When the Beatles sang “All you need is love” they certainly weren’t talking about social media, which had yet to be imagined. And yet, love is the most important factor to your social monitoring strategy. Here’s why:

The trouble with numbers

If the importance of love to social monitoring is surprising, as we know it wasn’t always that way. There was a time when the metrics that mattered were those with numerical values: number of likes, mentions, retweets, impressions. These metrics are still part of the equation, but they’re less likely to drive decision-making now – they just can’t tell you enough.

Case in point: if your brand has 20,000 mentions on Twitter, what does that tell you? Are they positive or negative mentions? Are consumers responding favorably to your latest campaign, or is everything about to explode into chaos? There’s no way to know based on numbers alone.

The same follows with keywords. Searching for variations of the word “love” and your brand name, or “hate” and your brand name, is hardly conclusive. Social language is rife with sarcasm and snark, and the true intention of words may often be the opposite of their face value.

What’s needed is software that takes these language quirks into account, and offers a genuine assessment of consumer emotions.

The passing of the baton to consumers

Why are consumer emotions the driving force of social strategy? Quite simply because they’re the driving force behind social sharing. Whether the emotions are positive or negative, consumers are motivated to post because they love, adore, and are obsessed with your brand – or hate, despite, will never shop again. Hopefully the former.

This truth has turned the tables for marketers, and it’s something they need to make peace with; consumers are now in charge of what brands can get away with on the social web.

Market ‘at’ them with impersonal blasts about your brand’s merits, and they will tune you out like so much noise. Demand they “like, share or comment” to receive some coupon or raffle entry, and they may comply – but that’s not a show of loyalty.

What marketers really need to do is make the conversation about consumers – their experiences, desires, goals, heartaches, humor, compassion, etc. Brands must find the place where their messaging aligns with consumers’ passions, and connect – authentically.

When they do that, it’s powerful.

Love must be nurtured

Surfacing those consumer passions – and using them to forge bonds through individualised, targeted messaging – is essential. Why? Because love does not automatically equal engagement – and you need both to keep the love spreading exponentially for brand growth.

We saw cases of this in the Top 25 UK Brands Love List. For example, Apple and Google took the number one and number two spots, respectively – representing 12% of the top 25. And though they were the only two technology brands that made the cut, together they accounted for 63% of volume of mention – i.e., earned conversation.

Conversely, there were nine automotive brands in the top 25 – proving the UK loves its cars, especially brands like BMW, Ferrari and Audi. However… Comprising 36% of the total list, you’d expect more than 16% volume of mention for these brands – but that’s the number.

What this means is – while there’s plenty of love for the automotive category – Apple and Google are doing a far better job engaging consumers on social than the top nine automotive brands combined.

And engagement is crucial to maximising exposure and keeping your brand on top – because being well-loved alone isn’t a guarantee you’ll stay in the top 25, or even number one, forever. This is why it’s imperative to keep constant tabs on consumer love in real-time. Course corrections to your marketing strategy only help if you make them before running aground.

Social data across the company

Analysing consumer passion doesn’t only benefit the marketing department. The investment you make in understanding the emotions driving consumers’ thoughts and behaviors has far greater reach within your organisation. What can’t you do with an all-the-time focus group that can be as narrowly defined, or as broad, as your needs dictate?

In addition to product innovations, consumers can be called upon for any number of business decisions: Should you donate a portion of profits to charity? Which one? Should you partner with another brand?

Where should your next brick-and-mortar location be? Should you have a presence on a marketplace like Amazon?

Or consumers may simply tell you what to do before you think to ask. If you’re keeping tabs on sentiment in real-time, you’ll be first to spot emerging trends worth acting on.

And of course, if social customer service isn’t already happening, you need to make that a priority. There’s no better way to demonstrate publicly how well you care for your customers, or to keep reputational risks at bay. This is true of every business in every industry.

In short, there’s nothing love can’t do for your brand – and you’ve got to love that.

Previously appeared on Marketing Tech

Image from Glenn Lascuña

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