To provide real insight, social media listening needs context

It is very easy to find mentions of your brand online – many free tools will find some mentions, and the growing range of social media listening tools will find a more comprehensive list of times there are conversations about your brand, your competitors, your market or any topic you choose. But how much use are these mentions in isolation? What insight can brands get from them?

Mentions alone often only very limited use to brands. They may be enough to input into a social media care channel – somebody complains about you or asks a question of the brand and you can intervene. They may also be enough for you to track how a message spreads – maybe you want to watch how a video is shared through networks, for example. But to get real insight from social media listening, the mentions alone are rarely enough. Reporting on volume, or networks, or even sentiment, does not often help brands to make decisions – a deeper level of analysis is needed.

In most cases the most useful analysis that needs to be applied to social media listening is context – understanding where a given mention fits in the context not only of other things that the person has said, but also in who the person is. And doing so is not always easy.

To get real insight from mentions online we need to analyse:

1. How the mention fits in the current conversation

Few mentions are in isolation; they are in response to other things – a conversation thread online maybe, or to something the commentator has seen offline (a new TV ad perhaps). To understand a mention and to draw real insight from it, you need to understand what prompted it and where. If that conversation is in social media, you can explore and understand this context. If the trigger for understanding the conversation is outside of social media, you can probably still detect this, but will need to do deeper analysis of the conversations and the social triggers included.

2. How the mention fits into the commentator’s conversation pattern

To truly understand the impact of a given mention, we need to understand more about the person who has said it. This doesn’t necessarily mean the person’s age or other demographic data; more important is to understand the conversations that person has had in the past and their attitudes, opinions and values. From looking at their past conversation history you might understand the attitude they have to your brand, whether they are loyal to you or talk about a range of your competitors, and how they generally talk about brands. You may want to understand more about what matters to them in life and how their mention fits into this.

On the whole, mentions alone often are of limited use for getting insight from social media listening. It is understanding this broader context that is important and that will allow you to use the data from social media to answer questions for your brand. Choosing a social media listening tool is now more important than ever – for insight you want a tool that goes beyond mentions.