What is being said about your brand online right now matters. It shapes perception, which drives audiences toward – or away from – your products and services. So, which conversations and resulting “stories”  do brands need to be aware of with their social listening? It’s both the positive and the negative ones. Here’s why.

The Power of Stories Compels Them

How can a brand possibly have a handle on every story swirling around it online? It can’t, of course, but it needs to have them all hovering nearby in the brand’s peripheral vision. Kind of like those smaller items found in a Social Sentiment Word Cloud about musicals. Whose names surface – and why?

Brand stories informed by popular items found with social listening

Understanding emerging category conversations (found in those tiny word cloud outliers) is essential to stepping into the shoes of potential audience members.

Brands work hard to connect with segment audiences, but may be neglecting key insight these folks freely offer online. Insight that would speed up the “connection” process by light years. And (you guessed it) it hinges on the stories these folks share online.

Every online post tells a story. Some are about your brand. Others are about your category. And many are entirely unrelated. But they all come together to create a big picture of who your audience is underneath it all, and how your brand is perceived by these digital creatures.

And each story is compelling to them. Sorting out why – the context that powers each, is super important. So, we focus on deciphering what is driving the sentiment behind online participants’ posts.

Search & Decipher

We search for a brand’s name, social channels, domains, and potential brand name slang or misspellings to generate category and brand conversation snapshots that offer lots of intel around the stories people are sharing – both good and bad.

Here we see Summary Metrics capturing brand or category Mentions, Posts, Potential Impressions and Net Sentiment (a score that expresses the ratio of positive to negative sentiment about a brand. The score can range from -100 to 100).

Summary Metrics capturing brand or category Mentions, Posts, Potential Impressions and Net Sentiment

And then Top Terms by Sentiment, Top Emotions, Trending by Source Type and Top Domains by Mentions. This is all surface insight until we dig in and explore what is driving each:

Top Terms by Sentiment and Top Emotions used to inform brand stories

Trending by Source Type and Top Domains by Mentions for creating stories brands tell about their products and services

Taking Brand Stories from Intel to Action

Armed with this data, we can begin to understand what our audiences are talking about, as well at their perceptions of the brand, and their perceptions of the industry and industry trends.

From there, we help our clients examine the stories the brand is telling against the social listening results. It helps businesses answer very specific brand perception questions, such as:

  • What is being said by X segment about Z brand service? (identify unmet needs; customer care)
  • Are there any conversation volume surprises? Where and what’s driving them? (protect brand health, head off PR crises)
  • Who are the most influential authors about Q brand feature on Instagram? (influencer identification)
  • Which channels demonstrate the highest mention count? Which show the most brand love? (campaign launch for next brand story).
  • Where are our competitors active and how does the conversation compare on every front? (competitive analysis)

And then, of course – we see if what we find matches up to the business’ brand perception of itself. It rarely will, unless the company is already deep into the social data. And a disconnect signals the need (and opportunity) to reinvent that brand story!

Because we’re not just creating stories in a vacuum, we’re creating stories that speak to target audiences. It requires using words the audience uses in their everyday lives to talk about certain products and services. And it requires creating messaging that resonates.

But why does all of this matter when a brand has a robust presence online and can create visually stunning campaigns telling whatever story it likes? Why spend time and budget on any of this?

While brand-driven campaigns (those informed by deep audience understanding) are still a “thing,” it only takes one rogue brand story to run up unannounced and take a brand out at the knees.

Risks from Rogue Brand Stories Allowed to Grow

A brand can never control a story, of course, but a few well positioned influencers tasked with getting ahead of a story can help direct it. You’ll never find these truly influential, needle-moving marketers with a simple search for strong follower counts. And those numbers are easily inflated.

Beyond influencer identification, to detect a rogue brand story as it’s brewing you need to be in an issues management mindset at all times online. Real-time social listening puts control over potential risks at your fingertips. Without it, you won’t have a chance to react.

Most viral stories become so within hours (sometimes less) and if your brand does not react quickly, a rogue story can bubble up into something that you can’t control – fast.

In the past, brands really were able to own their own stories and push out content to their customers and prospects. But now it’s more of a two-way conversation because customers can provide feedback in real-time on social media.

It’s much better to take a proactive approach and have a sense of what’s headed your way instead of scrambling to put out an apology before online sentiment encourages a stock dive.

And yes, stories can have that much impact on a brand’s bottom line.

Measuring Brand Stories’ Impact with Social Listening

The full potential brand stories offer is evident when a brand finds itself in the midst of real-time customer care issue or a full-blown crisis. Brands have to craft strategy and messaging to respond or not respond. And they need to base it on as much immediate, relevant and accurate data as possible.

Brands can task an influencer with redirecting a challenging conversation by promoting a well-researched, meaningful story that will resonate with a significant segment. Measuring this impact could involve monitoring conversation volume or Top Term shifts. And it could also capture influencer channel metrics to see how well specific posts are performing.

There are also alerts. And these can be set up to send notifications when there’s a spike in brand mentions (even a small spike), or even in competitor mentions. Having the ability to swoop in during a competitor’s crisis and take supremely decisive and informed action as they flounder is worth its weight in disco cat memes. The engagement opportunities there to increase your brand’s share of voice are exceptional.

The use cases for “stories” take brands well beyond mere crisis response though. A skilled agency can use researched, relevant brand stories to do lots, including generate goodwill for a brand in need of reinvention. And this is particularly useful after a brand learns a hard lesson around not paying attention to social sentiment and needs to start over.

Communication Agency Must Haves

Brands have lots of choices when it comes to selecting social listening tools – and when it comes to selecting agencies to extract expert insight from said tools for them.

The expectations around agency capabilities are clear. Brands expect them to:

  • Be experts at primary, secondary and social listening research
  • Capture what’s being said about the brand
  • Monitor what’s being said about competitors
  • Track major (and not so major) stories and how and where audiences are speaking about them in relation to the brand
  • Understand current category concerns, anticipate emerging concerns, and use social listening to source solutions to each

And it’s not just about capturing and understanding the stories being shared about a brand. It’s equally important to find (or generate) positive associations back to the brand to reclaim (or even just re-energize) brand conversations.

Helping clients enhance their brand stories by incorporating public perception data is something social listening experts reveal.

Feel free to reach out and we can show you how to find your consumer-driven brand stories and how to make them your own.

Photo of Emily Bunce, Director of Insights at G&S Business Communications.Emily Bunce is Director of Insights at G&S Business Communications, an independent communications agency serving B2B and B2C clients. She specializes in finding the hidden nuggets, connections and trends that inspire creative, on-target strategy. In her role advising account teams and clients, Emily conducts and analyzes primary, secondary and social research to help clients align communications strategies with business strategies.


Premier social media analytics platform

Expand your social platform with LexisNexis news media

Power of social analytics for your entire team

Media analytics and market intelligence platform

Enrich your media analytics with social data

Media coverage for historical & real-time monitoring

Actionable data to drive your business decisions

AI, Image Analytics, Reporting Tools & more

Out-of-the-box integration with other data sources