6 Ways Social Media Intelligence Benefits Your Brand

Sergio Oliveri |
 08/17/16 |
7 min read

6 ways

Social media intelligence is bigger than simply collecting follows and likes on your social media profiles. When gathered by top-notch technology, it’s a wealth of data that – applied well – can change the course of your business. Here’s how:

1. Getting to know – like, really – your audience

The reason social analytics has evolved beyond counting likes and retweets is because those metrics don’t really tell you much. Sure, if you have a half-million followers, that’s a pretty good indication you’re doing something right – but it doesn’t tell you what. Maybe making a change would bump that number up to a full million – or maybe it would send your fans scrambling for the un-follow button.

What’s more, consumers take the “social” part of social media seriously. They don’t want to be bombarded with ads and marketing messages. To reach consumers effectively, brands need to make it about them. And the more specific, the better. Here are the tools you need to get connected:


What drives people to post to social media in the first place, or share another’s post? Emotion. People are moved to write because they’re happy, inspired, or motivated – or frustrated, angry, or sad. They retweet and share the things that make them laugh, feel sentimental, cry, or elicit outrage. They want their peers on social to feel these things too, to commiserate.

ice cream sandwich

Thus, it’s important to be able to understand and measure consumer emotions using social analytics tools. To give brands a comprehensive view of consumer sentiment we divide our Brand Passion Index into two parts:

  • Net Sentiment – whether an emotion is positive or negative, on a scale of -100 to +100
  • Passion Intensity – how strongly those emotions are felt, on a scale of -100 to +100

But here’s the part you might not think of: You don’t want to only look at the emotions surrounding your brand. That’s a good place to start, but what you also need to know is how consumers feel about your competitors, and about all the other things happening in their own lives. Otherwise, you’re limiting your data.

Consumers may love your brand, but not as much as they love their kids, their pets, the causes they’re devoted to, their favorite TV shows, restaurants, food, drink, types of clothing, celebrities, places to vacation, cars they drive, etc. Each of these things matters to the brands in those categories, obviously, but also to every other brand out there.

If you’re a clothing brand, you’re not exempt from caring that many in your audience love dinner at the Olive Garden. If you find out what they love exactly – family dinner, date night – you can promote your brand as the perfect clothing to wear for such occasions. Without that information, you’re just another brand aimlessly hoping to catch consumers’ attention.

Audience segmentation

When you look at psychographic data – i.e., consumer behaviors, attitudes, and interests, as well as sentiment – you open the door to finding audience segments you might never have discovered otherwise.

For example, you might be a gaming company targeting your games to Millennial-aged men in tech – because that’s who demographics tell you is your audience.

But when you expand to include sentiment data and other aspects of your audience’s interests, you learn so much more.

Perhaps some of the men in your audience also love the show Game of Thrones. If you expand your analysis to include fans of the show who love playing video games, you might find that your brand’s game appeals to women as well. And perhaps to an older – or younger – audience than you were originally targeting.

The best part of these discoveries is they allow you to personalize your messaging – which is exactly what social audiences want. Each segment you create can have individualized content which speaks to those consumers personally. When you demonstrate you care about the same things they do, it humanizes your brand, making consumers more interested in you.


As important as understanding sentiment is the ability to understand the various languages used by social audiences. Of course your social media listening tools should be able to understand a wide variety of native languages, especially if you’re a global brand – but there are other considerations as well.

Slanguage” comprises everything from netspeak like “IDK” (“I don’t know”), to slang and pop culture references that might not be part of your own everyday vernacular, but quite possibly are part of your audience’s.

Sarcasm also factors in here – because if your software can’t tell the difference, your sentiment analysis can be thrown off in a big way. How often do people say they hate something they actually love – or vice versa, letting a sarcastic tone convey the true meaning behind the words? Often enough that you can’t just take the text at face value. Context is everything.


And don’t discount emojis. These micro-images matter! Also part of the sentiment equation, emojis may often speak for themselves, or punctuate a post.

pepsi emojis

Image from Mike Mozart

If your platform is searching for your brand name and the keyword “love,” what does it do with a post that mentions your brand and then uses a smiley-face emoji with hearts for eyes? If it doesn’t count it, you’re not getting an accurate picture of consumer perception. And accuracy is everything, at every step of the social data process.

