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Competitive and social listening audits form the basis for both consumer and market understanding. And right now, each of these audits are timely as both brands and travel destinations race to capture and analyze the social voice of the consumer to inform their COVID-19 response and continue moving forward.

In this second part of our interview series with Brandon Billings, VP, Social Media & Content Strategy at MMGY Global, we’ll explore ways travel destinations can capture this insight. And why they must!

Learning from What Isn’t Being Said

Here’s a little-known fact: Destinations/brands need to worry just as much about what isn’t being said, as they do about what is being said. As Brandon shared, “Oftentimes, what isn’t being said can be more instructive from a strategic standpoint.” Consumers are not always forthcoming and brands need to read between the lines. So, understanding the context behind what you’re seeing, or not seeing, is crucial.

For instance, in a typical competitive intelligence gathering scenario, Brandon shared how they work with clients using social listening: “We monitor category conversation, noting when competitors are being talked about in a specific context, but the client is not. And then we work with the client to figure out why that is, and how to build content and messaging to shift that conversation in their favor.”

With social listening, they can then track brand mentions in context, to see if share of voice is growing as a result of targeted efforts, and try new things as they go, if not.

summary-metrics-timeline-for-social-listening-audits

The consumer side of this social listening process works similarly, but it requires a bit more finesse.

Capturing the Voice of the Consumer

Although both competitive and consumer audits can be compelling, and brands need both to form a complete picture of where they stand, the consumer insight is where the accuracy of your social listening tool can make or break a business.

With consumer conversation, brands can capture not only what is being said, but who is saying it – and they can do so to a granular level. They can see the age breakdown of those leading the conversation and if certain age brackets are over-indexing:

age-breakdown-for-social-listening-audits

And also how they self-identify on everything from associated interests and professions to bio terms. From there, brands could zero in on specific professions (or whichever lens applies) and add it to the filter to more finely focus on a specific segment:

exploring-demographics-and-professions-of-relevant-consumers-as-part-of-COVID-response

And that’s where the true power of consumer insight is found – in the ability to very specifically and accurately zoom in to see what your target segment is saying, and then comparing it against previous points in time to capture those challenges and opportunities.

Having a consistent baseline to measure conversation and sentiment against is a must, of course. So, what happens when you don’t have a direct measure?

COVID-19 offers a timely example of exactly that.

Examining COVID-19 Conversations in Context

As Brandon offered, “The challenge now, of course, is that we do not have a clear benchmark to compare this against. We haven’t had many global pandemics to have best practices handy in anyone’s playbook. Relying on what we know is not good enough.

But, what we do have is experience with social listening as a whole, so we know the indicators to watch for. And we’re still seeing data points in terms of key media consumptions – and tracking how that looks is telling.”

Whether a competitor or consumer audit, the insight may shift a bit, but it all comes down to relevant, actionable insight when done right. And that requires thinking beyond what is possible for a brand today, and toward its potential tomorrow.

Monitoring consumer behaviors offers an “in” for brands (and their agencies) watching closely. With buzz at a slow boil around WHO recommending against travel bans, consumers are eagerly awaiting a “go” signal to resume traveling. And destinations want to be ready to accommodate those trailblazing travelers when that happens.

WHO-recommending-against-travel-bans

Hoping for the best may feel like faulty logic in light of social distancing, but watching those who are still pulling ahead makes sense as keeping consumers’ spirits up is part of the process.

Getting Aspirational with It

Travelers weren’t keen on cancelling plans when COVID-19 hit, but were expressing lots of worry in the days/weeks leading up to the travel shutdowns. Social listening helped agencies keep travel industry clients ahead of the curve by capturing and analyzing these instances, and the growing volume of posts.

The same can be said for capturing conversation that signals renewed interest. And not only that, but capturing insight around aspirational competitors is great forward-thinking as well. The sky is the limit and places have time to prepare, so should be spending this time wisely.

A solid social competitive audit involves not only looking at a brand’s direct competitors after all, but a handful of aspirational brands as well. Places that destinations can learn from and emulate in various ways. And this is an activity where Brandon’s team shines.

“We know how to get to the core of what is making these aspirational brands successful – looking at them through the lens of direct competition we’re up against and pushing the envelope for clients in a way they haven’t seen before. And it’s something that’s exciting for them – and for us,” he shared.

The conversation in the coming months will continue to evolve and consumer emotion around travel – and potential destinations – will ebb and flow along with it. But, “no matter what the general conversation is or what’s happening in the world, destinations have to be actively listening. I think it’s something that is just invaluable from a destination perspective.”

And we, of course, agree.

People Will Travel Again

It’s important to stay nimble and be prepared to pivot, based on where the insight leads. People will travel again – as social shows, they’re itching to do so now, but the time isn’t right yet. When it is though, you can be sure Brandon’s team and MMGY will be among the first to know it, and their clients will too! Reach out for a demo and we’ll show you how to capture competitive and social listening data points to inform your brand’s efforts.