5 key factors for spotting consumer trends with social listening

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The golden age of social media truly changed the landscape of marketing in a very significant way.

On the one hand, these platforms have opened opportunities for businesses to expand their reach globally, even with limited resources.

Unfortunately, the flip side to that coin is that social media networks also make the online market more competitive. It’s almost impossible to capture anyone’s attention these days.

The key is to know what your target audience or customer base is looking for. This way, you’ll be able to ensure that you’ll get their crosshairs from the get-go.

Enter social listening. We will discuss what it is and the five key factors involved to ensure its success.

What is social listening?

To understand social listening, one needs to define social monitoring first. It is the act of collecting and analyzing consumer conversations on social media platforms used by many popular social media advertising companies to uncover actionable insights and trends that are related to your brand or niche.

Many people confuse this step with social listening, but it’s not. It’s only when you take action to respond to these conversations, and trends appropriately will social monitoring evolves into social listening.

Another commonly mistaken process with social listening is trendspotting. However, while this method can also require social monitoring, trendspotting’s objective is to use the collected data to predict social media trends before they hopefully go mainstream.

On the other hand, social listening goes beyond just smart trends. It also looks into the other factors at play within various online conversations.

What are the benefits of social listening?

Social listening is an integral step in creating a data-driven marketing strategy. To start, here are some of its most significant benefits:

1. Have an idea of customer’s key insights into your brand

Social listening can give you the current consumer perception of your brand on various social channels.

What do they love most about your brand? More importantly, do they complain about pain points you can readily adjust?

Pay close attention not only to their comments about your brand but, more importantly, to the personal stories that they tell. These are more compelling and, therefore, more impactful.

2. Have an eye on competitor conversations

You can better understand your competition.

How do current and potential customers view your brand versus others? Do they like your products and services better? Why?

How about your marketing? Do they know more about you or not? How does your audience engagement rate compare to others within the same niche?

3. Overview of campaign performance

You’ll easily identify the strengths and weaknesses of any campaign you’re running in real time.

Remember, world-changing brands don’t just run social listening efforts before marketing campaigns. They also hold it as their campaigns are in progress.

4. Make smart decisions

Finally; you’ll be able to make smarter business decisions. Social listening can give you data-driven insights on every aspect of your business, from the content you need to publish to the products and services you should focus on.

How do you identify consumer trends?

Now that we have a better grasp of social listening, we can move on to trendspotting.
It’s usually a term that refers to the process of collecting data to predict upcoming trends.

For this article, we are presenting social listening as a method of trendspotting, not only to predict future social media trends but current ones as well.

The critical question is, how do you know which social conversations signal a consumer trend? A rule of thumb is to search for recurring themes.
A fellow trendspotter also suggested analyzing the minds of consumers using particular conversation signals.

The five key factors for spotting consumer trends

You should remember five key factors when spotting smart trends through social listening strategy, namely:

1. The channel

The first factor you need to consider is your preferred social listening platform. Each social media channel has its strengths, as shown in the reference table below.

That said, don’t just base your choice on the themes and volume of the online conversations on your chosen platform.

You also need to consider if it’s where you’ve already established a decent online presence. This way, you’ll get more data from the social conversations of customers or social media users who are already familiar with your brand.

Social Media Channel and what is it best for? 

Facebook: To learn about how brands are perceived based on consumer posts, reviews, and group conversations.

Twitter: To know the current pulse of a niche or industry

Instagram: To stay updated with current marketing efforts, especially UGC campaigns.

YouTube: To keep on track of influencer trends and current events.

LinkedIn: To see which professions are in-demand and how industries are evolving.

Reddit: To uncover purchase intent, product usage, and feedback.

Please remember that these are not the only social media platforms you can use for your social listening efforts. These were simply the ones we tried and tested ourselves.

Here’s a pro tip: You can use multiple social media channels within a single social listening campaign. It can help you give an alternative perspective on the conversations related to your brand.

2. The audience segments

Another important factor to consider is the online audiences you will listen to. We recommend sticking to your specific target market.

Niche audience insights will be more accurate and substantial, especially in determining possible consumer behaviors.

You might also want to break them into more specific online audience segments. Audience segmentation can give you a better view of current consumer preferences based on the demographics to that they belong.

For instance, suppose you are targeting pet owners and carers. Good job. You have already narrowed down your audience.

However, is there still a way to further break them into different categories?

After all, beginner pet care professionals and owners will have different opinions on certain products and services compared to more experienced ones. Younger ones are more likely to get drawn to more technologically advanced pet parenting styles than older ones.

Here’s a pro tip: Create a correct audience persona for your brand. There are free online builders that you can use.

