Social listening is dead

Changing demographics, user behaviour and country dynamics are turning conventional social media listening stagnant. Discuss... Changing demographics, user behaviour and country dynamics are turning conventional social media listening stagnant. Discuss... ...Show More

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Social listening is dead

  • We're living through THE information age. 2.5 Qunitillion bytes are generated per day, and with objects and wearables connecting, data are only set to increase.

  • What we like, think and hate has been online for a while though. Since the inception of Facebook in 2004 and Twitter in 2006, people have been conversing openly on social media, sharing their hopes frustrations and opinions.

  • Social media is pretty well established by now, with a solid global average of 36% using social media. It's ten years old, and it's a part of everyday life for most people. With that, user growth for the big, establshed platforms has slowed.

  • But in some respects, the years of plenty are over. Because platform usage and user behaviours and demographics are changing. With this, the data available for social listening is changing two. This *could* mean the death of social listening as we know it: 1. Closed conversations within walled gardens. The "firehose" of social data isn't drying up, but it no longer includes a significant proportion of online conversations. With the advent of messaging platforms and closed social networks, we no longer have access to large swathes of consumer opinion.

  • 2. Pictures and video tell a thousand words. Text is no longer the primary form of communication. Video, image and now live streaming render "listening" redundant. Image and video analysis (human or automated) represent the real opportunity, but analysis of images will remain a challenge for some time

  • 3. Different tools for different territories. There are a few global social networks, but country-specific platforms play a major role. Twitter is not the global platform we think of it as, appealing mainly to its WEIRD (western, educated, industrialised, rich and democratic) audience. Twitter users per capita correlates with national GDP PR capita.

  • 4. Dirty data. As behaviours change, open platforms like Twitter can fill of noise, and offer less value. One leading sports team simply don't monitor 90% of their social media mentions, preferring to work more closely with the leading 10% of online influencers to track and manage sentiment.

  • 5. And in terms of demographics, the data we get from social media is skewed. * A whopping 74% of social media users fall between 15 to 25 years of age. * Twitter has a young audience with only 6% falling in the 46+ age category. And the younger demographics that used open social platforms are now moving to closed ones. (Source: http://www.beevolve.com/twitter-statistics/#a2)

  • So, where does that leave social listening? 1. How does this impact the validity of insights? 2. When is social listening valuable; when is it not? 3. What can we do to adapt to changing platform dynamics?

  • (Ideas from Measurecamp IX) * Listening has changed. It's never been about sentiment and mentions (traditional). As people move to closed platforms and focus on visual media, we have to move from "listening" to "observational" research approaches * You can't combine the currencies of different social platforms. A like is not a retweet is not a repin. Platforms need to be considered individually. * Rather than cross-platform listening (decreasing value and available data), consider what you want to achieve. Think creatively about the business objective. * Consider the platforms you suspect will connect you with your target audience, based on market, demographics and dynamics of your activity (stunt=visual;event=Twitter?) Then scrape/analyse/observe the individual platforms. * Move from listening, to watching. Revert to traditional market research interview techniques, or anthropology-style observational research.

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