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The potential of social media extends far beyond customer service and reputation monitoring. With real-time access to audience data and trends, successful brands are doing more than just listening in – they’re opening up the conversation. Here’s how:

Driving innovation

Social media sentiment analysis allows brands to identify consumer pain points and respond with innovative solutions. By listening to the comments consumers make online – about industry trends in general, and also about specific brands – businesses can shape their product offerings to maximize profit.

NetBase was among the select companies that Forrester invited to participate in its 2016 Forrester Wave™ evaluation, Forrester Wave: Enterprise Social Listening Platforms, Q1 2016, stating: ” Our platform was praised by an independent research firm for its “advanced entity-level sentiment analysis that gives clients a deeper understanding of how consumers speak about their products or brands – including emotional and behavioral indicators.”

We’re always happy to know we’re on the right track, but here’s why it matters: These behavioral indicators provide information about what drives purchases and – equally important – what holds consumers back. Leveraging this data and using it to inform solutions allows brands to achieve a competitive edge.

Informing cross-channel campaigns

And this data can be used across all marketing channels – i.e., what happens on Twitter does not have to stay on Twitter. Gathering data from social listening allows brands to quantify the thoughts and experiences of consumers, and this data is invaluable when it comes to informing omni-channel marketing campaigns.

Social media does not exist in isolation. The people behind the Twitter accounts are also the people interacting with TV commercials and engaging with (or discarding) direct mail campaigns. Monitoring real-time reactions goes beyond hashtag usage: brands can analyze sentiment around ideas, movements, and buzzwords, and then refine that data based on psychographics.

The bigger picture is made up of tiny pieces, and analyzing audience micro-segments is the only way to see it. Brands now must look for common interests among social users and speak to consumers about their interests personally.

Becoming consumer-centric

It isn’t just Millennials that expect a consumer-centric approach to marketing – although the messaging-based technology they use may be driving this evolution. Chat bots are starting to look like the future of social selling, and provide a good indication of the level of brand/life integration that consumers expect.

In exchange for their loyalty, consumers want their interactions with brands to integrate seamlessly into their lives. They understand they hold the power, and won’t jump through hoops for a service they can easily get elsewhere. This isn’t a race to the bottom – it’s a race to become the most flexible.

Brands that succeed in this climate must be willing to adapt to the individual preferences of consumers. Rigidity is fragile, and leads to shattered relationships between brands and customers. With social listening, brands can be more receptive – and responsive – to these needs.

Managing risk

Social listening can help inform when not to weigh in, as well. This is a vital skill in risk management, but without complete data, brands can only gamble and hope for the best. Identifying topical and emotional trends as they’re emerging is critical.

When applied to risk management, these tools help marketers make informed decisions about potential crises, and understand why a particular audience segment is responding negatively to a topic.

This paves the way for sensitive and compassionate responses, while allowing marketers to maintain awareness of the emotional and behavioral reactions of other audience segments. Keeping consumers happy can be something of a juggling act – what delights one audience can quite easily upset another, and so monitoring all segments simultaneously is vital.

In a sense, taking a consumer-centric approach to marketing is all about customer care – just not in the traditional, siloed, strictly problem-solving way. Using social listening to monitor emotional and behavioral indicators allows brands to engage with consumers in a way that’s considerate, conversational, and conducive to better brand experiences. If that’s not customer care, what is?

Previously appeared on Commpro.biz

Image from Ernest McGray, Jr.

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