2. Understanding your competitors

Competitive intelligence is a key advantage of social listening – because everything is public and easy to see. You may not be privy to what goes on in the C-suite of your competitors, but on social media you have access not just to their marketing moves, but to the reactions of consumers.

This is why it’s so important not to stop at your own brand name mentions. Social conversation about your competitors and industry are just as relevant, if not more so.

Here are the questions social intelligence answers:

  • What do social consumers love about your competitors? If it’s something you’re not offering, consider making a change.
  • What do consumers hate about your competitors? If you offer – or can – a solution, they might migrate.
  • What companies do consumers mention that you never considered competitors? Marketplaces like Etsy and eBay are hugely popular and should not be overlooked.

These insights give your brand the opportunity to set an entirely new course if need be – one that brings you success you might have missed out on without them.

3. Identifying trends

Something else you could easily miss out on is a popular trend worth leveraging. If your business isn’t actively connected to social media, you might never hear of Pokémon GO – to offer a timely and perfect example. There are a number of ways to jump on the Pokémon GO trend – but you’ve got to understand it first.

Depending on your audience it might make sense to offer your brand’s location as a PokéStop or gym, or become a sponsor. Or it might win you more favor to join in with the people grumbling about how silly the game is. You’ve got to follow along in real-time to know what your audience wants.

But it’s not just the short-term fads that matter. You can spot longer tail trends like the love of vintage clothing we saw in our NetBase Brand Passion Report: Luxury Brands 2016. This consumer trend sent eBay flying to the top of the list, ahead of some popular luxury brands, like Louis Vuitton and Burberry, who probably didn’t expect to be ousted by eBay of all brands.


The lesson here is that safety is an illusion, and assumptions are dangerous. Social media is a rapidly evolving reflection of the consumer ecosystem – and you need to pay attention or risk becoming irrelevant.

4. Getting feedback on product testing/innovation

Because social media is such a fluid landscape, you don’t want to go “all in” on every fad that comes along – but you don’t have to. Social audiences are the perfect focus group – free and always available, at every stage of development.

Brands can float ideas to get consumer feedback before wasting resources on manufacturing a new product or launching a new design element, or they can surface feedback on new products/services that are out in the market.

This was what Chipotle did. They noticed their followers talked a lot about delivery services for certain fast casual restaurants like theirs. Smartly, instead of diving in and changing their own operations on a whim, they partnered with a local delivery company and looked at the social data. The move was a big hit.

chipotle tweets

Nothing is better – or makes the C-suite happier – than stopping a bad idea before it’s out on the shelves, or launching a new product you know for certain consumers will love.

Social intelligence gives your brand this kind of real-time feedback.

5. Spotting reputational threats early

Real-time intel is the name of the game – especially when it comes to negative press. Bad news has always traveled faster than good, and it travels even faster on the internet. A single tweet is enough to spark a massive inferno of negative commentary – so catching damaging posts before they’ve gone viral is critical.

A platform that alerts you to negative mentions of your brand name is a basic requirement for all businesses now. Catching reputational threats early is the best way to weather a crisis, even if you can’t stop it. But attending to customer service via social can also go a long way toward keeping crises from erupting.

6. Cultivating influencers

Even better is building an army of influencers to help soothe ruffled feathers when consumers complain about your brand. Brand Passion comes into play as a means of finding your most enthusiastic and devoted fans. The ones with followers of their own will amplify your messaging and remain loyal if you make them feel special.

Again, it comes down to getting to know them so you know how to approach them – and what really gets them excited about your brand.

The devil is in the details

With all these facets of social media intelligence at your disposal, your brand is empowered to make decisions on any front, from marketing, to sales, to customer service, to product development. Real-time insights mean there’s no guess work – something the C-suite can only love.

It’s also easy to make a clear connection to ROI with social data – and to course correct when things aren’t working. Without social data as a barometer, you’d be stuck following through on a campaign that might fail. With social intelligence, you have everything you need to make smart decisions for your brand at every turn.

Reach out for a demo of our social intelligence features, and learn how NetBase can keep your brand going strong no matter what comes your way.

E-Book: 4 Steps to Building a Successful Social Analytics Program

Header image from Liz West

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