For today’s businesses, operational skills are table stakes. The new battleground for differentiation is consumer-centricity, i.e., building products, experiences, and messages that meaningfully fill a consumer need. In pursuit of this promised land, social insights offer businesses a unique piece of value – a real-time and cost-effective window into their consumers’ thoughts, feelings, and attitudes.

This article will help you wrap your mind around why social insights matter and how they can positively impact your business.

Defining ‘Social Insights’

Before going too far, let’s first agree on what defines a consumer insight. In simplest terms, consumer insights reveal why people behave in specific ways and make certain decisions.

So, what makes a ‘social insight’?

Social consumer insights carry some hallmark characteristics:

1. Unstructured data

As the term suggests, social insights mainly come from unstructured data-types like social media and the world wide web. However, they can also include first-party data such as call center scripts, forums, chatbots, etc. For this article, social insights will serve as a catch-all for any consumer insight that comes from a consumer-generated source, social media, or otherwise.

2. Unsolicited

Different from a survey, social-derived insights are unsolicited. As a result, you may view these insights as more authentic or honest.

3. Quick and cost-effective

Lastly, due to social media’s real-time nature, social-derived consumer insights are quick and often less costly than traditional research methods.


Why Social Insights Matter

Fittingly, the above attributes align with the world we live in, one that’s continuously in flux. So, in more detail, what makes social insights so crucial?

1. The Ever-Changing Consumer

Most importantly, today’s consumers change quickly and often. Nothing exemplifies this more than the ongoing pandemic, as consumer opinions and motivations change weekly, if not daily. To keep pace with this ever-changing consumer, brands and organizations require fast intelligence and decision-making, which social insights promise to support.

2. The Empowered Consumer

Beyond ever-changing, today’s consumer is both empowered and powerful. One day he’s a customer, the next day he’s onto a competitor. In wielding social media as a virtual megaphone, consumers’ words can either lift or tear down one’s brand. Two out of three US consumers believe their words can influence today’s businesses’ actions. Ignoring these realities threatens your long-run reputation with your audience.

3. Social Media Supremacy

At present, 3.8B people use social media. Beyond their scale, the dynamic between platform and user has fundamentally changed. For better or worse, social media platforms are the places where people turn to first, or exclusively, for news, opinion-shaping, and debate.

4. Data Abundance

Lastly, both a challenge and opportunity, unstructured data represents 80 to 90 percent of overall business data. While harnessing this data requires time, skill, and money, the upside points to improved decision-making and competitive differentiation. Tomorrow’s winners very well may be decided by those who, today, nimbly and effectively structure the unstructured.

Adapt or die is a cliché. Nonetheless, it describes the stakes for businesses. Again, in a world where consumers are changing fast, social consumer insights offer the chance to keep up.

Four Types of Social Consumer Insights

Ultimately, businesses must convert more consumers to more customers. Thus, social consumer insights must reveal a consumer truth and lead to improved business outcomes.

Let’s finish by discussing four different types of insights and their corresponding value.

  1. Theme/trend detection
  2. Product intelligence
  3. Creative-Ad intelligence
  4. Brand insights

As a disclaimer, this list is not exhaustive. We’re simply offering a sampling of high-value social insights available to those brands and organizations willing to seek them out.

1. Theme and Trend Detection

The beauty of social intelligence is found in its organic nature. Conversation themes and new trends appear seemingly out of the blue.

Social allows brands and organizations to identify these trends and new themes, gain direct access to consumers’ raw thoughts, and then track these themes as they evolve.

Let’s assume we are a CPG firm looking to expand into the CBD market category. Knowing very little about the conversational landscape, we might not know where to focus our research. But with theme and trend detection, as shown using Synthesio, we can identify new conversation themes as they emerge online. Here, we’re finding every-day consumers discussing the sleep benefits of CBD, which may serve as an innovation opportunity for our CPG firm.

theme analysis by Synthesio

2. Product Intelligence

As mentioned earlier, social consumer insights go beyond just the core social platforms.

In particular, review sites present a fertile ground for consumer understanding. Consider, as many as 95 percent of consumers read reviews before a purchase; a 1-star increase in average Amazon rating yields a 26 percent increase in conversion success.

Within the reviews themselves are invaluable consumer feedback such as:

  • Unmet needs and whitespace opportunities
  • Competitive intelligence
  • Buyer journey insights
  • Customer support issues and more

Consider for a haircare brand the value in teasing out the negative expressions found across their 1-star reviews. In pinpointing those reviews, they learn of negative reception to a recent shampoo formula change. They now have actionable feedback.

Wordcloud showing expression from 1-star reviews

1-star consumer review example

3. Creative-Ad Intelligence

Social conversations expose the raw, authentic voice of your consumers. It’ is a unique feature not easily duplicated by other research methods.

Especially across highly visual platforms, like Instagram, brands can surface creative ideas for copy and advertisement purposes.

When looking at a dataset focused on fast-moving consumer foods, we find a growing visual focus on ‘lunch-at-home.’ Most likely due to the pandemic, consumers are comparing their at-home lunches to their at-work lunches, a previous life. Many are just showing-off their creations.

Instagram example - creative intelligence

Whether directly incorporating visual elements, or simply lifting the narrative ( in this case, lunch at-home), brands can find new and authentic ideas for connecting with consumers.

4. Brand Insights

Last but not least, social insights aid with brand health tracking.

Primarily due to social media’s success, today’s brands require live, in-moment reputation tracking.

One topical example is the re-introduction of live sports. Applying emotion analysis across a dataset looking at live sports, we found many consumers expressing ‘fear’ and ‘surprise’ with the return.

Emotional analysis

For a high-profile brand such as the NFL, consumers and the media at-large looked at the league and NFL coaches with critical eyes.

Social insight - Media and the NFL

Social insight - Twitter User and NFL

For the NFL or any brand, for that matter, the return to normalcy is fraught with missteps. Gauging how the public perceives you along the way is critical for course correction. Ultimately, our data found the NFL season a successful one, with exceptionally high marks for the Super Bowl.

Of course, social insights alone will not turn you into a consumer-centric organization. That said, social insights provide unique and essential value for a world and end-consumer who appears in constant flux.