Better social listening in a world of stricter data privacy

Do recent privacy laws have you feeling confused about how you can use social data? To successfully reach your target audience, it’s crucial to have a comprehensive social listening program in place so you can gather valuable data and insights that can inform your strategy. But with Facebook’s latest changes to the Instagram API and GDPR going into effect this May, it’s unclear how marketers can still use social data in an ethical and effective way.

Last week, we hosted a webinar to help clear the air. We discussed the recent changes to privacy laws and the impact they’re having on social media marketers. We also shared our best advice for how to execute a well-rounded social listening strategy.

Got a question or something we missed? Find us on Twitter @UnionMetrics.

Why social listening is important

First, let’s establish why social listening is important to being successful on social media. Social listening is a powerful tool that can help you turn conversations happening on social media into valuable input for your marketing strategy. Social listening can be used for a number of reasons, but these are the most common use cases we see marketers using it for:

  • Audience insights. Gain a deeper understanding of who your audience is, what interests them and who influences them.
  • Risk mitigation. Spot crises and determine how to respond effectively in the near term while understanding the lasting impact on your brand.
  • Market research. Learn how audiences feel about your products or discover new audiences to research.
  • Competitive analysis. Compare your performance and share of voice within an audience to your competition.

How social media is changing

Social media is growing quickly and changes frequently so marketers must adapt their strategies to embrace the newness. The terms social media marketers were using a couple years ago to define their social listening strategies are different than the terms we use today. We defined some important characteristics of social listening, including the difference between monitoring and listening, and dug into the meaning data privacy on social media:

  • Social data: Any information or data gathered from social media on user engagement, demographics, trends and topics.
  • Social monitoring: Keeping track of direct mentions of your brand so you can respond to them.
  • Social listening: Tracking broader conversations around your industry, competitors and audience to help you make smarter marketing decisions.
  • Personally identifiable information (PII): Any information or data that can be used to identify, contact, or locate a single person. (Ex. Full name, email address, SSN)
  • GDPR: The EU General Data Protection Regulation designed to protect data privacy and the way organizations approach data privacy. GDPR goes into effect on May 25, 2018.

The current landscape

So what’s going on with the current landscape? In the last few months, we’ve seen a lot of buzz around data privacy, especially on social media. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook immediately cut off their Instagram API that allowed brands to access social data and analytics. The goal was to minimize the amount of personally identifiable information (PII) being shared with brands and companies. While this is a positive step towards data security, it really shakes up the way brands use social data.

For example, one major change is that brands can no longer track hashtags on Instagram, which up until Cambridge Analytica, was a popular way to measure the success of campaigns, monitor mentions of a brand and industry topics, run contests, and more. Another is the inability to track competitors or influencers. Brands will have to find new (and probably more manual) ways to get insights about the accounts they don’t own but want to monitor.

You may have also heard about the new GDPR regulation that went into effect last week. While it’s only enforced for countries in the European Union, it impacts brands who sell internationally (which is most of us in a global economy). It’s important for brands to understand these regulations to ensure their marketing efforts are in compliance and avoid punishment.

What brands should do now

Now the question is how to take the current landscape and build a successful social listening strategy around it. Our biggest tip? Utilize Twitter!

Twitter is a goldmine for social media marketers. No matter who or where your customers are, they’re discussing your products, company and competitors on Twitter and there’s so much you can learn from these discussions. This is a huge resource that shouldn’t be ignored. Once you have enough quality data, focus on analyzing it in a meaningful way to make smarter, long-term marketing decisions and avoid snap judgements. Concentrate on:

  • Size and scope. Understand the quantity of the conversation in terms of volume, impressions and reach.
  • Content. Investigate how the audience responds to different kinds of content and topics. What drives engagement and what seems to fall flat?
  • Influencers. Which users are creating content and which users are amplifying it?
  • Audience characteristics. Who is engaging? Where are they? What languages do they speak?

Finally, be a responsible social marketer! While “monitoring” and “social intelligence” can sound like creepy terms, it’s your job to not use social data in a way that identifies anyone specifically. As you analyze social data for insights and trends, look at it at an aggregate level and practice good hygiene with how you handle it. When you create content and run campaigns, be clear with what you’re going to do with the data you collect and always have clear CTAs that actually do what they say. Always allow people to opt out and use caution when enriching social data with external data.

While you may initially get fewer results and conversions from your social marketing, you’re actually building a more engaged audience that will be more valuable in the long run. When in doubt, don’t be a creep!


Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash