How brands predict business outcomes through social signals

By Ebonie Newman

Sixty percent of consumers say they’re likely to buy from or boycott a brand based on its position on a social or political issue. In a world where issue-based marketing is increasingly important, marketers face a new set of challenges: Namely, when do you jump into a conversation and how do you do it?

 Missing the mark in today’s politically polarized media environment can have disastrous consequences on brands. While Heineken’s ‘Worlds Apart’ ad may have hit a homerun back in 2017, Gillette’s “Toxic Masculinity” ad faced an avalanche of backlash.

 That’s not to say that brands don’t test before going to market with controversial ads. The current state of marketing demands focus groups, A/B testing and insights from first-party data, but is that enough?

 Before taking a stance, brands need to be able to better predict consumer backlash and prepare for narrative hijacking and digital threats. Social media intelligence allows companies to identify brand-building opportunities while reacting and building resilience ahead of reputational threats.

 Social media intelligence is built on an elevated understanding of the conversations unfolding across the vast social media landscape, and we mean the entire landscape — not just Facebook and Twitter.

 There are hundreds of forums and hubs housing billions of conversations every minute, many of which are not on a brand’s radar. From Reddit and Discord to 4chan and Gab, there is no shortage of fringe and mainstream social networks in which a brand’s shortcomings (or successes) are discussed.

 While these forums and platforms could bring about a crisis for your brand, understanding them could help you identify trends before they become mainstream, enabling advertisers to better plan their marketing and communication strategies, and to resonate with customers in a way that’s current with consumer attitudes around the world.

 Last holiday season, eBay leveraged social media intelligence to bring the brand into the heart of the conversation around Christmas. Unbeknownst to a standard social listening tool are all the latent trends emerging every year around the act of gifting. Word clouds and keyword monitoring won’t get you insights that inform creative. For example, Storyful’s human approach to social media analysis, which spans digging through conversations from Reddit to Twitter, revealed the rise of DIY gifts, especially custom advent calendars.

 Armed with this insight, eBay was able to reach its target audience within the holiday shopping demographic with bespoke, relevant ad copy. This level of relevance to consumers inspired people to share and engage with the campaign, allowing eBay to be naturally embedded into the festive narrative. 

 While Facebook and YouTube play a major role in shaping our collective reality, businesses would be remiss to ignore the trends, attitudes and even rumors emerging from the deeper layers of the social media sphere.

 A look inside the conversations people engage in provides insight into the behaviors, attitudes and feelings that influence culture, politics and world economies, for better or for worse. Social media intelligence expertise can go a long way in predicting outcomes. 

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