How Data is Rewriting the Rules of Social Media [Podcast]
How can brands benefit from using listening data? How do you go about setting up a listening infrastructure? What are some of the typical pitfalls?
I spoke to JR Little, the author of "Listening Brands - How Data is Rewriting the Rules of Branding", and Global Head of Innovation at Carat to get the scoop.
Why do brands need to become listening brands?
"I think, first and foremost, if you're a marketer, it's to preserve your job and preserve your career. And if you're concerned about your brand, it's to make sure your brand still has a way to connect and build a relationship with the consumers that matter, because if consumers are connecting in a different way, then you have to know how to do that also. In the book, I talk about why it's important to become a listening brand, and I talk about listening in a broad sense. I don't mean simply listening for words, but in terms of listening for signals, listening for signs - listening for words indeed, but looking for the clues that help us understand the needs of consumers better."
How do you build an effective listening infrastructure?
"I think this is where it gets very complex, it really does, but I'll break it down as best as I can - and I'll even drop some names that could easily be Googled and looked up. But I think the first thing is talent. There is a talent challenge in that none of us have been taught to do this stuff in our business schools. We're all learning as we go, and that's one thing, but the talent has to be very curious. There's already some tools with the big partners - Twitter, Facebook, Google, even increasingly Amazon - they all have, to some degree, easily accessible tools that let you know what people are saying, what people are interested in, and if they're a match with who your target consumer is. They're also increasingly letting brands that spend a lot of money with them to match CRN data to their data. So, if your company has the email address of a consumer, then you can actually use that email address to find them in some ways on some of these platforms.
Those are like the big places to start, but then if we were to get into the real niche players, there are the proper listening players, which is picking up on word clues - and that would be like a Crimson Hexagon or Pulsar. There are the players that help you respond to all these people who may be mentioning your brand or mentioning a topic you're interested in - and that would be players like Lithium, Hootsuite or Sprout. And then there are players who are actually working more in the digital as data points, not necessarily as words - companies like DataSift - or even matching different pools of data with a player like an Acxiom. But this is a bit of a rabbit hole; it can go deeper, and deeper, and deeper. But that's sort of the different layers."
What's the ROI of becoming a listening brand and how do you actually measure it?
"The ROI question, I don't have a specific number, but I do have some things we look at. So, on a basic level, if you're listening and understanding the insights, or even listening to what people are saying, you won't waste budget on making things you don't need. And if you don't waste budget on things you don't need, you obviously won't waste media spend. I think on another level, you'll go fishing where the fish are. You won't miss audiences that are already expressing some level of an interest in you by mentioning your topic or mentioning your brand. And then last - and this one's harder to prove in the short term - but it's that sort of long-term value. Are you getting better return over the long term because your brand metrics have improved, like a brand for me or a brand that I trust? There are some players out there that are actually looking at that as well, like Nielsen and Edelman, the long-term impact of resonating with a culture and being a responsive brand. So there's a few different levels. The ideal would be to have some better attribution so that we could get this value packaged up in more of a short term, but right now it's more about the long term sort of resetting the brand and making the brand appealing to consumers."
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