When marketers hear the word “social,” their minds immediately roll through a list of networks. But social isn’t about networks; it’s about consumer behavior, says Apu Gupta, CEO and cofounder of Curalate, a provider of marketing analytics. Focusing on behavior transforms social into a responsive, interactive channel, he says. So, instead of sending messages that aim to shape consumers’ behaviors, marketers should shape their marketing based on consumers’ behaviors and preferences—data that’s often readily available on social sites for marketers willing to listen.
Today’s consumers aren’t just communicating with words online. The growing popularity of highly visual social media sites like Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr has led to consumers communicating with images, as well.
For brands, this is a potential boon because image-based posts drive more engagement than text-based posts. Adobe’s “2013 Social Intelligence Report” found that image-based posts have a 4.3% engagement rate. By contrast, text-based posts have an engagement rate of .7%, according to Joe Martin, analyst for Adobe’s Digital Index.
Moreover, tracking image-based posts drives more insight into which specific products consumers like. For example, when a consumer likes a product on Facebook, it informs Facebook what ad it should post in response to the like, Gupta says. On Pinterest, however, consumers can pin a product in any color and at any angle available. Gupta says this insight tells marketers how consumers want to visualize a particular product in ways that a like can’t.
But it’s not enough to just track social feedback; brands have to respond to these insights, too. For instance, after C. Wonder, a clothing, accessories, and home décor retailer, posted a sneak peak of its Dachshund Slipper Loafers on Instagram back in March, the brand saw so much positive social chatter— including more than 1,000 likes and 245 comments—that it increased its shoe order as a result, says Katherine Brodie, C. Wonder’s senior marketing manager of e-commerce.
“The sales and response to the shoes have exceeded our expectations,” Brodie adds.
Timing is everything
In terms of comments and sentiment, both past and real-time data can be valuable depending on a marketer’s goals, notes Sam Melnick, research analyst for IDC’s CMO Advisory Practice. For example, marketers can gain high-level learnings from analyzing social data over time, such as which customer groups engaged the most with specific campaigns and use that insight to inform future campaigns. Often marketers use real-time data to react with more immediacy.
“Because social mechanisms are typically in the moment, marketers need to react and interact in that same moment,” Melnick says. “Otherwise they will lose context and the actionable value turns back into just gathering insight.”
Comedy Central follows this rule of thumb. The cable channel uses social TV analytics from solution provider SocialGuide to monitor who’s talking about the brand, their follower count, what they’re talking about, and how they feel about the brand—all in real time. This helps Comedy Central pinpoint influencers and measure brand sentiment, says Don Steele, VP of digital and social marketing.
The brand then takes the insight it learned today to shape tomorrow’s creative. For example, Comedy Central tracks people’s reactions to its programming to determine which clips it should upload on its site the next day, as well as shape its banner ad and email creative. For example, Steele says Comedy Central identified popular sketches from its show Key and Peele and used the characters from those sketches in its banner ad creative.
Whether tracking images or sentiment, marketers can quickly gather information on customers’ preferences via social channels to vastly improve their campaigns—and results.