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Brands today have everything in the way of advantages over brands of the past. Marketing insights that used to cost a fortune in time and effort to gather via surveys and focus groups are now readily available on social media. All marketers need to know is which information is most important, and how best to leverage it on behalf of their brands.

But while it’s much easier, it’s still not easy if you don’t have a clear understanding of all the pieces of the puzzle. When you do, you can work wonders. When you don’t, you can end up doing more harm than good.

The Devil is in the Details

For example, Lane Bryant’s #ImNoAngel campaign is knocking it out of the park right now, thanks to smart social strategy – clearly informed by attuned social listening. The plus-size retailer understands that its customers – average women who don’t fit the typical fashion mold of size 4 samples and emaciated Hollywood glamour – are tired of being told that “sexy” doesn’t come in their size.

Capitalizing on negative press surrounding a Victoria’s Secret Angels ad that claimed to define the “perfect body,” Lane Bryant knocked the lingerie brand’s halo off its axis by countering with their #ImNoAngel tagline, and the message that sexy is beyond size.

All of this might seem pointless given that the two brands share few customers (if any) – but that’s what makes Lane Bryant so smart. They know that the social discussion of beauty, sex appeal, and size is a complicated one that strikes a chord with women of ALL sizes, who are tired of being told that “real women” are any one thing.

Being inclusive of all women – even those who may not fit their clothing line – keeps the conversation positive surrounding their brand, which can only help them.

Never Ask a Question You Don’t Know the Answer To


For a brand having a not-so-good time with their latest social campaign, look no further than SeaWorld. The marine park opened themselves to a barrage of social criticism with their #AskSeaWorld campaign, which could have been avoided if they’d dug a little deeper into the sentiment well.

Coming under fire in recent years via the documentary Blackfish (July 2013) and now the release of former SeaWorld trainer John Hargrove’s new book, which alleges mistreatment of the park’s animals, SeaWorld launched their new social campaign hoping to counteract the negative press, as well as offer an opportunity to connect with animal lovers interested in learning more about their favorite sea creatures and Sea World’s conservation efforts.

Unfortunately, what they got was a lot of angry tweeting by animal rights activists and groups, like PETA, who clearly side with Hargrove and other critics.

And here’s where social listening is so important – because it’s only a few degrees’ difference between social success and a social mess.

SeaWorld knew there was negative sentiment about their brand online – what they didn’t realize was how strong that negative sentiment was. By opening up the lines of communication in the manner they did, they invited their critics to be that much more vocal. What they should have done was control the conversation by sharing information that spoke directly to the criticism they already knew was out there, while emphasizing all they do that’s GOOD.

The Black and Blue Dress Seen ‘Round the World


It’s hard to predict the kinds of things that will “break” the Internet, but a picture of a simple dress – and debate about its true color – did just that. But while optic experts explained why the dress looked white and gold to some and black and blue to others – and others deemed the dress “ugly” whatever color it was – the Salvation Army South Africa had an inspired idea.

They put the white and gold version of the dress (the actual version was black and blue) on a model with bruises on her legs and face to call attention to the cause of domestic violence, asking “Why is it so hard to see black and blue?”

Co-opting a viral post doesn’t always work, but in this case the Salvation Army SA’s message paired perfectly with the image, at once taking advantage of the popularity of the debate and reminding everyone that there are more important things in this world than what color a dress on the Internet is.

The Salvation Army SA leveraged the emotion of the dress debate to tap into social users’ emotions about domestic violence and call attention to the cause, turning something “ugly” into a force for good.

How You Can Improve Your Social Hearing

The above examples’ success (or lack thereof) shows WHY social listening is so crucial. But HOW do savvy brands and marketers use it to analyze and understand social audiences, and turn those insights into impactful content and campaigns?

On May 12, “What Every Marketer Should Know About Social Brand Strategy,” a new webinar hosted by the American Marketing Association, in partnership with NetBase, will answer those questions and more.

Register here and be sure to be in attendance on May 12 for key takeaways on how to deepen your social intelligence with more meaningful data – because you want all your social marketing to be “good.”