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pokeburger

One of the best advantages of real-time social media listening is the ability to spot and leverage trends as they’re emerging. As Pokémon GO is one of the hottest trends sweeping social right now, let’s see what the data says – and how brands can put it to use.

If you’re not familiar, Pokémon GO is an augmented reality (AR) game app based on the popular 1990’s Nintendo video game, Pokémon. As Lifehacker explains, “In Pokémon, monsters roam the lands, and your job is to find, capture, and train them. Then you put them in battle against other players.” The game spawned a host of additional merchandise – including trading cards, an animated series, comic books, and toys.

Now the characters are back in a mobile-app version of the game that takes things to a new level. The monsters appears on your smartphone, overlaid against what you’re looking at IRL (in real life), and your job is to “catch ’em all.”

Pokéball ready to catch Charmander

Pokéball ready to catch Charmander

You don’t need previous Pokémon experience to play – though there are some ins and outs worth picking up if you want to fast-track your understanding. What brands need to know most of all is that it’s popular as all get-out, and there are marketing opportunities to be had.

Is jumping on the Pokébandwagon right for you?

There are a number of reasons brands should consider taking advantage of the Pokémon GO sensation.

Let’s start with some stats:

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More than 52 million people are posting about Pokémon GO, with nearly 165 billion impressions. That’s a lot of social chatter. Those speaking positively more than double those speaking negatively. Passion Intensity supports that, as the trend is more positive – though not overwhelmingly so. The detractors are making their mark – however, both audiences, the lovers and the haters, can be used to capitalize on the trend.

By the way – this is exactly why you want real-time analysis built into your social listening tool; so you can strike while the iron is hot. Otherwise you leave that door open for your competitors. When a trend comes out of the gate blazing hot like Pokémon GO did, you want to be in the know immediately so you aren’t last to the party.

Possible good news? Pokémon was #7 on the NetBase Brand Passion Report 2016: Top 100 Global Brand Love List.

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Though Pokémon and Pokémon GO are distinct and separate brands, it’s not outside the realm to think the new game just might follow in its originator’s footsteps.

How to make Pokémon GO work for your brand

Once you identify a trend, you have to know how to use the trend. In this case there are a few options.

Players must actually move, i.e., walk, drive, etc., to find and catch more Pokémon. That’s the beauty of the AR component of the game – and it brings players to any number of locations, including your brand’s store or office.

This can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on how willing you are to embrace the game, the type of business you are, and whether your audience is comprised of lovers or haters of the game.

To understand where your audience falls you’d want to look at psychographics (attitudes and behaviors) of your audience, to see if Pokémon GO, or a related interest is mentioned. A good starting point is breaking down who’s talking about the game on social:

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The data above shows the age breakdown is surprisingly even – with a slight bump amongst Millennials – those 25-34 – and an unsurprising dip amongst Seniors.

Gaming is a predictable top interest, as are Anime and Comics, and Pets – which shared the #2 spot. Third place for percentage of posts goes to Arts and Crafts, with Fashion and Technology pulling up the rear.

The professions “most posted about” by those also talking Pokémon GO are Creative Arts – with just over half the conversation – and Student, and Sales and Marketing at 14% and 10% respectively.

And while men are talking slightly more, women are also invested in the game:

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If any of this isn’t what you imagined, you’re seeing just why social media insights matter so much. Sentiment is the next piece of the puzzle.

Once you know who in your audience is talking about Pokémon GO you must assess their feelings toward the game.

The word cloud below shows the top attributes surfaced in our Brand Sentiment Analysis:

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Positive attributes like “bring out best,” “best thing,” and “legendary” give you a sense of the excitement from those who love the game. If your audience is in the “love it” camp, you could offer your business as a PokéStop or “gym,” or just talk about the game in some way – how you and your staff are addicted to it perhaps – to relate to those who love it.

It’s worth noting, not all negative sentiment is associated with “hate.” Words like “not available” indicate a desire to play that remains unfulfilled due to (likely) technical issues. And terms like “dreadfully lonely” speak to the type of lifestyle of some who play the game. Make your coffee shop or bar a meet-up point for singles playing Pokémon GO and you could really do some good.

If your audience is in the bona fide “hate it” camp you still have options:

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You could commiserate with whatever they find annoying – or find a way to spin things and try to change their minds.

If it makes sense for your brand, you could talk about the dangers and drawbacks of playing – like those who can’t resist looking for Pokémon while driving, or those who venture into unsafe areas while playing. You could offer safety and security tips, etc., and relate in that way.

Depending on your business, you may have audience members in both camps. That’s when audience segmenting really comes in handy, so you can appeal to individual segments in the way that matters to them.

In general, if your reputation is about being fun and hip (or you want it to be), Pokémon GO is a trend to consider jumping on. If your business focus is more serious or safety conscious – like insurance or legal – you might want to take a different angle. That’s not to say these types of businesses can’t have fun with the trend – it depends on your brand personality.

Whatever you do, remember: Capitalizing on a trend never should look like capitalizing on a trend. If you can’t work in an organic reference you’ll do more harm than good by looking desperate.

And it’s crucial to constantly monitor sentiment for changes. Our data was collected prior to the change in Pokémon GO’s in-game tracking. This likely dropped sentiment a bit – refunds from Niantic, the creators of Pokémon GO, notwithstanding. The need for real-time capabilities in social media intelligence cannot be overstated.

What you can’t see can hurt you

But it’s not just text that can turn social conversations negative. Images are major currency on social – just consider the popularity of Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and images on Twitter and Facebook too. Not all images associated with your brand contain text that alerts you to their existence. This is why visual listening must be part of your social toolbox as well.

If your logo is being co-opted by anyone, you need to know. Is it a tribute? Great! If it’s not – nip it in the bud.

The Pokémon GO logo and characters, for example, have already been co-opted for many memes and images that are both positive and negative:

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Whoever made these cookies is a potential influencer – you want to be sure you can find them.

Meanwhile, below is, at the least, a customer service concern – at worst, a viral reputational threat waiting to happen:

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With an image alert from your social monitoring platform you’d be clued into such an image’s existence, giving you the option to turn it into a customer service opportunity instead of a problem.

Or you might stumble on an unexpected partner or sponsor. Fans have already put Pokémon GO and the Rio Olympics together:

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It would make perfect sense for Pokémon GO to partner with Samsung, another Olympic partner, or even any of the athletes competing. Since social users are already making the connection, why not take control of the conversation while taking advantage of the extra exposure?

The shifting tide of trends

What’s important to remember is trends by definition are impermanent. Much like the perfect wave must be surfed in the perfect moment, jumping on a trend at just the right moment positions your brand to benefit most.

Having real-time insights through state-of-the-art social media analytics tools is the only way to ensure you know about trends as they are emerging – versus after they’ve crested and broken. You’ll also know when a trend is waning, and something new coming in to replace it.

Not every trend will matter to your brand – but many will. Especially if you explore your audience in all dimensions and find the common interests they share beyond your brand. You might be able to leverage many trends in ways you didn’t expect – and find audiences you didn’t expect either.

That’s the beauty of social media intelligence – it shows you what is, so you can decide what’s possible. You never have to guess – you simply have to apply what’s there. When you do, you engage consumers in authentic ways that appeal to their needs and passions – and that’s all they want from brands.

Whether it’s Pokémon GO or anything else – social listening will help you “catch ’em all.”

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