Insight
Opinion

The questions you can ask and answer using social insight

How should you commission social intelligence research? There’s more to it than requesting consumer trends or finding insight (any insight) on broad topics. To really get value from social data analysis you need to focus. Here’s the insight from Listen+Learn Research to help you commission better social insights.
 

What should you ask?

Before we start thinking about what to ask, it’s worth doing a bit of preparation.

From what we’ve seen, really great social insight projects tend to share the following characteristics:

● They know where the knowledge gaps are.
● There’s an appreciation that other research methods can’t reach this topic or audience, or that they’ve lost the power to find new insight.
● They know what social data is like, the value it brings and it’s limitations.
● They have a clear idea of where it fits into, and how it will improve the strategic, operational or communication process.

On the other hand, a terrible place to start is by just saying “let’s do a bit of social listening…”.

Let’s make sure we have a clear brief, understand the purpose and opportunity – basically treat it like any other form of research.
 

What teams can use it?

This can be really broad, we’ve seen our work being used by:

● Strategists, research and insight,
● Creatives and planners,
● Marketing, communications, and PR,
● Service snd product developers,
● Operations and HR.
 

What makes it important?

Social data is important because it reflects life, a moment in time. It’s something to observe and learn from rather than interact with (which is the big difference from more traditional market research).

It’s more natural, more spontaneous, less biased. It’s people talking about their lives, in their words on their terms.

The promise is that this gives us a better source of data from which to develop insights about human behaviour.
 

What can it do?

We see social data working at two levels, to answer…

What’s happening: getting a quick sense of what’s going on: who’s talking, where, when, and a top-level idea of the topics. This tends to be automated and platform-led with an analyst looking at interesting signals.

Why is it happening: this is all about getting under the skin of an audience, a topic or a market. It’s a deeper, more qualitative approach that works directly with the data to identify patterns of human behaviour and the opportunities these bring. It answers why, what does this mean and what should you do about it.

We tend to work on these deeper, more complex challenges, where the data has to be thorough, reliable and the insights used to drive significant business change. So, we’re focusing below on the types of questions this approach can answer.
 

What questions can you answer?

  • Strategic questions: where are you and what’s your position in the world?

How is your brand (or the competition) being talked about? What do people associate with you and what attributes do they use to describe you? What do they think you stand for? What do they think, feel and do in relation to you?

  • Who are your audiences? Who’s talking about your brand, what drives their interest, what groups have formed and what are their characteristics? What does this mean in terms of how you prioritise your consumer marketing?

How can you innovate? What unmet needs and frustrations are happening in your category? What are the influencers and early adopters doing that might catch on? What’s happening at the fringes? What are the opportunities and where should you prioritise?

What’s changing in your world? What macro-trends are changing the competitive landscape? What emerging trends do you need to keep an eye on? What has the potential to disrupt your market? Where should you focus your investment?

Example: working with a Global food brand we took a deep dive into consumer attitudes towards sustainability and wellbeing and how this relates to food. The insights from this work helped them understand how to tailor messaging to whet the appetite of consumers across Europe.
 

  1. People questions: what’s it like to be alive today

How does your audience live their lives? How do they see and approach different parts of life? What are their hopes, dreams and aspirations? How do they make sense of what’s going on around them? How do they project who they are? How do they fit into the different groups around them and the wider world? Who do they associate with? Who do they resist? What are the group norms and attitudes that drive behaviour?

How do they deal with life’s ups and downs? How do people feel and react to what’s happening to them? What’s the emotional response? How do they make sense of it all? What do they need to help them manage? How do they share what’s happening and how it feels with others? What do they need, desire? What are their dreams and aspirations? What role can brands play within this?

Example: working with a number of charities, we’ve looked at how it feels to experience a particular emotional state or what it feels like to experience a life-changing medical condition. Insights from this work have helped them redesign how they deliver services, helped improve the ROI of their digital marketing and inspired various creative campaigns.

Customer experience questions: how do people feel about what you do every day?

How do consumers perceive the customer journey? What’s working, what’s not, what parts of the journey attract the most attention? How do people feel at different stages and why? What’s important and drives engagement, and what just needs to be right? Where are the areas you can improve and where should you focus your efforts?

How is your product or service performing in the market? Looking at the final ‘moment of truth’ to see how the product/service is living up to expectations. How are the features performing? Is it delivering the benefits people looked for when buying it? What are the frustrations, what are the delights? How does it compare to other products in the market?

Example: for this award-winning project (Masters of Marketing and Aura Impact) we worked with Premier Inn to help them prove the value of service and build the business case for further investment.

Communication, brand building + storytelling: how to attract and engage with different audiences.

How can we inspire and guide our creative development? How do people perceive, interpret and make sense of the topics or issues we’re trying to address? What examples resonate with people? How can we differentiate our offer in a crowded market? How can we speak their language? How do they present themselves? How can we ensure our creative reflects their reality?

Where should we be executing our campaigns? Where is our audience on social? Where can we find new or niche audiences? What partnerships should we be looking to build? Which trusted voices should we be working with?

Example: working with a leading creative agency we explored the nature of a night “out, out”. What happened, why and how it felt for those involved. This helped us discover a new insight into the role of the unexpected in making or breaking a night out – which the agency was able to use to inspire their creative development.

Social data can be used, not just reporting the ‘what’ but also the ‘what it means’ and ‘what to do next’ for your business.

It can help many parts of your business. If you know the questions you’re looking to answer, and the gaps in understanding you are trying to fill.

And even if you haven’t got the perfect questions, social insight can help you refine and give direction to your research needs: in or out of social – as it’s pretty good at finding the questions you don’t know you need to ask too.


Find out more about Listen+Learn Research and how they can help you get more value from social data.

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Jeremy Hollow
Jeremy Hollow
Jeremy is the founder and MD of Listen + Learn. He started Listen + Learn with a simple goal – to help brands connect with people. He does this by making social data simple. Simple for brands to know what’s meaningful, to find new insights, to see opportunities and to spark inspiration. He works with brands to help them find and understand the people that matter to them. So that they can then create the right experiences, engage new audiences and appeal to people in the right way. His plan? Simple, it’s to help brands become something people actually want to be part of. More content by

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