Traditional data collection methods for a research project include focus groups, in-depth interviews and surveys. But in today’s digital world, dominated by social media, there’s a new way to explore what your audience thinks – social listening.
With over 3.6 billion users worldwide, social media provides an excellent tool for brands to engage with their target markets. However, all this activity also provides a rich source of information for brands to learn about their audiences, too, and this is where social listening plays a role.
Below, we share what social listening is and how to maximise its value for your research.
What is social listening?
Social listening is the process of analysing the conversations, activity and trends across social media platforms, such as Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok and Facebook, to gain an understanding of the market and inform strategic decisions.
Social listening can be broken down into three levels of depth:
Social media monitoring
Social media monitoring is the process of keeping track of the metrics directly relevant to your brand. These could include your brand or product mentions, those of your competitors or related hashtags or keywords. Typically providing quantitative data, social media monitoring can be used to engage appropriately with your audience, respond to queries and flag concerns.
Social listening gathers not only responses to your brand, products or services but also social media activity on broader industry trends and relevant events. It also goes further than the surface data obtained from social media monitoring, seeking to understand the sentiment behind the data to gain a more comprehensive appreciation of the market for better-informed future strategies.
Social intelligence is a deeper delve that seeks to understand the influencing factors behind behaviour, reactions and sentiment. It asks the question of ‘why’. For example, why is your audience feeling this way about your product? Why are they choosing this service or another? Social intelligence requires an open mind, where all possibilities are fully explored to uncover hidden insights.
These three variations of social listening are generally not used in isolation. Depending on the research objectives, they will co-existent to some degree to provide brands with more comprehensive insights.
What are the tools needed for social listening?
Social listening can be completed ad-hoc with a manual review of social platforms and the analytics they provide directly. This process may include exploring hashtags, brand handles, trending topics, and influencers.
However, it is worth investing in a bespoke tool when extracting, compiling and analysing large volumes of social media data. Tools, such as Brandwatch, Netbase Quid or Sprinkler, use AI and machine learning to provide consumer intelligence and trend spotting. These tools evaluate millions of historic and current conversations across numerous social media platforms to provide insights on relevant patterns and trends.
How to get the best value from social listening tools
AI and machine learning social listening tools provide access to this impressive pool of data and draw immense value from real-time conversations and historic data across a multitude of social media platforms.
But, like any AI- or machine-driven tool, the input of human expertise remains imperative to optimise the data provided.
Machines are excellent at following directions to sift through vast amounts of information. Equally, they offer an efficient option for organising this data and making it manageable. What they lack are insight and contextual decision-making abilities. These capabilities require human input – experienced analysts who can design structures and templates to instruct machine processes and draw conclusions from the results they deliver.
To maximise value, the framework for using these tools must be carefully configured from the outset. For example, human analysts need to input clear objectives, questions and keywords for the data collection. The target market’s word use must be considered, their language and localised use of key terminology. The type of output, such as qualitative or quantitative data or a combination of both, must also be established.
This clarity on all aspects of the social listening process will optimise how the data is collected and compiled, supporting more valuable insights for the research.
What are the key benefits that social listening provides?
Social listening offers several distinct benefits compared to more traditional research methods.
- An immense volume of near real-time, accessible online data
- Increased authenticity, with data being created in the participants ‘natural habits’ without the influence or incentive of an interview
- Potential cost savings due to a lack of recruitment requirements and freely available online data
- The ability to study a more diverse range of respondents, including those that may be otherwise difficult to recruit
- The option to combine qualitative and quantitative analysis, improving the depth and subtleties of the study
Before the pandemic, this form of market research was largely overlooked, with brands and researchers favouring methods such as surveys, focus groups and interviews. However, when the lockdowns restricted in-person research, social listening had the opportunity to showcase its potential. Now that many market researchers and brands have experienced its advantages, it is likely to remain an option used in conjunction with other methods moving forward.
How can Mission Translate help?
At Mission Translate, we specialise in supporting the market research sector with its language and research requirements. Alongside our translation, transcription and interpreting support, we offer a full suite of research services, including social listening, designed to support your insights projects and delivered by highly experienced research professionals.
Please get in touch with our team to find out more or to discuss your specific requirements for your next project.