Decision Marketing Data Clinic: Tap into social listening

DM ClinicIn the latest in a series of articles, designed to provide advice on data-driven marketing strategies in these turbulent times and beyond, we look into the rise of social listening.

The Decision Marketing Data Clinic, in association with REaD Group, is open to all companies and organisations big and small. If you have a burning issue which you would like advice on please email us on

Social listening does what it says on the tin: listens to what is going on in social media. This covers what is being said about a brand, as well as its products and services. It gives brands the ability to understand what their customers are talking about, what they think, how they feel and what they need.

Why is social listening important?
Social listening allows the tracking of sentiment in real-time, so you know right away if there’s a significant change in how much people are talking about your brand or the mood behind what they say, acting like an early warning system that alerts you to positive and negative changes in how your brand is perceived online.

Data from social listening is flexible to change and, when working with a trusted data partner, offers the opportunity to collect bespoke and detailed behaviours and characteristics. This gives you a greater understanding of uniqueness in the market, providing you with a full view of consumers and the ability to link postal addresses to other variables such as personality or attitudes derived in a quantitative manner.

What can social listening be used for?
By organising data based on behaviours and interests and using available contact information, it is possible to extrapolate a match and create inferred behaviours and attributes, thereby providing brands with a greater understanding of their consumers.

Social listening can therefore provide brands with more accurate coverage of key variables that can be used to drive revenue. It can collect new niche behaviours, not otherwise captured by existing contributors – such as high-end investments, second properties, and holiday destinations – which can also be modelled out across a fully compliant database in order to help understand overall penetration or need within the base.

Social listening can also be used to undertake market research into consumer attitudes, passions points and brand affinities for a brand’s followers or competitors; internal market research to help position products, insight and PR; and research into personality insights and mindsets.

In addition, it can provide greater insight into consumer attitudes by enhancing clients’ datasets with additional data on social drivers, brand preferences, publisher affinities, and other attributes of interest.

Social listening can also be used to understand buying triggers such as a new pet, an upcoming wedding, the birth of a baby, moving house or retiring (although in much smaller volumes) and can help brands understand audiences who like a specific make or model, watch certain TV channels or support different sports teams.

Which social data is legal to use?

Essentially, there are three elements: what you are allowed to listen to (open profiles, which are open-source data); how you match it (probabilistic vs deterministic); and what you can do with it – e.g. triggering, postcode variables etc.

To protect user privacy, social media platforms have policies that govern the information that can be collected and processed for use in marketing. Reputable social listening services only use data in the public domain which is widely available via social media sites, forums, blogs, news sites and other public pages where users leave comments or interact with specific topics.

Gathering this unstructured data to understand characteristics, sentiments, and behavioural patterns allows brands to use this data to personalise their customer experiences and improve service satisfaction.

Jo McEachern is REaD Group’s General Counsel


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