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For smaller brands, competing in social against nationally or globally known brands might seem a pointless endeavor – but social analytics can even the playing field.

Our latest webinar, How Mid-Market Brands Can Outsmart Giants on Social, gets into the details. Here are some highlights:

Smaller = More Agile

Smaller brands have greater agility in social when it comes to reacting to social events, developing ideas and putting a plan into action. This means they can actually beat their competitors to the social “punch,” IF they’re smart.

Larger brands succeed by outspending and out-resourcing. They are slowed through internal approvals, processes, brand guidelines, time restraints and carry a much higher level of risk. They lean on social monitoring tools for real-time social intelligence to help compensate for their short comings.

In order to capitalize on this advantage, small or medium brands need to full embrace the power of social analytics and all it has to offer.

Enhance your social listening

Let audience insights guide your actions. There’s a reason it’s called social media listening. But you’re not just listening for consumer approval so you can celebrate being well-liked. What you’re really after are the secret passions that clue you in to how to best connect with consumers.

Brands know consumer voices matter. That’s why they spend resources on surveys and focus groups – to get that perspective. What social media offers is an always-on focus group chock full of information that far surpasses the self-conscious data you get with in-person interviews.

Social listening gives you access to real-time and historical data. Plus it shows you not just how many people are talking about any given topic, but who they are, how they feel, and where the most passionate conversations are taking place.

The latter is of major import, as brands often seek info on the most popular social networks. But we’ve seen brands surprised time and again upon discovering their best audience was active on a network they hadn’t even considered.

Japanese snack brand Pocky saw this when they devised a campaign to enter the U.S. market. Not only did Pocky discover consumers were referring to their snack product as a candy bar – a major insight that changed their approach – they learned their most engaged audience was on Tumblr, not Facebook as they’d thought.

You can hear more details in the webinar, but suffice it to say if they’d followed their assumptions they would never have seen the 4X increase in brand conversation they achieved by listening on social before acting. Not to mention they increased their social footprint by 870%.

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Don’t be content to share any ol’ content

Another detail social listening tools provide is the type of content most likely to resonate with your target audience – and yes, it matters.

Consider these stats:

That last point isn’t surprising when you consider how many opportunities there are for consumers to take matters into their own hands online. Selfies and Instagram posts alone account for 2 to 4 billion uploads per day, not to mention videos and stories. Now add in Q&A type forums such as Quora and Reddit, and round things off with blogs and reviews at places like Yelp, or user-dependent businesses like Airbnb – consumers rule the internet! You’ve got to offer up content they care about, or they will simply ignore you.

Doing this requires analyzing how your brand and products are perceived “in the wild.” Where do they use your products? How can you speak to that in your content?

Look no further than Cuisinart for an example. They relied on product videos as part of their strategy – i.e., “here’s how this blender works” – until they realized their audience was more interested in videos demonstrating recipes. Once they discovered that, they featured their products in a way that truly delighted their target consumers. This helped them achieve much greater reach and engagement.

Put your most passionate fans to work

Another key strategy for exploding reach and engagement is using social analytics to find influencers. Why is this such a big deal? Because people trust other people. It’s exactly why brands like Airbnb and Amazon encourage users to rate their services – and why it’s crucial they always know exactly where consumer sentiment stands.

Paid media and your own brand media are great, but earned media drives 4X the brand lift of both. Skeptical consumers would rather hear from their peers, so be sure to use social media sentiment analysis to identify ordinary people who are passionate about your brand. These mega-fans won’t stop at sharing your messaging – they’ll craft their own, and actually defend your brand when things go wrong.

This is why passion trumps followers. Someone with 100K followers who tweets sporadically about liking your brand is less effective than someone with 10K followers who tweets constantly about how much they love your brand.

That’s not to say celebrity influencers aren’t worthwhile. If your brand is lucky enough to catch the eye of someone like basketball star Dwayne Wade – like Uggs did with their Uggs Slippers for Men campaign – well that’s just a bonus. Run with it!

Build an army of influencers and you might even find yourself asked to participate in a Super Bowl commercial, like sock brand Stance.

Skill matters, not size

Smaller brands should take heart at the way Stance has used influencers to challenge major brands like Nike and Under Armour. And it’s no secret how they did it: They simply applied social listening and let the insights they found guide their actions. If they can do it, you can too!

And there’s a lot more you can do when you put social media listening tools to work. You can focus your efforts regionally or locally to understand a specific audience in a particular area – like a college campus. You can tweak campaigns on the fly using real-time insights. And perhaps most importantly, you can secure brand health by knowing when there’s a problem and taking action before it becomes a crisis.

Of course, you’ve got to remember to “be social” on social media. If all you do is promote at every turn, you lose the opportunity to showcase your brand’s authenticity and humanity – which is what consumers are most attracted to. If you’re a small brand you may find this easier than larger brands – but brands of all sizes can benefit from this approach.

So if you’re a mid-market brand, don’t be discouraged if you don’t have the budget or staff to compete campaign for campaign with global brands. The strategy you apply is actually what matters – and social listening is an equal opportunity endeavor. Use it skillfully, and you just might disrupt all your competitors – regardless of size or stature.

For more on competing as a mid-market brand, watch the full webinar How Mid-Market Brands Can Outsmart Giants on Social. Or reach out for a one-on-one demo of our suite of award-winning social listening tools.

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Image from Beate

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