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Published November 14th 2016

Extracting Consumer Insights from Social Data: Why You Need to Just Do It

Dinah Alobeid speaks to Forrester's James McCormick and Brandwatch Analyst Irelyn Akers about why social CMI is so effective, and how to put it in action

If you haven’t heard of social CMI (that’s consumer market insights) you’ve not been reading our blog or recent papers (tsk tsk). At Brandwatch, we’re highly attuned to a priority user of social data that hasn’t received much fanfare until now — the consumer insights professional.

It’s time to step into the light and unveil all of the powerful value brands can tap into via social consumer insights.

Social media is the 21st century’s answer to the proverbial soapbox. It’s an unfiltered space without too many limits (besides character limits) where consumers can go to get help, air out their frustrations, ask hard questions, and most importantly connect directly with brands.

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Brands need to be tuning into all of this conversation that yields valuable insights about their customers. They’re literally telling you what they want, features they don’t like, and publicly vocalizing preferences and opinions.

We want to share helpful expertise and examples so you can begin utilizing social data for consumer research. If you’re already using it, we want to help you not only make the most of social data, but help you uncover new use cases and social data blends so you can take action – armed with consumer insights that can lead to real change in your company. The results are easy to see when you use social insights to fuel smarter choices that help your business sell more products, help more customers, and grow your loyal fan base.  

Recently, we were lucky enough to have a Forrester analyst stop by to guest speak on a webinar with us and share why social is a vital component for uncovering the right data. Our audience members overwhelmed us with their smart questions, so much so that we didn’t have time to answer all of them.

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Those questions were burning a hole in our collective psyche, and we stopped at nothing to get expert answers from our friends at Forrester, as well as an additional perspective from an analyst on our Brandwatch Research Services team.

This is the first of a five-blog series where we answer your social consumer insights questions and give you valuable examples of how brands have benefitted from making social insights a key component in their research activities.

We asked James McCormick, Principal Analyst serving Customer Insights Professionals at Forrester Research the following question.

How important is social data for a consumer insights professional?

It is very important.

In fact, using social listening platforms to drive better customer insights is a top three initiative for users of social listening platforms, according to Forrester’s Q4 2015 Global Enterprise Social Listening Platforms Customer Reference Phone/Online Survey.

To get the most from the social data, customer insights professionals must merge it with their existing customer and digital insights. Combining social with other insights processes in this way will ensure that they are shared across the organization to the benefit of many more teams.

This, of course, increases the opportunity for taking action on social data and elevating its importance to drive marketing and business strategy.

Posing the same question to Irelyn Akers, Senior Research Analyst in Brandwatch’s Research Services team, this was her take:

I think it is important, for a variety of reasons. The first example I think of to illustrate just how valuable social is for consumer insights teams is the customer service use case.aaeaaqaaaaaaaayhaaaajdu4mjq5ntm4ltzjodgtngfjnc1hyjfllti5mdflmzq3ndi1ng

If you’re only doing traditional research, you’re really limiting your scope of collecting reliable information on what people think of your products, brands, even spokespeople. If you look on social and listen to what people are saying and then categorize those conversations, you can be much more agile in your approach to serving customers better from your customer service and support teams. Why? Well you can easily find out what’s resonating well. Social is unbiased; no one is paying consumers to praise you (and no one is paying them to condemn brands either).

If you take the time to listen and identify which posts on social need a response, you’ll reap the benefits of knowing how to make your customers happy simply by executing on it.

There are a couple of specific examples that are important for all brands to consider and implement as appropriate in their consumer insights activities.

Product Development

Let’s say you’re a technology company, and your latest gaming device is getting clobbered on social media for making a buzzing sound. Not only is this annoying to consumers, it’s a huge potential cost risk to your company. If your consumer insights department is tuned into this discussion and takes that information and specific complaints back to the product development team, action can be taken quickly.

Consumers are telling you about this product glitch for free, and proactively. Focus groups are executed by third-party entities and are time consuming and expensive. When you’re looking at social, you can have that “Eureka!” moment faster and realize that maybe the product really needs to be improved, and soon.

This is not only a method to iterate your products and ship a new, better version out to market, it’s also a surefire way to grow brand loyalty and make sure customers aren’t jumping to a competitor. How? Simply by enhancing the product features that consumers specifically want and need based on actual feedback from social.

Customer Care

This example comes from a well-known American financial services company. The brand measures customer care channel response times. They looked specifically at how long it takes their brand to respond via an official Facebook or Twitter handle and found it can take up to 20 hours to respond to a simple inquiry.

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When it comes to customer service and support, the goals for these departments are incredibly cut and dry – respond as quickly and efficiently as possible.

If a brand is only listening to customer feedback from a focus group, those results don’t get delivered until sometimes months later. With social listening in play, brands can identify bottlenecks and address them to better streamline customer support processes and cut down the average response time.

This in turn cuts costs because you have the knowledge of what you need to do to fix the problem: the data, the raw numbers, and the verbatim issues from consumers. You can put it into practice sooner rather than later. Most of the time consumers are telling you what you should do to change issues, you just need to sit up and listen.

Then take action.

Jumping on a trend

A large retailer was on the fence about offering Black Friday doorbuster sales. Together with our Research Services analysts, the retailer posed the following questions to be answered by social data:

  • How do consumers feel about this holiday?
  • We know this is an opportunity in our market, but should we jump on it or not?

After analyzing Black Friday over the last two years, we found that users were participating in Black Friday, but interest and preference for Cyber Monday gained traction year over year. The brand took this report into account when planning its 2016 holiday season content and when to open its store.

Shopping woman

Access to historical social data offers an advantage to help brands determine if they should be spending resources to get customers to an event. It can also clearly highlight that opting out is the right choice, and they could reallocate that financial investment and internal resources to something more relevant to the business.

One final word of advice.

My advice to anyone considering using consumer social insights: just do it!

Even if you’re unsure of what you’re doing, the mere act of starting the research is better than not having it at all. Even having a simple or basic plan, it’s better to just start and learn, than to ignore it. You’re ignoring valuable information by not getting on and evaluating your social program.

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Crimson Hexagon has merged with Brandwatch. You’re in the right place!

From May 8th, all Crimson Hexagon products are now on the Brandwatch website. You’ll find them under ‘Products’ in the navigation. If you’re an existing customer and you want to know more, your account manager will be happy to help.