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Social media is more than a medium for interacting with consumers – though it’s imperative to do that. When you put social media analysis to work, every area of your brand stands to gain.

Here are some examples using the NetBase Instant Search tool.

Start with a topic that matters to your brand

This isn’t your only potential starting point, but for our purposes we’re starting with a key upcoming holiday that tends to get consumers shopping, dining, etc: Halloween.

Using the search terms “Halloween” and “#Halloween” we get a quick look at some metrics from the past month:

If it feels early to be talking about this end-of-October holiday, you can see by the number of posts, authors and impressions that it’s not at all.

Sentiment is strong at 59% positive – and that will likely rise as the day gets closer. Then again, anything can happen between now and then, so you’ve always got to keep an eye on real-time data to be sure you know where consumers stand from one moment to the next.

What else can we see from this first bit of info? Not much, really. We don’t know why sentiment is so strong, and we don’t know what the conversation is about. This is why you need more than basic metrics to really make use of social data.

Lots of tools tell you this much, but if you can’t go deeper, what do you really know? Not enough to take action with any focused strategy.

Location is everything

It’s helpful to know where these conversations are taking place – and that gives you a little more to go on. Twitter is dominating right now, and Tumblr is next popular – which might be unexpected for some brands. Instagram takes third place, and Facebook is in fourth – possibly another surprise for brands that focus a lot of energy there.

Don’t discounts blog, forums and news outlets either.

What can hashtags and topics tell you? Lots!

You need specifics to apply social analytics effectively, and we start to see these with the hashtags associated with our search topic:

Talk of the season via #fall is most popular, but you can see there are lots of others breaking through. Hashtags like #handmade, #diy, #etsy, #etsyshop, and #etsyseller indicate a prevalence for making costumes – or having them made by smaller artisans – versus buying at retail chains.

That’s important competitive intelligence for your brand in the way of product development and the customer experience. How can you compete with people on Etsy for a successful Halloween season?

If you can’t directly compete, can you supply their materials to claim part of the market that way? How great will your sales be if you make yourself the go-to store for DIY Halloween items? This is just one idea/example.

Other hashtags like #jewelry, #halloweenmakeup, #baby, #fashion, #disney, and #cute speak to a variety of costuming needs your brand can meet if it makes sense.

Click on any hashtag for a Sound Bite Preview of the posts using them.

Over at the right of the above image we also see popular posts by engagement.

User @danjerdays has the most popular tweet with 61,000 engagements:

Whether Twitter plays along or not, your brand could!

Meanwhile @saiahz hints at negative sentiment that could grow over the next month-and-a-half, as those who are single take umbrage with romantic Halloween posts:

This will be something to watch – and possibly speak to in your marketing – leading up to Halloween.

Which brands should you keep an eye on?

The Top Brands tab is revealing – and proof that assumptions will always be turned on their heads. If you expected to see your brand – or a known competitor – populate the word cloud below you may be disappointed, or surprised. We’re early in the season, so this can change as people move from planning to shopping. For now, there’s still great information here:

Leading the way is Twitter – which might seem unusual as a Top Brand. A look at the Sound Bite Preview shows the social network mentioned frequently as a source in publications like the NY Post: “‘Cool for cosplay or Halloween,’ writes one Twitter user. ‘Not for every day use.'”

Other Top Brands offer an opportunity to focus on competitors that are possibly atypical for many. Mixed in with the likes of Walmart, Amazon, and Disney are @eBay, @YouTube, Netflix, @Etsy, Vintage Halloween, Tumblr, American Horror Story, Crayola, and more.

If you’re a competitor of the retail chains noted, look at the Sound Bite Preview to understand how they’re being talked about – and act accordingly. For the less obvious brand mentions, do the same so you understand why they’re making the cut and how to get some love for your brand.

Perhaps you need to create a playlist on your YouTube channel – but should it be of DIY Halloween crafts, or favorite Halloween movies from the 80’s? You’ve got to analyze the data and decide how best to leverage it.

Follow the feelz

Part of your analysis has to include sentiment, otherwise you don’t know why a topic or brand is popular – and whether it’s worth joining the discussion, or worrying about being overtaken by a surprise competitor.

Take the terms and hashtags from this quick search – those most appealing (or worrisome) to your brand – and look more closely at them with your sentiment analysis tools. Identify the topics with strongest emotions and create feel-alike segments of consumers to learn from and market to.

As we see above, there are lots of surprises already, and Halloween is still six weeks away!

Beyond that, the Top Terms prove consumers are looking even further ahead – at Thanksgiving and even Christmas. This means brands should be as well.

It’s also worth noting the most popular term is the pumpkin emoji! If your social media listening tools don’t analyze emojis, you’re missing some major data.

And that’s the lesson with social media analytics overall. It’s not just about listening so you can talk back to your audience – it’s about applying what you learn in a number of ways to keep your brand moving forward.

Your brand strategy could shift in an entirely new direction based on social insights – they are that powerful. So leave no hashtag unturned in your analysis and put your social analytics to work in every way you can.

Halloween isn’t the only great event this October – join us for NetBase LIVE and learn more about taking your analytics to the next level.

Image from Alan Levine