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Published July 31st 2018

Social Listening Isn’t a Rear-View Mirror. It’s a 360-Degree Looking Glass

Social listening is about more than looking back.

There’s a misconception that social listening is about looking back in time to assess what’s already happened.

Classic use cases like campaign measurement might help play into that misconception – the term ‘measurement’ implies looking back over a span of time and analyzing how it went. But, in order for campaigns to be truly successful, ongoing tracking and constant iteration based on that tracking (as opposed to setting something running and seeing how it goes later) are key.

Social listening is about more than looking back. It’s about taking patterns and applying them to the future. It’s about looking at the situation right now and acting to make your future results better.

In this blog post I’ll take you through a few examples of how social listening is best used to generate insights that are useful for present and future actions.

The right now

With the correct set up in place, you can do on-the-spot health checks of your brand’s conversation compared to competitors in the last few months, weeks, days, hours or minutes. This up-to-the-minute data can help assess the situation right now, not what it was three hours ago.

Let’s say your brand is releasing a new product on the same day as a rival.

Using real time social analytics you can track which product is gaining the most traction online and identify spots where your competitor might be gaining ground that you can then target with ads.

Analyzing social data that looks at what’s happening right now isn’t about taking an hour out of your day to work out what’s going on. It could be a glance at a screen that tells you what’s trending in your industry right now, or a quick check of a dashboard to see what discussion around your competitors looks like that day.

Once you’ve got the right set up for, actionable insights around ad targeting or fresh content opportunities are just a few clicks away.

Nowhere is present-tense analytics more important than during a crisis. When negative conversation starts around your brand, alerts should be immediate and action swift. Our recent case study with Co-op showed how the digital team is immediately alerted whenever there are mentions relating to customers in danger, meaning they can act quickly to resolve the situation.

Using social to predict the future

By spotting patterns in past behavior you can predict future behavior. For example, by looking at multiple years of historic data you can spot peaks in interest in particular topics or products. Search data can be used in a similar way.

An example might be searching for spikes in people expressing a need for a vacation at certain points in the year in order to predict when ads with getaway deals might stand a better chance at tempting consumers.

Predictive analysis can be useful in the shorter term, too.

Our recent Wargaming case study discusses how the team were able to track and share social insights during the US launch of an update to the game World of Tanks. When the update launched in other regions, the team were able to share the feedback so they knew what to expect from the launch and how to respond faster to player comments and questions.

And continuing the gaming theme, EA used Brandwatch to identify purchase intent mentions for each of their new releases with the goal of working out how many sales they might generate. This data accurately forecasted levels of demand meaning they could optimize inventory levels for each of their games.

Using social data across the past, present and future

Of course, looking back is important. We need to report on our past successes and failures.

But to get the most out of social listening, which makes sense of millions of conversations that are happening in real time, it needs to be built into a routine that allows for reacting to the unpredictable nature of the internet.

That means being ready to make changes to a campaign to adapt to new conversation points or recognizing opportunities for new content your audience is craving right now, all based on up-to-date data. Bringing social data into day-to-day decision making in a non-invasive way can help boost future results.

In essence, try to think of social listening as a tool for finding opportunities to act on right now and in the future, not for looking back at the ones you missed.

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