Marketers can use vast social media data to anticipate the future. Columnist John Donnelly III shares examples of the possibilities.
If I could wake up tomorrow with a superpower of my choice, time travel would be high on my list.
Think about it: With open access to the past and future, you’d have unlimited knowledge within reach. You’d know how decisions play out in the long run, and the full context behind the events of the present. It would be overwhelming at times, but as a marketer, it would be fascinating.
In many ways, analyzing social media data is like tapping into a deep well of such information. Digging into details about the past, particularly insights from sources as direct as individual users, reveals insights and data-driven predictions about the future.
It’s not the same as snapping your fingers and materializing in the Middle Ages or third millennium, but in the context of marketing and business, social insights can offer serious value. For example, consider how marketers in the following scenarios can use the information we mined from our social data library of one trillion posts to see and seize the future.
Predicting the next big foodie thing
Fat is always a hot topic in the food industry. Whether a certain item is low-fat, fat-free, has good fats or bears bad fats, food manufacturers and restaurants discuss and pay attention to fat content because consumers are listening and engaging in the conversation.
According to our social data analysis, consumers’ collective opinion of fat is also changing over time — and not in the way you might expect. Between 2010 and 2015, positive sentiment about “good fats” nearly doubled on social media. In the same period of time, conversations about low-carb diets increased, while discussions of low-fat options diminished.
Positive mentions of traditionally popular nutritional topics, such as vitamins, diminished in the same period of time. For a restaurant marketer looking to appeal to a customer base that follows food trends and harbors an interest in healthy living, discussing the good fats served at an establishment (and adding some olive oil and guacamole to the menu) can help the business by leveraging existing customer sentiments about the topic.
Guessing –- and delivering –- customers’ bucket-list travel destinations
In recent years, more travel options have become available on financially flexible terms. People who previously may not have considered an international vacation are now able to fly across the world on the cheap.
As a result, bucket-list travel destinations are suddenly within reach — and for marketers and brands in the travel industry, listening closely to audiences can help those dream trips happen.
For example, our analysis showed that Australia is consistently the most desired travel destination discussed on social media. While a handful of other locations are popular, including Japan, Paris, Italy and London, Australia should be regarded as a sweet spot for advertisers and campaign managers.
Digging into the details about down-under social conversations shows that users are particularly interested in visiting major cities (Melbourne and Sydney), exploring local attractions (the Great Barrier Reef, wallabies and the Sydney Opera House) and associating Australia with words such as “wanna,” “want” and “visit.”
Using these insights to inform campaigns with visuals and specific deals can help marketers achieve their goals.
Gauging a growing market’s full story before its first boom
Self-driving cars, once relegated to science fiction and forward-thinking engineers’ fantasies, are now earning their place in reality. Some driverless vehicles are already functioning on public streets, and a report from Business Insider Intelligence predicts that 10 million self-driving cars will hit the road by 2020.
The market is new and exciting — but consumers aren’t so sure.
Our analysis of social conversations about autonomous vehicles shows that consumers express fear and anger over other emotions in relation to driverless cars. These sentiments have been growing steadily since 2015, running parallel with an overall rise in conversations about the vehicles.
A number of factors are likely prompting these consumer reactions, including fear of emergency scenarios and concerns about hacking situations. In any case, marketers in the automotive and technology industries should pay attention as the conversation continues to evolve — such insights might help them avoid launching a product that only a limited audience will be interested in buying.
If the ability to time-travel were actually within my reach, I’m not sure how I’d respond. It’s hard to predict how I’d react in a situation so unexpected.
On the other hand, with the wealth of information available today in vast social media libraries, there’s a good chance I’d see the existence of such superpowers coming — if I were paying attention. As a marketer, those social insights already serve as a crystal ball.