The benefits of social media to business strategists and marketers, whether financial or cultural, have not always been clear. But with social media now the single largest source of unsolicited consumer opinions, these strategists must find new, innovative ways to analyse and monitor the opinions, perspectives and sentiments in each tweet, post, comment, and status update.
The notion of social listening has been around since the beginning of social media, but merely counting likes, followers or comments can no longer be the only metric gathered to try to hit business goals or improve customer relations. According to Nielsen’s Social Media Report for Q3 2011, nearly 23 percent of online time is now spent on social media sites, and that figure is only expected to grow. The only way in which modern businesses can properly harness time spent and information shared by customers online, is to move beyond social media monitoring methods that depend entirely on simply counting the volume of mentions, likes, follows, etc.
The majority of social media monitoring and listening methods currently used by businesses fail to provide deep analysis of the thoughts, opinions and feelings of customers, which when done properly, can be transformed into results-driven marketing and business strategy. Manual coding, keyword-based sentiment, and natural language processes (NLP), rely on minimal context, depth, and poorly categorised sentiment. Today these approaches are totally inadequate for business strategists attempting to shape their brands in accordance with whom their customers really are, how they feel and what they demand from a brand.
Business strategists looking to get inside the minds of their customers can no longer depend on simple, non-scalable social media listening tools, and instead need to put their efforts into implementing a social media intelligence solution. ‘Teachable’ algorithms, key elements of social media intelligence, identify statistical patterns in social media discussions and can therefore differentiate between relevant and irrelevant conversations, provide actionable insight, create user-defined categories and groups, and ensure analysis results really do align with business objectives and KPIs. ForSight, Crimson Hexagon’s patented social media intelligence platform was originally developed at Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science and is able to transcend social media listening by analysing an extensive database of over 175 billion posts, which grows by half a billion new posts every day.
In a recent case study, ForSight was used by one of the world’s largest innovation companies to analyse its customers’ reactions to three separate corporate crises over a nine-month period. These events included: offshoring jobs to China; tax breaks in difficult economic times; and nuclear energy concerns. Through intensive analysis and monitoring, the global company learned that the negativity toward tax breaks outweighed the other two crises, but more importantly, it also learned that a greater, broader crisis existed across customer sentiment, stemming from the politics of the brand, rather than a specific event. In light of these findings, the company was able to accurately reconsider its position and branding, and take practical actions to improve customer relations.
While listening to social media will always have its place, social media intelligence is the only way in which modern business can truly sort through the never-ending opinions, thoughts and sentiments of customers across social media platforms, and gain actionable insights.
Only through a specialised approach to social media analysis, rather than by tackling new challenges with old methodologies, will strategists ever gain a precise, customised understanding of audiences, individuals, sentiments, and unique perspectives. And as we know from the billions of posts in our own social media analysis database, the challenges of harnessing the business benefits of social media sentiment are increasing every day.
Wayne St. Amand, Vice President of Marketing for Crimson Hexagon