3. The category

Recognizing your specific category or niche is also crucial. It can help you determine the best digital channels for your social listening efforts.

Let’s cite an example. Gardening enthusiasts usually frequent Instagram and Facebook Groups.

Choosing either as your primary social listening platform will allow you to discover breakout consumer trends in this category faster than choosing other online spaces.

In addition, identifying more focused sub-niches and microniches can help you finetune your social campaigns.

After all, most consumer categories involve overwhelming amounts of online conversations. Zooming in on your specific microniche can filter out the unnecessary noise and give you more manageable data to sift through.

Here’s a pro tip: If you can’t decide on a particular topic to focus on, it can help to make a mind map of how each of them is connected. It can help reveal better and more accurate categories that you can focus on.

You can always draw your mind maps on paper, but digital tools can help. You can even use a flowchart maker as an alternative.

4. The timing

You shouldn’t overlook certain seasons and current events. For instance, It is not uncommon for social media trends to spark from a single celebrity or influencer post.

Hence, staying on top of such posts and the social conversations they trigger should be a part of your social listening campaign.

In relation, you should also keep in mind that certain social media strategies take time to produce notable effects. Performing social listening within just a few hours after a marketing campaign’s launch may not give you a complete picture of its wins and losses.

Here’s a pro tip: One of the benefits of conducting a social listening campaign on multiple platforms is that some trends spark first on some channels before others.

Spotting these particular social media trends from their origins and becoming their trendsetter on other channels is a huge opportunity to give your brand an edge over its competitors.

However, timing is key一something that can be incredibly hard to do if you don’t pay close attention.

5. The direction

Finally, don’t limit yourself to current conversations about your industry or brand. Instead, try to uncover what’s beyond this initial layer and gauge what these social signals imply.

Where are these conversations heading? Is there an impending change in your type of consumer landscape?

Are there potential customers to explore that you have previously untapped? More importantly, how will these opportunities impact your upcoming business decisions?

In addition, you should take a closer look at the other elements involved in these conversations. What hashtags are they using? How long have they talked about this trend?

Do you feel it’s about time for the trend to evolve or change its form? Do you even think it will reach this evolution, or will it simply be swallowed up by the next social media trends?

Here’s a pro tip: You can also try to manipulate these social media trends by collaborating with renowned influencers in your niche.

Expert marketers even use this opportunity to launch UGC campaigns to help steer current trends in their direction. Check out other techniques for guiding and managing consumer trends as well.

How to run your first social listening campaign

Are you ready to uncover what your target channel customers are saying about your brand? Here are some tips on how to start your social listening campaign:

1. Determine your goal

Why do you want to run a social listening campaign? Is there a certain aspect that you want to focus on?

Having a goal can give you a starting point and an end target.

2. Choose your digital tools

Different platforms can help you in your campaign. However, your social listening tools and chosen data source are the most important.

SEO tools can also optimize your topics and themes, further focusing and streamlining your campaign.

Finally, we also find using task management tools a huge help in recording the actionable points we uncover in our campaigns.

3. Optimize your topics and themes

As mentioned above, SEO tools can offer a lot of support to your social listening campaigns. This way, you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for when your online tool is going through massive amounts of online conversations.

4. Gather the data

Once you have specific topics and themes to focus on, it’s time to use your preferred social listening tool to gather your data.

Most of these platforms have various customization features. These features will allow you to tailor-fit your campaign according to the goals we’ve formulated above.

5. Incorporate your data into your business strategies

Use the results of your social listening campaign to adjust your business strategies. You can try to outreach this audience and make some relationships during this process. Whether you’re simply checking how effective your marketing efforts are, looking into potential audiences to tap, or developing a new product, social listening can help.

6. Measure the results

Go back to your goals. Were they met after you analyzed and implemented the actionable, real-time insights your social listening campaign uncovered?

If not, how can you adjust your social listening techniques to get more accurate results?

7. Rinse and repeat

Finally, all that’s left to do now is implement the adjustments you’ve deemed necessary and repeat the process to accomplish your social listening goal.

Keep in mind that social listening isn’t a one-and-done campaign. Instead, it yields better results when it’s performed repeatedly and consistently.

8. Staying on top of consumer trends

Staying on top of consumer trends can be an overwhelming effort. There are too many details to keep track of and massive volumes of data to analyze.

Fortunately, some methods can make the process more manageable. Social listening is one of them.

It is the act of listening to online conversations related to your industry and brand to get actionable, business-critical insights from your target market.

There are five key factors to remember if you wish to spot trends with social listening. These are your preferred social listening channel, audience segments, niche, timing, and direction.

By keeping these in mind, you’ll be able to create a smarter, more accurate, and impressively enlightening social listening campaign.

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