular brand health checks, especially when compared to competitors, can help your company see how you’re doing.

This can be something you look at broadly on a national scale but also very locally. In a particular location you might see a particular need for better signposting to bike parking spaces since people are posting pictures of your bikes piling up in unsuitable areas.

In another city you might spot considerable demand for luxury style bikes. You might also notice particular instances of vandalism or damage that can be sorted out on the ground.

This use case is exemplified in our Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe case study.

The Sparkassen-Finanzportal Gmbh monitoring team noticed a sudden spike in conversation surrounding one branch in particular. Using Brandwatch Analytics realtime data and instant email alerts the team were able to identify localized conversation focused on an ATM which had broken.

Using their escalation process the monitoring team were able to inform the branch in question and instructed their technical team to deal with the issue promptly. The team at the branch hadn’t identified the ATM was out of action, and it was online conversation that alerted Sparkasse to the issue in real-time.

Being alerted to important issues within conversations around your brand (particularly ones around safety) can help you stay on top of potential PR crises. Co-op have set up alerts using Brandwatch that let them know immediately if terms relating to customers in danger are posted on social.

6. Finding customer stories

Aside from commuting, which can be stressful and not exactly “scenic”, travel can be an exciting and visually stimulating experience.

If you’re targeting tourists and day trippers, UGC can provide a great way to show real world examples of the exploration opportunities bike sharing can open up.

Here are a couple of examples we found in our look at the data which tell stories of days out spent on bikes.

Every special day out facilitated by your bike sharing company is a solid testimonial that could (with permission) be reposted to your owned channels or website.

Moving consumer insights up a gear for competitive advantage

The benefits of social for bike share businesses go way beyond the reach of their owned accounts.

Identifying consumer needs, tracking conversation around competitors, optimizing ads and launches and then keeping abreast of changing opinion and needs post-launch are all key areas where social can help bring the customer voice into important decisions. The fact that it’s all in real time and immediately accessible means social data is perfectly suited to a fast moving, volatile market where hours and perhaps even minutes can count.

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