It’s a popular saying among marketers that “social media is the world’s largest focus group”. There’s no doubt that the social web is a sprawling terrain of brand and product conversations. Yet, as much as we can learn from those conversations, can we use Social Listening and Social Intelligence tools to complement standard market research tools like brand trackers?

Here are a few things you should consider when using social intelligence to support traditional methods:

1. Gain a high-level understanding of your brand’s social media footprint

The things you want to find out about your brand — or what people think about your brand — are not necessarily the things people are actually talking about on social media. A common misconception we encountered while conduction market research on brand intelligence projects was the expectation that social media metrics measure the same things as brand trackers.
Problems with this misconception:

  • This could set you up for disappointment if social data is not giving you the results you want to see e.g. no data around consideration of your brand on social media.
  • You could be missing things in social data that are important to your brand. Typically this happens because you aren’t looking for them — or because the metrics in your brand tracker dictate how your social listening solution is set up.

Instead, look at what people talk about when they mention your brand (and competitors), what channels they’re engaging on and who is discussing your brand.

2. Understand why consumers are talking about your brand

This leads us to another important question: why are consumers talking about your brand online? Answering this question can provide initial clues to the areas of your brand tracker that are visible on social media.

For example, if Instagram is the dominant platform for conversations about your brand, an investigation into the top themes within these conversations could help explain the bias towards that platform. Is it the visually appealing packaging of your product (e.g. Apple)? Is it because you are an aspirational brand and people are sharing pictures of your products even though they don’t necessarily own them (e.g. Tesla)? Answering these questions can help you identify the motivations driving online conversations and give you a firmer understanding of how consumers perceive your brand — rather than just surfacing the most popular topics of conversation. Essentially diving deeper into market research.

3. Isolate the data you care about

Social media offers unbiased, unfiltered content about your brand but also contains reams of data that may not help at all with measuring brand intelligence/equity. Once you have an understanding of your brand’s social media footprint, it is important to isolate the data that you care about to track on an ongoing basis.
For example, in our analysis of conversations around a number of automotive brands in the UK, we found a high correlation between Share of Voice on social media forums and Share of Market. This led to the finding that ownership was the main driver of conversations on Forums and therefore was an indicator that isolating content from specific owner forums would be a better way to track customer sentiment towards specific brand/product attributes rather than the entire social universe.

4. Be wary of short-term indicators

Since surveys always look backwards and take time to collate and analyze, they can lose relevance in instances when there is a significant development in the marketplace or around the brand. This is where social media can be most beneficial, since data is available in almost real time.
The flip side of real-time data is that even after isolating what’s most important to you, dramatic events can cause spikes that have a knock-on effect on the KPIs you are measuring. This could be a brand mention by a celebrity that went viral, a crisis, or even brand-initiated activity such as a campaign. These temporary data distortions remind us that it’s vital to track conversations over significant periods of time. If you are only tracking short-lived or crisis-type events, you are unlikely to get an accurate picture of consumer sentiment around your brand.


A successful campaign can boost positive sentiment around your brand by driving consumers to interact with your content, but it won’t necessarily impact the general feeling towards your brand or cause a shift in the way people talk about you.


For more information about how Social Listening can help gather social media insights, check out our case study: Social Listening for a Global CPG Brand.