Social listening in a time of Cambridge Analytica

The world of social listening is evolving pretty quickly right now. In just the past two months, the social media landscape has been forever changed by the activities of Cambridge Analytica, Facebook’s response to it, the new regulations surrounding GDPR, and more. Brands no longer have unfettered access to public Instagram posts for hashtag listening. Consumers are more and more concerned about how their data is used, some even going so far as to make their social profiles private or delete them altogether. Across the world, companies everywhere are updating their data policies to comply with the GDPR regulations that go into effect on May 25.

And all of this is a net positive on the world, even if some of these changes have been inconvenient to marketers. Because as marketers, we should think very carefully what data we collect and how we use it. We have every obligation to handle the data we use responsibly. As users of these same social platforms our customers use, we have certain expectations about what should and shouldn’t be done with our personal data. So we should be sure to treat the data we access for our jobs the way we’d want our own data to be treated by others.

However, this doesn’t mean we need to stop using social data to improve our marketing efforts. When done right, social data can inform and improve marketing. So let’s talk about what that looks like moving forward.

Social listening – the concept of using social data to understand trends and communities around a particular topic – is still just as important as it ever was. And the foundation of your social listening program should be Twitter.

Conversation about your brand is happening on Twitter, even if at first you don’t think most of your customers hang out there. No matter who your customers are, they’re discussing your products, your company, and your competitors on Twitter. Even more than that, if something happens in the world, it shows up on Twitter. Twitter is the perfect canary in your social coal mine, functioning as your early warning system and a source of near-infinite information.

How can you use social listening for your brands and clients? Consider setting up the following to build your listening program (and note: this goes way beyond hashtags):

  • Brand monitoring. Make sure you know how your brand is perceived, the kinds of questions your customers have, and how customers feel about executives or key employees.
  • Industry keywords. Understand trends and important news in your industry. Learn more about major players, popular media outlets and publications, your competitors, and the content that resonates with this audience.
  • Crisis management. Make sure you’ve got monitoring in place now so that you’re ready when a crisis strikes. Set benchmarks and learn how to recognize when something looks out of the ordinary. You might even find that something looks like a crisis at first, but isn’t turning into something bigger.
  • Research. Before you launch a product or initiative, learn what you can about the context around it. Study past reactions to similar initiatives, look for themes or issues you can address now, and prepare for what’s to come.

The data you collect from your social listening efforts is useful in a number of ways. It can help you understand trends, communities, concepts, and you can then use those insights to inform your marketing strategy on Twitter and beyond. Think of Twitter as your social media focus group, and build from there. Use these insights to inform your content strategy, plan campaigns, discover the hashtags that resonate with an audience, and find new customers by getting to know new communities.

So whether you’re trying to update an existing social listening program or start a brand new one, now’s a great time to get started. Just be sure you’re treating the data you’re collecting responsibly.