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With consumers in the midst of the back-to-school ramp up, retail brands are doing all they can to cash in. Back-to-school is a great early indicator of how the holidays might go, so we used our NetBase Pro tool to learn what retailers should steer clear of, or use to their advantage.

“Back to school” as a keyword phrase

Sentiment for the keywords “back to school” has been pretty high over the past month at 71% positive. All those parents are happy to be shopping if it means getting the kids out from underfoot after a busy summer.

Notable extremes:

Sentiment tanked on August 10, dropping to 22% after Walmart included guns in one of their back-to-school ads:

The company apologized quickly, claiming the incident was a prank. Charles Crowson, a Walmart spokesman, summed up the reality for all brands: “I really don’t think any retailer is immune from things like this popping up through social media.”

That’s definitely true – and why brands must use social monitoring to be aware of any issues gaining momentum.

On July 20 sentiment soared at 93%, due largely to a “school giveaway” of backpacks full of school supplies that weekend.

“School giveaway” was the most popular term over the last month, but others like “#backtoschool,” “school supplies,” “school shopping” and “ready” were also big.

Clicking on any of these terms gives you sound bites of posts, revealing the topics within the terms. Brands can use these topics to further explore what consumers want, and deliver that in their messaging.

The one hashtag you can’t ignore

The hashtag #backtoschool is so popular, it ranked as a term as well. For any back-to-school messaging, brands would do well to include it, as well as any other hashtags relevant to their audience.

Giveaways are huge, with many other high-ranking hashtags being centered on that topic – e.g., #giveaway, #win, #sweepstakes, #instantwingame, etc.

One popular hashtag on this theme is #grav3yardgirlsbtsgiveaway. It may be a mouthful, but the free Macbook on offer is getting a lot of traction:

Click on any hashtag in the Top Hashtags cloud for a similar snapshot of top conversations for that hashtag.

Which brands are “schooling” the others?

Looking at Top Brands, the aforementioned Grav3yardgirl “new Macbook” giveaway by YouTube personality Bunny Meyer is ruling the roost. If it makes sense, you could share your love for Grav3yardgirl and offer a discount on Macbooks for those who don’t win. But don’t force it, or you’ll come off like a parent trying too hard to be cool.

Johnson & Johnson’s Healthy Essentials giveaway is right behind with a “chance to win $40k” in scholarship money.

YouTube, Macbook, Kodak, Amazon, Walmart, Samsung and Staples are all doing well standing out:

Click on their names in the word cloud to find out why – and don’t be afraid to borrow strategies that could also work for your brand. That’s what social competitive analysis is all about!

People worth knowing

What about the Top People? These are great names to explore as potential brand advocates and influencers – or at least as people to talk to your audience about if they are passionate fans.

Young Mari Copeny is using social media to help her hometown of Flint, Michigan by raising money for the water crisis, but also by supplying backpacks of school supplies to Flint students. At all of ten years old, she’s clearly a popular role model for her peers.

YouTube sensation Alisha Marie’s Roommate Wars series could be a great fit for reaching the college-bound set with a little comedy.

And clearly everyone is loving Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things) in her back-to-school Converse ad.

These names prove that even though it’s parents (mostly) spending the money, young audiences are soaking up content by these just-as-young influencers. If you don’t know who they are, find out!

But the other lesson here is that real people are what consumers are most drawn to. Sure, Brown is a Netflix star, but her youth and quirkiness lend an accessibility that makes her feel like a friend.

And if you look at Popular Media by engagement, you’ll find a Gap ad on Facebook that centers around real-life third grade teacher Jasmyn Wright. The vid is part of a series featuring other innovative teachers for The Gap’s #GapToSchool campaign, which is right on target. Anything too salesy is out of vogue – authentic wins the day.

Dial into your audience’s specific preferences

There’s a lot of information to be gleaned from social data, but you need a starting point to expand from. NetBase Pro is one way to find basic information like gender and age for a given topic, as well as trending hashtags and more.

With basic insights in hand, look more closely at the areas that matter most to your brand. Then deliver more specific messaging that will resonate with your particular audience – or a chosen segment.

The window is closing for back-to-school, which means it’s nearly time to focus on the upcoming holidays. The strategies you apply here, and the insights you glean, will carry you through the end of the year and into 2018.

Just keep surfacing for real-time trends, and getting to know your audience, and you’ll have a successful back-to-school season – and happy holidays to boot.

Want to hone your skills even more before the holidays hit? Join us this October at NetBase LIVE! Register now!

Image from Mark Bonica


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