Emerging Themes as We Return to School & Work

Whether you are a brand intelligence wizard or just getting a grip on consumer and market intelligence, a grasp of emerging trends is always the next step forward. Why is that? Because emerging trends and themes always define the future, and brands and institutions must adjust to stay competitive.

Themes that emerge on the social landscape are the work of the voice of the consumer in action. And let’s face it – we’re in business to meet the needs of our audience. So, as we round another turn to come out of the pandemic, there are key emerging themes to watch for as we return to school and work.

In the world of data analytics, we know that logic turns to fallacy in a heartbeat without numbers, which is why we turn to the data to tell the real story. To keep ahead of the game and stay realistic, we’ll explore where we see things today, with a focus on:

  • Spotting emerging trends first
  • Emerging themes in the return-to-work conversation
  • Back-to-school emerging themes

Before we dig in, here are a few recent statistics of interest that speak to the state of consumers:

  • A not-so-surprising 99% of remote workers wish to continue teleworking into the future, with 77% saying they feel more productive doing so.
  • According to Deloitte, due to rising confidence in the vaccine rollout, spending in preparation for the new school year is projected to increase 16% over last year – to over $32 billion.
  • As of June 2021, the S. Department of Labor shows unemployment hovering around 6% since September 2020. For perspective, the unemployment rate in the U.S. before the pandemic was just under 4%.

With that, let’s talk about why a solid understanding of emerging trends is such a big deal.

Spotting Emerging Trends First

As new ideas or circumstances come on the scene, knowing when and where people are talking about them is crucial. For one thing, it lets you know if some hype over a tweet or news article is way overblown. And it helps to see the conversations that are building under the radar, while surfaces challenges specific industries may be facing:

Consistent social media monitoring of the conversations relevant to your brand is the best way to understand emerging themes in your category. That’s because you establish an understanding of what normal is.

Understanding movement over time is the key to catching emerging trends and themes within a social media conversation. We can expect back-to-school and remote work to be trending, for example. But without understanding its movement, it’s impossible to see if these conversations are waxing or waning. And along what pathways, specifically. This is key information to inform messaging.

Seeing where the extraneous conversations are happening gives your brand clues to the pain points consumers are talking about. For example, everyone is talking about remote work and schools starting back – but who is seeing the problems consumers face with child and pet care?

Understanding these emerging trends can be a crucial leg up on your competition, especially if you’re positioned to lend a helping hand and create some poignant messaging.

Return to Work Emerging Theme

So, whether you’re up to date with your social listening or not, there’s good news. Historical data allows you to see how the conversations are shifting so you can catch up quickly.

Regardless, the main themes in the return-to-work discussion revolve around finding full-time work and the dynamic around working remotely. And these discussions tie into underlying emerging themes relating to mental health and concerns over the delta variant. These topics suggest that although there’s been great relief with the vaccine rollout, people don’t feel like they’re out of the woods yet. There are still real-life hurdles to overcom

And other topic clusters we uncovered relate to federal unemployment benefits that are coming to an end in the U.S., along with child tax credits that could offer relief to many families concerned with making ends meet.

While some of these topics might not be surprising, others that we discovered within the return-to-work narrative are a bit unexpected.

Additionally, many consumers are perplexed at how to afford childcare in the face of returning to work. It’s been long enough now that people have wholly reorganized their lives to make ends meet. So, consumers with small children are facing a massive hurdle before they even accept a job offer.

Whether your brand can speak directly to some of these issues or not, the thing about detecting emerging themes is to understand the voice of the customer and what they’re facing, as it certain impacts their purchase preferences.

And there’s a brand message to be sent no matter what category you’re in. It’s as easy as saying, “Hey, we know you have a lot on your plate during the week; let’s help you unwind this weekend.” And many parents will need that message once school starts back up and they’re juggling a whole new world

Return to School Emerging Themes

While many social media users are feeling their way through their work opportunities, the looming school year is another source of concern for many. This is in no small part because children under the age of 12 are not yet authorized to receive a COVID vaccination.

And that’s a big deal to many parents, especially given the unknowns surrounding the Delta variant of the virus. As such, the topic is taking up a lot of real estate on social media right now

Naturally, the next most important thing the parents are concerned with as the school year rolls around is school supplies. And since many parents are juggling getting back to work simultaneously, it’s a pain point for many.

Consumers are already looking for deals for school supplies that will help them stretch their dollars the furthest. As a matter of fact, the free school supplies topic cluster is taking up nearly 20% of the conversation, as you can see below


School supply conversation within the larger back-to-school discussion on social media. 6/19/21-7/19/21

Parents aren’t the only ones looking for solutions, however. Digging into these conversations further for emerging themes reveals teachers themselves getting creative to provide for their classrooms.

This presents a golden opportunity for brands to create messaging or promotions to aid one of the most under-appreciated demographics on the planet. After all, teachers have it tough in an average year.

To recap – social listening clues you into the conversations that matter to your brand and help you understand consumer’s needs and wants. Monitoring those discussions over time allows you to identify emerging themes on which your brand can act. There’s still a lot of shifting happening as consumers reorganize their lives, so timing is critical.

Identifying emerging trends early places your brand ahead of the competitive curve so you can steer the narrative. After that, everyone else is playing catchup.

Reach out for a demo, and we’ll show you how social listening tools powered by artificial intelligence puts the voice of the customer at your fingertips.

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