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Social Listening Provides Brands With a Live Focus Group

Social media marketing can often be hit or miss, but apparel brands need to be where the cool kids are if they want to stay ahead of the competition.

And according to “Ideas from the Experts: Social Consumer Market Insights,” a whitepaper published Tuesday by social intelligence company Brandwatch, collecting the voice of the customer using social data allows brands to form a fuller picture of those people.

“Traditional market research is not pliable. It takes time and has a very short shelf life,” said Will McInnes, chief marketing officer at Brandwatch. “The benefit of social is that it’s a live focus group. You determine the rules. It’s direct, it’s instant, it’s unfiltered.”

The whitepaper pinpoints key trends discussed during a roundtable with people from some of the world’s biggest brands and agencies. Among the findings, Brandwatch discovered that while surveys are critical—people won’t say certain things on social—they aren’t enough. That’s why consumer insights and marketing teams are blending traditional market research with social data to confirm and assess campaign effectiveness, brand reputation and more.

“Layering social data with survey data can uncover some really insightful findings and can offer another level of validity to social data since individuals can tend to be more authentic in a private, anonymous survey. You can normalize that overall sentiment,” explained one anonymous roundtable guest.

Another added, “We’re using social data to inform primary research; social will give you the hint, or the clue, and then we work with primary survey research. Generally, we’re establishing a hypothesis through social and then proving it or discovering it through the more traditional ways of uncovering data and information.”

Social data also empowers businesses to be nimble and smart: The nonstop nature of social listening and analytics allows brands to discover viral trends and hop on opportunities—or drop certain products—before the competition.

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“Your customers tell you in real time what you’ll feel offline in six months. Instead of waiting for it to happen and scrambling, you can deal with it quickly,” said another anonymous guest, who Brandwatch described as the head of global social at a major retailer.

Some brands and retailers often miss the mark on social, trying to start conversations that consumers just aren’t interested in, when a more successful strategy would involve listening to what the market is saying, instead of shouting into the abyss. It can also help measure brand health.

“Your brand health will ultimately have a deep impact on the consumer awareness of your brand and your bottom line, and social data can help provide a metrics and a view on the health of a brand,” the whitepaper said.

Influencers can help, too, by locating conversations the brand can’t get into authentically or organically. Not sure where or how to find one? Take a look at your own employees, Brandwatch suggested, who often have the leadership and expertise to reach people a brand can’t.

As the founder of a social media marketing agency put it, “Every brand, every person, has a story to tell and it’s probably already being told in a space that you didn’t expect. Identify where the conversations are, engage with the people who might be better at better telling your story.”