The proliferation of mobile technology and the open social universe has made everyone a virtual broadcaster, delivering instant, widespread reach for individuals to distribute their opinions like never before. In fact, according to Dimensional Research, over 90 percent of consumers rely on independent online reviews of products and services as an integral aspect of their purchasing process.
With billions upon billions of brand and product messages distributed across open channels and social networks everyday, companies in general, and marketers specifically, need to get sophisticated and vigilant in their analysis and understanding of these messages and how they can harm or help their business.
The exponential growth of social media has transformed it into streaming “big data” at massive volumes, incredible variety and never-ending velocity. This unstructured data is not only incredibly big, but also incredibly fast and requires advanced “big data” processing speed, sophisticated concept modeling and often dedicated command centers like one pictured here to instantly distill the relevant information and discover the real insight within the mass of useless noise. First-generation tactics like sampling and keyword lists are obsolete given their inability to keep pace with the big, fast, ugly, ongoing nature of the open social universe.
With an unprecedented wealth of insight available, it’s never been more critical for marketing teams to understand to the countless individuals broadcasting about their business, products, solutions, service and brands.
Here are five major reasons that marketers need to get serious about incorporating advanced social intelligence (ASI) into their strategies:
1. A Streaming World
It’s a streaming world that sees billions upon billions of real-time comments and conversations everyday from customers, employees, management, shareholders, suppliers, prospects, competitors, unions, activists, advocates, influencers, politicians, regulators and journalists, among many others, from all corners of the open social universe. Ignoring the relevant messages and corresponding influence within this intelligence is no longer a luxury for businesses given the wealth of insight it delivers to helping understand the current and coming forces, positive and negative, impacting on your business.
The biggest issue for marketing strategy within the streaming world is that most businesses continue to use traditional static frameworks that assume stationary aspects and slow-moving forces to develop their strategies upon. Most of these frameworks from traditional SWOT to more recent Blue Ocean do not adequately incorporate direct, real-time shifts and intelligence on market threats and opportunities that shoppers, consumers, competitors and industry influencers are broadcasting about your brand.
Incorporating advanced social intelligence into your marketing’s strategic planning framework opens up real-time, dynamic, multidimensional insight to build and optimize your corporate and product strategies as markets and landscapes shift in a streaming world, thus allowing your actions and strategy to mirror the real-time movements within the market.
2. Innovative Insight
For years companies have relied on generating intelligence through surveys and focus groups, often building the strategies for millions on the opinions of dozens. Given the typical slow-moving approach, inherent bias and common methodology flaws with these approaches, many businesses have made bad decisions and developed poor strategies because of a lack of genuine market insight available to them.
This is no longer the case for marketers today. Marketing and brand teams now have a wealth of deep insight about their industries, markets, products and competitors if they are merely willing to listen to the millions of open social discussions. No longer is there a need for flawed approaches of building a strategy based on the opinions of a few customers.
Today, businesses can gain a deep, robust understanding of complex markets and sophisticated consumers by listening to millions of unsolicited conversations on your products, services, brand and competitors, delivering genuine market insight like never before. The key to this is to have the ability to get answers to incredibly complex questions, in real-time. The technology to do this exists and is being used by leading brands to gain deep, actionable insight to set strategy and drive innovation.
As an example from the book Social Business Intelligence: Reducing Risk, Building Brands and Driving Growth with Social Media, above is a breakdown of Disney consumer persona segmentations that dominate the conversations across the open social universe. These persona groupings were constructed from nearly five millions consumer social conversations over a period of a few weeks.
These personas, which only represent 66% of Disney’s social consumer base (there are other specific consumer personas not detailed in this example), illustrate each segments values, passions, desires and connections to the Disney brand. This level of insight can get significantly more detailed around demographics, geographics, activities, interests, hobbies, etc. which can then be used to help drive the strategic and tactical approaches ranging from promotions and packaging to outreach and optimization.
3. Unprecedented Understanding
For years, a major focal point across the marketing organization has been to “know the customer.” By actually listening via digital ethnography, marketing teams can understand shoppers, prospects, customers and consumers on multidimensional levels. This intelligence elevates segmentation to a new level with the ability to personify consumers based on their attitudes, opinions, actions and experiences shared across the open social universe.
Beyond this, a specific customer journey can be constructed with great detail of the various demand moments and decision triggers the consumer goes through leading up to a purchase. With this understanding, marketers can influence these critical moments with promotions, messaging, education, channels, packaging or features.
Getting to “know the customer” has never been easier, more detailed or powerful than it is today with advanced social intelligence. However, many marketers believe that this path-to-purchase mapping is only relevant to larger ticket items, like cars or electronics due to the array of features and options and higher prices. While the customer journey is very relevant towards helping to influence these types of purchases, they are very applicable to low-ticket items.
Even the most basic products can reveal a sophisticated and even complex path-to-purchase.
4. Specific Sentiment
For years, sentiment or “buzz” has been a primary driver for social monitoring. Unfortunately, this sentiment has been largely one-dimensional, simply telling if the market liked or disliked a brand with no actionable detail. The large issue has been that first generation tools have delivered questionable accuracy when it comes to sentiment.
As Coca-Cola told Ad Age earlier this year, determining whether traditional “buzz” is actually positive or negative in the first place is a challenge. When analyzing social comments with both humans and machines, Coke explained, "When we say it's positive, the machine about 21% of the time says it's negative. That can cause some problems in our understanding." That’s an understatement.
Today, by analyzing millions of social discussions in real-time by using “big data” processing and sophisticated concept modeling to understand the infinite ways consumers speak, incredibly detailed sentiment analysis can be mapped. For example, above is a mapping of the state of mind of patients have at the various stages of their treatment journeys with a specific cancer condition. Pharmaceutical marketers use this detailed insight to drive their strategy around patient engagement, treatment education and healthcare provider outreach to enhance compliance.
5. Crushing the Competition
Aside from a deeper understanding of your markets, consumers and products, ASI can drive your competitive strategy both on deep inspection and real-time basis. Your enterprise can know your competitors better than they know themselves by understanding the issues, concerns, successes, flaws, strengths, weaknesses and decisions impacting and driving their business. Companies receiving this intelligence are using it to shape their strategic decision-making and tactical execution on a daily basis.
If your competition is not going to listen to what the market is saying about them, then your business should seize that opportunity. This not only helps your organization gain a strategic upper hand with greater, more widespread market understanding, but also helps to shape your own decisions in beating the competition.
The Bottom Line
As the “Age of the Consumer” advances, the world is not getting any less social. As it approaches a complete “digital state,” consumers are placing increased emphasis on their online social interactions as an integral part of their purchase decisions.
Within these discussions across the open social universe there is a wealth of genuine market intelligence on your business, products, services, consumers, markets, industries and competitors that comes from streaming social media. Marketers who are already leveraging this intelligence are gaining a competitive advantage like never before with deeper understanding of their business, markets, consumers and competitors to help set their strategy and execute their tactics.
Title image courtesy of Cienpies Design (Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: You might also be interested in reading Successful Social Intelligence Measurement According to Forrester