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Social Yin and Yang: The Perfect Union of Strategic Listening and Real-Time Engagement

social engagement and listeningFor years, we’ve talked about the balance between listening and engagement as social strategists. Which is more important? How do social brands do both, well? And more importantly, how can the two be used in a strategic way to educate and enable each other?

I sat down with Sebastian Hempstead, VP of North America at Brandwatch, to hear directly from a leader in the world of social listening and intelligence. After spending years working with top brands to surface social analytics and insights to inform business decisions, Seb helped probe into the issues top of mind for companies and surfaced the new reality brands are realizing: social listening and engagement don’t exist in a vacuum. They go hand in hand.

1.  Technologies for measuring social conversations have been around for a while. What technology advancements do you think have made the most impact in the last 12 months? How have these advancements benefitted (or not!) the brands you work with?

Measuring time in this space is like measuring dog years; we've made hundreds of enhancements to Brandwatch over the last 12 months alone! 

‘Big data’ has been a hot topic. We have clients tapping into large social data sets, often brought together with a wide mix of other data, from sales results to weather patterns, to get to a holistic view of a given event, topic or initiative. 

We’ve also seen a shift from reactive to proactive analysis, in other words, using social to predict what's happening in the real world or other outcomes. Earlier this year we led a social analysis project to predict the outcomes of the Oscars based on consumer and critic opinion. We correctly predicted 15 out of 18 categories, probably the most accurate of any similar analyses conducted (sorry Nate Silver).  

So companies are beginning to use indicators in social data to understand and drive business, and they will eventually play an important role in engagement and content strategies.

2. Social continues to gain adoption across almost all business departments and used for a variety of business objectives like generating sales, providing customer care or increasing brand awareness.  What role do social intelligence and engagement play together here?

Yes, social intelligence isn't only for research or even marketing teams anymore - we’re seeing more scenarios every day where it is informing decisions across the entire customer lifecycle. 

Brands are challenged because so many valuable conversations take place but are not necessarily directed at them. And, the window of opportunity to engage with those conversations is often very short. Social analytics help identify and prioritize important conversations, and discern which conversations should be routed to specific teams. Social analysis also plays a role in assessing content and campaign effectiveness. So in an ideal case that really helps improve the efficiency and quality of social engagement strategies for brands.

3.  We now have access to a huge amount of data around consumers’ behavior and preferences from social content and conversations. How can marketers use social analytics to better inform their engagement strategies?

Imagine you're a large carrier like AT&T or Verizon in a competitive space where social media plays a huge role in consumer purchasing decisions. Social media helps drive awareness, and online reviews and customer feedback influence a lot of choices we make as consumers. 

Social analytics can identify an influencer or advocate’s review of your brand or product in real time. Your marketing team can then leverage an analysis of that posted review to determine how to best respond and engage in a way then strengthens your relationship with consumers. 

Additionally, you can also identify retention opportunities, by intercepting conversations about switching away from your brand to another. Or in the reverse, by joining conversations where your competitors’ customers are discussing switching away from them to acquire new customers and gain market share.

Social intelligence with strategic engagement can have direct results to the bottom line in little time. 

4.  You touched on challenges around the enormity of social data – what other big challenges are you seeing for social brands?

That's a big question (pardon the pun). Brands, especially international brands, face a number of challenges in social media today:

  • International expansion: Growth in social media isn't just happening in North America. International markets like Brazil, India and China are becoming major drivers of social media in the future as their internet infrastructures become more sophisticated-- all of which will increase the overall volume social data.  
  • International platforms:  International markets already have expansive social networks, only a few of which are known in the US like Renren and Sina Weibo. but brands will have to understand an even wider range of social networks to operate and expand internationally. 
  • New platforms: Networks like Twitter and Facebook dominate in many markets, but more new platforms will come and go. Identifying and deciding which to work with and how to use them strategically will remain a challenge. 
  • The speed of social: The lifespan of social content is short. Many organization structures and processes are not yet designed in practice to think and act with agility at that pace.
  • Noise: When it comes to engagement, there's a lot noise in social media and being able to cut through that noise to identify what's really important is critical when faced with such large volumes of data.
  • Changing consumer expectations: Consumers have higher expectations of social brands than ever. They expect to have access to brands via social channels and for brands to respond in a timely, relevant way. 

5.  Our companies announced a partnership yesterday. One of the results is that brands will now be able to listen to conversations on a more global scale, gain insight into those conversations and then use that intelligence to engage accordingly. How do you think this will impact brands’ future approach to social?

Brands can use to our joint solution to streamline their social business processes and focus resources on engaging with what's important. It will allow brands to expand the types of content and conversations to actively engage, and create opportunities to participate in conversations where they can add value. 

It also allows brands to delve into insights from different perspectives and with different goals, but with consistency across all teams and departments to make smarter business decisions.

Brands that successfully do this will not only  engage more efficiently but also empower them to change the nature of their relationship with consumers. This is all about raising awareness, increasing loyalty, driving advocacy, increasing share of voice and delivering ROI.

The future of social business is bright for brands. There is no lack of opportunity knocking at the door, and we’re excited to see how new strategies and technology advancements will continue to surface the ability to impact businesses’ bottom lines. 

How will your savvy company drive real-time engagement through social listening intelligence?

(Social yin and yang / shutterstock)

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