CommonSense Blog

5 Ways Social Listening Will Become Audience Intelligence in 2016

By Bob Pearson | Jan 19, 2016

Less than a decade ago, we experienced an explosion of new social media channels. This led to the birth of the social media listening industry. In the early days, if we could just capture what people were saying, we were thrilled. We stared at pie charts and looked at graphs and learned the basics of what our customers were really doing online.

Fast forward to 2016 and the world has changed. Social listening doesn’t cut it. Audience intelligence is replacing it.

We all know in real life that listening is valuable only if you are listening to the right people. We don’t treat all opinions as equal or react to every comment unless we want to drive ourselves insane. Instead, we are moving toward an ability to identify the exact audience that matters so that we can listen to what our audience cares about and we can know what content it prefers, which channels are its favorites, what time of day its members go online, what their patterns of behavior are and what they mean to our brand.

In 2016, the trend away from social listening and toward audience intelligence will be driven by five changes in how we view listening and its next-generation cousin, intelligence. They are listed here:

  • The Importance of Non-Verbal Listening: When we are in a sales situation, we know that as much as two-thirds of what we learn is non-verbal. The non-verbal equivalent online includes search queries, downloads, retweets and likes, shares and other non-verbal communications that are critical to understanding reality. We must account for behavior in new ways in our listening approach.
  • The Ability to Build the Right Profiles: There are many false positives in listening, ranging from spam to simply tracking the wrong information. Analysts today must be craftspeople who can build profiles that focus exactly on what you want to learn about. These profiles are highly precise and contain a range of keywords and phrases.
  • Measure the Conversation, Not the Instance: When consumers react online they often share and talk across multiple channels over a period of time. Our ability to identify their patterns helps us build the right trail of measurement. Think of a conversation starting in Twitter, going to Instagram and ending with comments on Facebook. If you measure Twitter only, or look solely at Instagram, you have just a partial picture. Consumers follow patterns, so you can see their trails over time. As we do offline, we tend to walk the same path over and over again.
  • Compare and Contrast Audiences: If you are tracking each audience, you can see how it differs on the same topic from another group. What are cardiologists saying vs. general practitioners? What are enterprise IT leaders in cybersecurity saying vs. your employees vs. CIOs? If you compare and contrast audiences, your ability to see new insights greatly increases.
  • Understand Your Data Sources: We need to ensure that the data we are measuring really represents where your audience is. Know what channels you are receiving data from so you can see if it matches up with the location of your customers. And be careful to determine if you are paying twice or thrice for the same data vs. different providers. It’s time for us to engage in de-duplication of data so we don’t overpay for the same data. After all, we need more resources to improve our audience intelligence.

This article originally appeared in the January 11, 2016 issue of PR News.