The age of unidirectional marketing is over. With the advent of widespread social media use has come a feedback loop in which brands and consumers can easily communicate.
The social media space has empowered consumers with an ability to discuss and contribute to a product's image on one of the world's most public platforms. Yet the two-way communication stream created by social media also presents brands with an opportunity to easily listen to and understand their consumers.
As a result, social media has closed the distance between brands, products and consumers that exists in traditional media.
But marketing teams, having pushed out unidirectional slogans, advertisements and campaigns for the last few generations, are often struggling to learn how to listen and learn from feedback.
First off, consumers are constantly communicating their interests online. For example, let's take a look at the figure below, taken from Brandwatch's latest Food & Beverage report, which shows the nature of tweets directly mentioning an intention to eat healthier.
Over the last year, 316,000 tweets have stated a direct intention to eat healthy. However, as is often the case in social media data, those mentions do not all carry the same meaning. Breaking the conversations into smaller sub-categories reveals the true nature of these discussions.
For example, the 12% of conversation focused on body image indicates that a significant number of people saying they want to eat healthy as a means to look healthier. Furthermore, the 16% of conversation discussing temptations foods outlines consumers' difficulty in maintaining healthy eating habits in a market inundated with pizza, ice cream, cake and other temptations.
For brands, digging deeper into consumers' conversations is vital to gleaning better insights on how consumers really feel about a product or topic. Measuring the volume of a brand only tells a fraction of the picture. Separating the conversation into competing categories or ideas draws out the nuances characteristic of everyday conversations.
Too often do social media analysts forget the "social" in social data. The volume of brand mentions is not enough to understand the thousands of unique people and opinions behind them.
Identifying the underlying themes of conversations, brands can know what is really driving purchases and can market their products accordingly.
Analyzing the specific language that consumers use to discuss a product sheds light on how different marketing strategies are able to successfully capture specific interest groups.
Take for example the growing market around snack bars. Clif Bar, Kind Bar and Larabar draw chatter as energy-providing, healthy and gluten-free options respectively. The consumer conversations around snack bars are indicative of effective marketing strategies targeting niche interest groups.
As the health trend proliferates the food & beverage market and consumers develop a wider palette of specialized tastes and preferences, the opportunities for brands to supply the niche demands abound.
The dawn of social media, like all forms of communication before it, has promised to shrink the world and bring people closer together.
Consumers are now empowered to demand more transparency and accountability from brands than ever before. They are sharing ideas and spreading trends at a dizzying rate. They are developing more complex or specialized interests and preferences. They are trying new options.
For brands, closer communication has granted an opportunity to better understand consumers' specific preferences and interests. A chance to identify and connect with their customers on a much more honest and intimate level.
Changes will favor the agile. Now the onus is on brands to adapt to a new arena.