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Get to Know Your Audience: How Social Listening Tools Can Answer 3 Essential Questions in Consumer Research


Social listening refers to the process of carefully understanding the conversation surrounding your brand, industry, and relevant issues, with the goal of developing marketing strategies that better reach your target audience. In an era when social media dominates the public conversation around brands, companies are using innovative tools powered by AI to understand the big picture that emerges from a mass of online data. These social listening tools are helping companies answer some of the most essential questions in consumer research with unprecedented insight.

In this article, we’ll take a look at how innovative social listening tools can answer three of these essential questions.

1.)   Who is your audience?

Social listening tools use AI techniques such as text analysis and natural language processing (NLP) to comb through a vast array of online consumer-generated text, including comments sections, reviews, and posts on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit. The key is not to just gather data on how many people are talking about your brand but to aggregate that data in ways that help you understand who your audience is.

You may want to group data according to demographic characteristics such as age or geographic location. Is there a certain age group that isn’t paying as much attention to your brand? Is there less brand awareness in a certain part of the country? Is it worth adjusting your brand strategy to target these areas? Creating audience segments based on a variety of shared characteristics helps you identify who is and who is not talking about your brand, generating actionable insights into market gaps.  

For example, NetBase Quid, a leading next-generation consumer and market intelligence platform, provides users with the ability to pinpoint helpful audience segments such as those who share important similarities to your customers but aren’t yet aware of your brand and those who are talking about your competitors.

2.)   How does your audience feel about your brand?

A key feature that allows NetBase Quid users to create these audience segments is sentiment analysis. Sentiment analysis is a social listening tool that uses AI to uncover the affective states and opinions underlying online content.

NetBase Quid AI utilizes language analytics techniques that can recognize standard usage of world languages, but also the kind of idiosyncratic language often used online, including pop culture references, slang, sarcasm, netspeak, and emojis. It also uses image analysis to derive emotional content and opinions from images shared online such as GIFs and selfies. The AI both collects and analyzes this data, automatically displaying themes and trends in consumer sentiment.

NetBase Quid’s advanced AI categorizes sentiment according to how positive or negative it is, known as Net Sentiment, and in terms of the strength of the emotion communicated, known as Passion Intensity. It can also determine the presence of specific emotions such as anger, excitement, or disgust.

Equipped with the ability to discern details of your consumer’s emotional reactions and to group and visualize this fine-grained data in productive ways, you can implement effective marketing strategies that speak to what your target audience cares about.

3.)   How does your audience feel about your competitors?

Social listening tools aren’t just for understanding how consumers feel about your brand. They can also be helpful in both understandings how consumers feel about your competitors and in performing a competitor analysis.  

Social listening tools can help you identify who your competitors are by tracking which other brands are being discussed in similar ways to yours. But more importantly, sentiment analysis enables you to compare consumers’ feelings about competing brands to their feelings about your brand.

In determining how your audience feels about your competitors, it is helpful to go beyond sentiment towards a brand in general and understand what specific aspect of the competitor’s business is driving consumer sentiment. Do consumers feel better about your competitor’s product but not about their customer service? Are they responding favorably to social media ad campaigns but not television ads? Identifying these differences allows you to understand what your competitors are and are not doing well relative to your own strategies, so you can target the most effective ways to compete.

Social listening tools connect brands to customers

Ultimately, the goal in utilizing social listening tools is to better understand what your consumer really wants so you can deliver a better product or experience. Using innovative tools like sentiment analysis, brands are becoming more responsive, emotionally intelligent listeners. They are answering the central questions of consumer research in unprecedented ways and truly getting to know their customers.

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