When was the last time you went out to dinner with family or friends, and instead of listening to the conversation at your table alone, also ended up eavesdropping on multiple tables around you? That couple on their first date, the four friends arguing about multiple cancelled plans, and the huge family squabbling over the last piece of kebab – you’ve heard all the conversations.
Social listening is much like this. Except that it’s digital and global, and (thankfully) largely covers the population that is actively liking, sharing and commenting on the World Wide Web. Data has changed the entire picture for the media industry. From PR to marketing and advertising, the use of data is ubiquitous and necessary.
From hits and misses to hard numbers
While the use of data started with metrics and quantitation, its initial use was majorly to measure impact after a campaign had been consumed by a sample size significant enough to assess. However, with social listening, real-time data collection has come into the picture, and evaluations can now be made at the outset of a campaign or even in time periods when there is no active campaigning but there are still brand mentions, press releases and articles. This in turn helps to plan the next campaign in such a manner that addresses the concerns faced in the previous ones.
Social listening tools like Awario, Agorapulse and Keyhole help PR professionals and consultancies keep tabs on everything from mentions of your brand and your competitors, to even cases where your content has been plagiarised. Awario even goes so far as to classify mentions and separate those that are from influencers. In this way, you know whether the discussion about your brand is significant or not.
And it’s not just impressions and surface-level engagement that is assessed. Tools like Keyhole also help with sentiment analysis by contextually analysing text and providing subjective insights into what content consumers truly feel about your brand’s voice.
When time is money, saving time means saving money
It’s not just about how the audience benefits from to-the-point communication that they desire; it’s also about saving all that precious time and money by sidestepping the trial and error process. When you know your consumers, their preferences and their pain points, it becomes so much easier to address their needs. At every juncture of the buying process, information can be obtained that helps you as a brand fine-tune and tweak not just your content creation process but also improve on the products and services you provide, which is the very driving factor behind your PR and marketing communications.
In the process of consuming your content, people are also looking at your website and details about what you do as a company. As patrons of your services they are actively giving feedback, rating your brand and voicing grievances and concerns. Keeping track of this is the best way to determine whether what you supply is indeed answering a legitimate demand. Brands that evolve their products with time and feedback, are the ones that truly sustain their presence in the market.
Planning, execution, impact assessment
The biggest challenge in preparing an effective PR strategy is to identify the real objective. It can be a hugely confusing process, simply because of the sheer volume of questions and doubts that arise.
Do you need just visibility, do you want more engagement, are you looking to just retain your current following?
Are you looking at PR as a means to directly increase business?
What else supplements your PR strategy?
Is your A&M game strong and getting you enough leads? Is PR, then, simply for communication and establishing a brand voice?
There are an overwhelming number of questions to ask. But with data and PR & marketing tools, knowing what your brand needs, becomes that much easier. And in turn this simplifies your planning and execution processes. And once you have planned around the core objective, you can afford to execute a few embellishments. Spotify is a good example of this. In the midst of genuinely informative content pieces on Spotify’s business moves, one search result suddenly tells us that ‘Spotify Now Has Over 8000 Artists With “Lil” At The Beginning of Their Name’. No one really needs this piece of information, but just think of the recall value it adds. This is precisely what streamlined planning enables you to do as a brand. Once you’ve addressed the data-derived requirements with specificity, you have the space to add fun, new and experimental content. This is because your strategy now has lesser scope for error, thereby allowing you some space for risk-taking.
The process of data mining does not have to be intrusive. It can be channelled positively to create content that people enjoy and learn from, and it can also be a means to add personality to your brand, rather than maintaining it as an impersonal entity.
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