To succeed in the age of social transparency, brands must be truly open to customer feedback, from the awkward home truths to the pleasant surprises. To understand customer sentiment in detail, you need a winning combination of powerful data analysis and human common sense.
What do your customers *really* think of you?
Social listening once meant monitoring your Twitter feed and answering Facebook comments, a job frequently passed to interns or junior staff. Today, customer experience and the insights that fuel it have become a crucial factor in brand success, and one of the few remaining areas where a minor advantage can deliver major rewards. If you don’t know what your customers are thinking and feeling, and you’re not taking those readings on a regular basis, you’re missing out.
Different by design
Brands that truly listen to their consumers stand out a mile – they’re the ones doing something different when the rest of the market is still playing it by the book. Take The Body Shop: in the late 70s and early 80s, they stirred up the hairspray-and-shoulder-pads aesthetic by marrying cosmetics with social and political principles like animal rights, environmentally friendly packaging and fair trade supply chains. It didn’t sound like a recipe for success, but their ‘anti-gravity’ shares quickly floated high on the 1980s stock markets. What’s more, they set a new course for today’s brands, not just the overtly principle-led (hello LUSH) but the industry in general, which in Europe at least, now operates under stringent animal testing laws.
Combine technical power with human insight
Listening well, and keeping your radar tuned in over time, are keys to successful market disruption. But there’s a lot of information out there, much of it expressed through free text in comments or reviews. It’s a time-consuming task, and one that simply doesn’t scale beyond SME-level. Fortunately, data processing technology and AI is now at a level where it can parse natural language and help you pick out broad trends in sentiment and consumer preference, notoriously difficult to infer using human manpower alone.
Of course, knowing what’s happening and deciding what to do with your insights, and which areas of research to pursue, are very different things. it’s not just a question of buying in a data analysis package or throwing more manpower at scrutinising your metrics. Human expertise is the key to unlocking the customer sentiment code. From a sea of individual data points, you can guide the technology to follow your hunches and back up assumptions, turning them into solid recommendations.
Side-step your internal biases
When you’re launching a social listening programme, there’s a strong case for looking beyond your own organisation and leveraging the fresh eyes of an independent specialist team. Companies, particularly those with a rich history, have a tendency to self-perceive based on their past brand positioning rather than looking at the present. Even when objective measurement is used, it can be seen through the lens of an existing bias that exists within the company. If you’ve always been ‘the cool brand’, for example, you’re likely to take suggestions that you’re behind the curve with a grain of salt.
Here at the tree, we’ve seen for ourselves what a difference social listening can make, and the benefit of paying attention to how customers really feel. Take Frezyderm, a brand we helped to break the UK market in the summer of 2017. We handed the microphone to consumers with the #summermoments campaign, where user-generated content was the driving force. It helped achieve more than 500% increase in sales. Then there was the Bach Rescue Remedy ‘Rescue Restfulness’ campaign, which harnessed the power of social media influencers to resonate with an older 45-60 audience. Through social listening, we were able to identify 6 highly-focused Facebook audience segments and release a targeted video to each. The result helped the brand sail a stratospheric 542% above their KPIs.
We’d love to hear from brands who are ready to take a no-holds barred look at their customer perceptions, and do something amazing with the results. Get in touch on:
T: 0203 222 0077