Social Listening: How Analytics Tools Establish Dialogue Between Brand and Consumer



“Listen to customers and know what they want. You can’t tell them what they want,” — Jenna Manula, Senior Director, Social Media, Stella Rising


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An effective social media strategy heavily consists of listening to your audience. Listening, in this case, entails analyzing your consumers’ likes, wants and needs for deeper understanding.

During a #SMWNYC session hosted by NetBase, social strategists from Stella Rising, Rockefeller Foundation, Relevent Sports, and GMR Marketing discussed this theme and laid out how they use social media analytics listings tools to build consumer profiles that allow them to identify upcoming trends which ultimately inspire engaging and successful campaigns.

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Winning social strategies are rooted in social listening and data

Within a winning campaign, there must be a social media strategy, and for Jenna Manula Linares, Senior Director and Social Media Coordinator at Stella Rising, that is rooted in data and insights crafted with social listening.

“Listen to customers and know what they want. You can’t tell them what they want,” Manula Linares said, sticking to the old rule to give the people what they want, but with a modern twist. Failure to do so, she underscored, means the brand simply will not go anywhere.

“The audience knows we have [analytics] tools at our disposal,” warned Hillary Saviello, Digital & Social Media Manager, Communications, Global Policy and Advocacy at The Rockefeller Foundation, hinting that authenticity is a key part of the strategy. “Before jumping in on trending themes, consider whether it’s on-brand for you and if you will add value to the conversation,” she said.

Analytics tools are more than “a toy for millennials”

With social listening, Saviello has attained one of her biggest lessons and piece of advice in that “People want to learn.”

Saviello pointed to brands that are masters in the art of teaching an audience, including the World Economic Forum and TED Talks. Their strategy to package long-form content “in a way that is engaging and gets people in regular conversations,” makes it easy for their audience to refer back to the brand and enables a wider reach, she explained.

“Campaigns can be structured like a TED Talk in a way that not only educates, but inspires,” she added.

But some companies are not entirely sold on using analytics tools, much less so relying on them to listen to their audience. How does a marketer resolve that?

Kiley Robbins, Manager of Fan Engagement and Growth Marketing at Relevent Sports Group, said she had to fight for NetBase at the company — which she apologetically said is “on the older side.”

Not all executives grew up with social media or even have their own social media platform, which can make analytics seem like a luxury or even unnecessary.

“It’s not just, ‘This post is getting more likes.’ It’s knowing who our fans are [and] who is out there,” Robbins shared, emphasizing that analytics tools should be considered research tools that go beyond just posting and provide further insight on consumers.

As much as some may think of analytics as “a toy for millennials,” she said, it can be proven that it is more than that.

Have fun & embrace industry change

Evan Nickel, Associate Strategist and Digital at GMR Marketing, concluded that there is a wealth of data available, but it is up to the brand to decide what to do with it.

While data is very accessible, it is up to the brand to decide what to do with it, and audiences engage better with things out of the ordinary and creative.

“It’s supposed to be fun. Industry change can be fun.” he said.

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