It’s always great fun to head to New York to participate in Social Media Week – especially when we’ve got a panel of social marketing superstars like we had this year. Here’s a recap of the NetBase panel How to Use Social to Find Your Next Big Idea in Campaign Strategy with highlights from:

The World Is Changing Quickly

We don’t often stop to take stock of the changes that have happened over time – but when our own CMO Paige Leidig wondered what has changed from the perspective of waking and bedtime habits, it became clear how different the online landscape is to just five years ago.

As Evan shared, when his flight to New York landed everyone became immediately focused on reconnecting to the world via texts, phone calls, and social channels. Social media has “completely changed the way we interact with each other and with brands, and the way we become closer as a human race.”

Changes in which social channels are popular was an observation of Jenna’s. Where five years ago she was obsessed with Twitter and Facebook, she now primarily checks Instagram and YouTube. “Whenever I have a question, I’d rather watch a video than read a long article.” That’s likely a sentiment shared by many consumers as well.

The point is, it’s not about marketing messages in the traditional sense – it’s about engaging with others in the social realm.

Whether it’s playing a game with other social users to wind down at the end of the night, or carefully curating your Instagram feed to share just what you want others to know about you, the way we use social has shifted in a few short years. Brands have to embrace and work with this shift.

You’ve Got to Know Your Audience – And Who and What Influences Them

It’s for this reason understanding your audience is more important than ever. The things they care about – and the people who influence what they care about – are vital components of brand strategy. Or should be.

Kiley joked that she “stalks” Twitter followers to learn everything about what they like and what they’re talking about as she crafts campaigns to promote their summer tournaments. She even uses such insights to inform the tournaments themselves and discover which European soccer players to include.

What about brands who are already “social first?” This is something Jenna works with often – clients who have a “pretty solid understanding of who their customer is.” But social data is often surprising, so Stella Rising sets up queries to prove and disprove hypotheses and spot customer segments that aren’t being reached.

It’s about listening to your audience, Evan affirmed, noting the importance of tools that immediately understand consumer sentiment and the way someone is actually talking about a brand, their opinion or value point, and the ability to contextualize that and understand what it means.

“We don’t often talk about psychology, but that’s often what it is; understanding the human behavior behind the scenes and how that plays a role in what we’re trying to do each day.”

These processes for understanding target audiences carry over into identifying influencers. For example, geography could be part of that process, according to Hillary. “If you want influencers in Italy, you can think most people speaking Italian are probably in Italy.” Using a combination of factors like language, location data, and local hashtags is a good place to start your research.

From there you’ll see related hashtags in Italian to overwrite the primary hashtag, and then build out a topic of how people are talking about something locally. “And that’s a great way to get research in the hands of relevant people on the ground, even if you’re not there.”

It’s always smart to make sure influencers are a good fit before partnering with them – which is part of what Jenna focuses on for the brands she works with. She looks at queries related to specific influencer handles and names looking for a few key insights:

  • Whether sentiment is positive or negative
  • What social platforms are popping with potential influencers
  • What other brands they may have worked with
  • And historical data back a few years to see if there are skeletons in their closet that would create a PR nightmare

That last bullet is particularly important when you remember how advanced consumers are with research themselves. “They’re researching your brand at all times,” Jenna says, “going back into the archives, uncovering what founders have done 10 or 20 years ago in college… So it’s important you have a full picture of what that landscape looks like before you decide who you’re going to partner with as a brand ambassador.”

The panel cited recent campaigns like Nike’s campaign with Colin Kaepernick, the furor surrounding the Fyre Festival fiasco, and the virality of TED talks and similar content. There’s something to be said for knowing what your audience wants and giving it to them even when the idea is really polarizing (Nike). Or offering up educational content that inspires (TED talks).

As for the Fyre Festival… is there anyone who hasn’t at least heard of it? That’s a testament to social’s ability to bond people with a common experience – even a bad one – together.

But don’t think it’s just other social users or celebrities that wield influence over consumers. Evan had to give props to Airbnb for their masterful experiential marketing:

“The way they infuse language and imagery to talk about ‘You will open the door and see this beautiful lake front view,’ and the way they talk about the ‘beautiful walk you can take down the street to visit all these local shops.’ They make it feel like a place you want to go to because you’ll have an amazing time and experience, and all of their content reflects that.”

That’s a great way to differentiate yourself against all the other places offering a roof, bed, and other basic amenities that are so expected by travelers they don’t create much of a “wow” factor.

There’s No Going Back – And We’ve Got Proof

The use cases above barely tip the scale on what social analytics offers brands – but, surprisingly, there are many brands and businesses that remain unconvinced. To help sway the skeptics in attendance, the panelists shared the moments they realized they could never revert to the old way of doing things again. They also shared some of the challenges they had in convincing their own managers of the value of social data – and how they won them over.

Jenna’s “A-ha!” moment was in 2015 when Stella Rising client Becca Cosmetics partnered with Jaclyn Hill on their Champagne Pop collection. Prior to the partnership the beauty brand only had a couple thousand followers on Instagram and weren’t really using influencer relationships.

They partnered with Jaclyn – “a mega YouTube and Instagram beauty influencer” with 4 million followers on each platform – at a moment when she was on the uptick.

The highlighter collection they partnered on sold out all 25K products within 25 minutes of being on sale at Sephora. Becca Cosmetics also amassed 2 million Instagram followers during the campaign, which skyrocketed them into a whole new arena, and led to them being acquired by Estee Lauder.

As for social proof – each of the panelists has had their share of challenges along the way, with Kiley saying she had to fight to prove the value of social listening tools, and that they weren’t just about “this post is getting more likes, but who are our fans, who’s out there.”

The good news is, once they were able to see what was on offer, the value was more clear.  But she admits, “It’s an uphill battle when they aren’t the ones using the tool, and they think it’s more of a toy for Millennials. You really have to prove it’s not.”

It’s worth proving, however, because social can actually move the needle, as Evan says. “As marketers or people in this industry, it’s kind of our job to prove that and continue to advocate for it.”

Especially when social-first brands like those Jenna works with are already convinced. If you want to compete with them, you can’t really afford to put off investing in social analytics tools. And you need top notch ones that can provide insights immediately, because:

“When you subscribe to these well-known tools like eMarketer the info is relevant, but it’s dated. Social is constantly evolving and changing and it might take these places a quarter to six months to a year to produce a study that we have to put in front of our clients.”

Such insights cannot compete with data coming in real-time – especially when it’s accurate and nuanced, as the data surfaced by Next Generation AI Analytics is.

We Can’t Predict Where the Road Will Lead – But We Can Stay in the Car

There are more stories and case studies available if you watch the full panel – and we hope you do, since we can’t recap all of it here! But the biggest takeaway might be something Evan shared near the end: Audiences have come to expect things beyond “ordinary.” They don’t want corporate jargon they don’t understand. They want something fun, enjoyable, and human – and for brands on social to talk to them that way.

“It’s our job to do that. It’s supposed to be fun. This is an industry that’s always changing. It’s fun to be on top of it, but also exciting that in the next five years, everything we just said might be different. But if you can stay on top you’ll be prepared for the future and everything that’s going to come, and it’s going to be great.”

We couldn’t have said it better.

Want to see for yourself how our social analytics tools can help your brand? Reach out for a customized demo.


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