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How to Keep Your Ear to the Social Media Ground

We all know the game hide-and-seek. Children love it. Parents do too… until the 12th or 50th round in a day. 

One of the reasons parents get tired of playing hide-and-seek so frequently is because children tend to hide in the most obvious of places repetitively. It becomes a game of which-5-hiding-spots-will-they-be-in-this-time. Even though it can become tedious for parents, the simplicity is wonderful in its own way. 

If only more things were that simple—like gathering data for your marketing strategies. There are the obvious places to look– government sources, primary research, industry studies, social media– but many have a paywall or are deceptively difficult to mine for data. Even then, there are so many more sources now like blogs, news articles, or discussion websites that can shed more light on a topic. So, the game of gathering relevant data becomes less like hide-and-seek and more like where’s waldo.

A where's waldo puzzle shows a lot of people at the beach. A larger form of Waldo is in the bottom left corner with some snorkling gear.

Social Media- Data Galore. But What’s Relevant? 

Trends can come and go faster than a child can say “not it” and touch their nose. Data from studies or governmental sources can be useful, but they’re usually reports of trends, events, or other patterns that have already taken place. These sources can be helpful when analyzing trends and making educated guesses about what’s coming. However, it doesn’t help predict or analyze unexpected events that happen all too often.

Let’s take the Baby Yoda (a character in the Disney+ tv show The Mandalorian) trend. Or COVID-19. Or even the Patriots not making it into the Super Bowl this last season. All of these trends or events were to some level unexpected and had varying lifetimes in which marketers could take advantage of them. So, marketers must be on top of trends and act quickly. The same goes for industry-specific trends.

One of the best places to discover trends quickly, especially pop culture trends, is through social media. As possibly one of the greatest technologies ever made (inadvertently) for marketing, social media is a wealth of customer opinions and data. For trends, it’s the place people go to share what they love and hate—or whatever else impassions them. Marketers that keep their ear to the social media ground will be some of the first to know about rising trends and could get ahead of competitors in how they’re going to utilize said trends.

A magnifying glass over a search bar that says Social Media Trends has icons of the various social platforms hovering around them.

But social media can be misleading. Their algorithms are focused on showing users exactly what they’re interested in, which means you won’t get the whole picture just by constantly monitoring your individual profiles or pages you follow. In order to get an accurate holistic picture, marketers need solutions that keep up with and predict the flip-of-the-switch nature of social media: social listening

If you’re up-to-date on marketing tools, you’ve heard of social listening. But if you’re not, first of all: no worries, we’re all busy! Social listening is a social media monitoring tool that gathers certain social media posts or tweets in real-time according to parameters that you set. For example, you could monitor for mentions surrounding your brand, including words that are related to your brand or industry, or you can monitor for emerging trends. 

Most social listening platforms have automatizations that alert you to rises in positive or negative sentiment, when the number of mentions surrounding a specific keyword rise to a certain level, or when specific sets of word combinations occur in posts. Social listening platforms also allow for the exclusion of words. For example, let’s say you’re monitoring for mentions of Tony Stark. You might include words like Tony Stark, Stark, Stark Industries, #tonystarkhasaheart in your search parameters. But do you know what else will come up in these parameters? Stark naked. If you want to avoid seeing things you don’t want to see, you’ll need to set up an exclusion with those words or phrases that aren’t relevant to your search. These techniques and more can be useful when monitoring for new and rising real-time trends.

Hate to Break it to You, but Social Media Data isn’t Enough

We know, we know. We just spent seven paragraphs telling you how great social media is for discovering trends and how to do it. But we also talked about getting the whole picture. So, what has a bigger and better picture than social media?

The Internet.

Now before you go to another article for a less overwhelming place to gather data, ask yourself: is it really that overwhelming?

Social listening tools can be applied to Internet sources. The exclusion rules we talked about before can help you narrow what you’re pulling from the ocean of data on the Internet. Even if you’re still pulling too much information, social listening platforms generally come with segmentation capabilities that allow you to look at only the data you want to see. 

Two of Nuvi's line graphs show the ebbs and flows of conversation within a certain topic. A Segment option list on the left shows that a retail segment has been put on the top graph and RILA blog-Covid is the segment for the bottom graph. This is indicated by the Retail being highlighted in a dark brownish red color and the other in a dark yellow. On the first graph, a circle of dark brownish red has the number of mentions within the social mentions graph which is 25,046. The second graph has 1894 mentions.

Imagine pulling not only relevant social posts or tweets but blog and news articles or Reddit conversations too. You’d really be able to see the whole conversation then! And you’d be able to have an incredibly accurate understanding of how your audience feels about a trend or other topic, or of how your competitor’s audience feels about those same topics. Blog and news articles can greatly add to the conversation because they often have relevant statistics as it relates to the topic, or they explain the situation in a way that helps you see other potential veins in the story that you may have missed otherwise. They’re useful in helping you identify if there are potential gaps in your monitor parameters, what to look for to further your research on a topic, and where to look for it.

Once the data comes in, it’s no longer a game of hide-and-seek with the data. It’s a game where you wait for relevant data to come to you and then analyze it. Doesn’t that sound nice?

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