Social media can help companies identify threats as well as opportunities, expert says

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

Social media can help companies identify threats as well as opportunities, expert says

Related tags: Social media

Social media can be a powerful tool to identify trends as well as communicate with different customer segments.  But it can also be used to identify threats, says market research firm Brandwatch.

“Some of our biggest clients are broadly in the food and beverage industry,” ​said Will McInnes, chief marketing officer of Brandwatch.

Social media radar

Brandwatch offers a variety of software tools and platforms to enable clients to monitor many different social media channels and to slice and dice the information in interesting and useful ways, McInnes told NutraIngredients-USA.  One of the most useful is to act as a sort of social media radar, to find out as early as possible if a company is heading for a fall, or if a whispering campaign is gaining steam and turning into a movement that might influence markets or public policy.

“Social media is a gigantic, dynamic petri dish that is constantly evolving.  You can find out if something is bubbling, if for example there is an adverse reaction in the marketplace to a new ingredient,”​ McInnes said. 

“Take a different example. One of our clients, a big American bank, uses detailed and accurate queries in Brandwatch to figure out if people are planning a protest or any other activities against any of their buildings,”​ he said.

Revealing findings

With the experience gained in parsing the data generated by its queries, Brandwatch has come up with some interesting market insights.  In the past, this kind of data might be gathered via surveys, but in this case, the company can look at what people are spontaneously saying. 

“In the analysis for our most recent food and beverage report the conversation between bacon and kale pretty much represented the US map in the split between Republican and Democratic states.  In the Republican states, it was more about bacon;  the Democrats talked more about kale,”​ he said.

Companies can use the queries to more accurately predict the market for their products.  And in real time they can see who is talking about their brands and where those people are located, McInnes said.

“These are real time social conversations about companies’  products and services. Big retailers want to know down to the zip code level about what kind of feedback they are getting.  We can find out how much they are talking about it and more importantly where they are talking  about it, who is talking about it and who the influential voices are,” ​McInnes said.

“We had one client, a video game publisher, use our social data to accurately estimate demand for a new video game.  And they were able to estimate demand for their competitors’ games, too,”​ he said.

What real, and what’s fake?

Are these conversations are truly spontaneous, or do they represent ‘plants’ by brands? Are what people are posting, sharing and retweeting  true and accurate statements and statements that are truly reflective of the general run of opinion? These are key questions, and Brandwatch has an answer, McInnes said.  The company’s experience with numerous queries constructed for customers has helped it find ways to separate the wheat from the chaff.

“There is a metric ton of spam out there.  One of the benefits of our queries is to strip out the garbage and over time and increasing iterations get to cleaner and cleaner results.  You can get rid of the hype and whittle things right down.  That being said, some of our most sophisticated clients still will want to pull everything,”​ he said.

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