How to make social media insights more meaningful

Two questions that marketers often ask are: Does my audience care about my brand? How can we make them care more? To answer these questions, brands and agencies heavily invest in market research. Online panels, focus groups, ethnographic studies, social listening are just a few of the most popular insights gathering tools.

Graphs that show peaks in mentions and changes in automated sentiment can be useful to a certain point, but are they actionable enough to inform strategy and planning? We don’t think so, not in a meaningful way, anyway.

We believe there is much more that can be done to social listening to make it more effective and meaningful; it is less “social listening” and more “Social understanding”. This consists of three phases: Listen; Learn; and Interact.

Listening is about reading through a robust number of online conversations across all social platforms to identify conversation patterns, who are the most engaged audiences and who the existing brand advocates are.

You can have the best social monitoring tool on the market, but if the listening process is not manual and you don’t have real brand experts that know how to turn numbers and mentions into groundbreaking insights, you won’t be able to move onto number 2.

In the learning phase you have to focus on content and what resonates the most with your audiences. Look at what people already talk about, what they find relevant and topical and then apply to their ‘own words’ as a brand lens.

Interacting is about helping the brand to enter these conversations in a fluid way across social platforms.

To help with this 3 pronged approach, we came up with a few insight gathering techniques. Three of the most popular ones are:

1.      Love-meter/Hate- meter

2.      The category themes graph

3.      Map of the consumer journey

The Love Meter

looks at the level of meaningfulness attributed to the brand by online audiences, showing how much existing customers already care for the brand compared to the competition. Equally, the Hate-Meter gives us an idea of how little people care for the brand.

The objectives of both meters are:

1)      to provide clear benchmarks to evaluate both online and offline campaigns against

2)      to give our activities more scale and accountability.

In this way, you can understand how much online audiences perceive a brand as meaningful. It also allows you to investigate why people perceive the brand as being less or more relevant to their lives.

Graph 1: The Love-Meter


The category themes graph

To identify what topics people are already talking about, you also need to look at mentions within the overall category. The key objective is to find topical content you can create and seed by always applying a brand lens or filter throughout social platforms. Ultimately, this gives the brand the opportunity to join the conversation.

We know that audiences will be interested if WE are interesting. Therefore the identification of category topics will allow you to create a meaningful content strategy and come up with new content ideas.

Below is an example of a ferry category themes graph.

Graph 2: Theme graph around the ferry category


More than 1,000 conversations within a 6 month period revolved around the excitement of “coming back home after a trip”. Not a massive number, but tapping into insights like this allows us to explore a new range of content opportunities that can be disseminated throughout owned social and digital networks.

Map of the consumer journey

Digital media has changed the traditional path to purchase and consideration, moving from a linear and static model to a dynamic and more complex one. By mapping the audience’s journey across offline and online platforms agencies can help brands discover new touchpoints with their audiences.

Forums play an important role in the path to purchase/decision as more and more people ask for advice on these platforms around all sorts of topics: from which washing machine to buy to which dish to cook for the in-laws.

However, more increasingly they also work as platforms for people to engage with each other and brands in a more meaningful way, eg – people posting memories around their first car.

The main objective of the audience’s journey is to absorb any social crisis that may be about to break out and make sure negative sentiment doesn’t spread like wild fire.

The map below shows how users – who had particular issues with Brand A within the utility sector – complained on forums and asked for advice on what to do. In this case, the advice given on forums contributed to sway them either towards advocacy or towards becoming detractors and leaving the brand for good.

For this brand, their online customer service played a pivotal role in turning potential detractors into advocates.

Graph 3: A map of a customer journey


Social understanding is all about using social conversations in a meaningful way and it helps to make the audiences care more about the brand.

If we listen, we can learn and if we learn, then we can start a two way conversation with our existing and potential audiences and they will be more than happy to start an open dialogue with us.

Alice Mayel-Afshar is Social Insight Manager at MPG Media Contacts.