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Let’s say as a brand you have this social thing knocked. You’re posting on all the relevant platforms, and you’re seeing your numbers grow – followers, retweets, etc. But… do you know WHY the growth is happening? Do you know how to keep it happening? Social media marketing isn’t a game of chance – it requires intention.

The good news is there’s a ton of social data on offer to help brands connect to their audiences. You just have to know where to look.

Stop making assumptions

“Assumptions suck,” as we like to say here at NetBase. (Can we all agree that acting on assumptions is a colossal waste of effort?)

To truly connect, and stay ahead of potential issues, you need to KNOW what your customers want and need. And that means digging more deeply into the data available on social media – starting with emotions.

How consumers FEEL about your brand is one of the most important things you can know. And you can’t discover that by doing simple keyword searches on words like “love” and “hate.” You need an app that accounts for human language idiosyncrasies like sarcasm and slang.

Here’s an example: Someone claiming to “hate” your brand of pizza, but posts a picture of an empty plate (but for a few crumbs), actually loves it. And you want to make sure you count that as a positive mention. We measure this as Net Sentiment.

You also want to define their Passion Intensity – or how MUCH they love your pizza. Because passion breeds brand advocates. And they make your job SO much easier.

Don’t be a brand – be a BFF

But that’s still not enough. Just because you’re getting a lot of likes and mentions doesn’t mean you can sit back and revel in social glory. Actually, the more followers you have, the more you need to get personal. Because there are more people watching your interactions.

Everything you do has the potential to be amplified in a positive or negative way. You always want it to be the former.

That means you need to know your audience on a much more personal level. What are their hobbies? What is important in their lives? What causes matter to them? What are their families like? What are their guilty pleasures? What are they saying about your competitors?

Knowing the answers to these questions means you can really personalize your messaging – another important key to winning them over for the long haul.

Here’s a look at how this works:

Let’s pretend you’re Ben and Jerry’s, and you know a lot of women like your ice cream (ok, that part’s not rocket science). BUT you also know, because you’ve been paying attention to what those women are posting on social media, that many of them are also big fans of The Good Wife, never missing a Sunday night.

Obviously next Sunday you’d post something like “Time for #TheGoodWife! Legal intrigue + ice cream? Yes please! What’s the verdict, Alicia Florrick fans? We say #CherryGarcia!”

See how easily even a national brand can reach out to consumers in a very personal way? No heavy-handed sales pitch, just some friends bonding over ice cream. And maybe because your competitors haven’t appealed to them on that same human level, you’ll become their new go-to brand. What could be better?

Social is not just a numbers game. It’s about building relationships, and like any good relationship you need to listen to what the other person is saying; you need to care about what the other person is feeling. And the opportunity is there. You just have to take advantage of it.

How well do you know your audience? Reach out to learn how to get to know them even better!

How well do you know your consumers in social? Learn how leading brands are tapping into social audiences by embracing the new normal in marketing.