According to Carmen Murray Communications, for years, brands have flexed their muscles to control and influence their power over their customers – and rivals. They use psychology to create brand affiliation, making consumers more receptive to the products and services they want to sell. Through this psychological manipulation, organisations exploit their customers by presenting ‘squeaky clean’ brands on a platter with words of ‘trust’ sprinkled over the content in the mix of verbosity.
However, consumer needs have changed, and it is no longer about what brands want to sell but rather what consumers want to buy. As such, the tables have turned, and consumers are now controlling brands. With the democratisation in the age of intelligence, brands that are going to succeed are the ones that will listen to their audience, from patients to customers to voters. It is only through listening to them that they will know what the consumers want and address their pain points, challenges and needs.
While the boardroom has typically dictated the brands’ content with customers, customer-centric content will help brands break through the clutter of empty promises. This breakthrough can be achieved by implementing various listening initiatives.
Netnography is easily explained as the interpretation of audiences’ ‘free behaviour’ online and was a term founded by Robert Kozinets. This qualitative research branches from ethnography – the study of different cultures, habits and behaviours on the internet. It is the practice of data intelligence and all about listening, observation, the skill of interpretation and the bravery to act in the agility economy.
Netnography uses two methods to gain an in-depth understanding of the audience: social listening and search listening. Both of these approaches allow brands to understand what is on peoples’ minds in a world filled with complexity by helping to find similarities, disparities and trend patterns. This information is then used to inform brands on how they can leverage this information to align their brand campaigns to their audience needs.
Using social listening to gain insights
Deep social listening is about monitoring millions of conversations across a plethora of social media channels. Various social media monitoring tools available today provide media intelligence, spot the trends and understand the sentiment analysis.
While Artificial Intelligence (AI) may be touted as the silver bullet solution to gathering data, it has not advanced to the level where marketers can benefit from it in its entirety. The challenge is that the Application Programming Interface (API) differs across social media platforms, which presents problems when gathering and analysing the data, often requiring manual data mining. Another challenge for AI, and machine learning in particular, is that South Africa’s diverse cultures bring along a unique and equally diverse way of communicating across the 11 official languages. This could skew the sentiment analysis.
Although social listening is a crucial step to understanding an audience, it is not the only step. Social media is about ‘considered content’; people are often conscious of the audience they are speaking to, ranging from family and close friends to colleagues and even employers. Therefore, you cannot work in isolation of social listening to get the big picture.
The benefit of search listening
Google and YouTube are a minefield of data. This has become the catalyst of change, and we are seeing agencies popping up that only focus on search listening. Search listening is all about how individuals search online within the context of their current environment.
With almost six billion searches happening daily, equating to trillions of searches a year, search listening provides a sea of data that, unlike social listening, is void of peer association. These searches often are considered anonymous, and people feel safe to ask questions about what they think, feel or are curious about. This data provides insight into the human psyche as it shares information about concerns or interests at a particular point in time. Search listening presents an opportunity for brands to provide valuable content and serve audiences with the right message, on the right channel at the right time.
In the 2021 South African municipal elections, Netnography provided an understanding of what we could expect from the voter behaviour and predicted the outcome of the election with great accuracy. A thermometer indicated that voter turnouts across the country would be low as South Africa’s interest in politics had a steady decline since 2004. By combining social and search listening, we were also able to identify trends and predict high voter apathy, protest votes, who would gain and lose ground in the main metropolitans, and where to expect coalitions.
This case study is an example of the power in the voice of the customer and guarding the signals and data they share to allow for valuable data gathering used to create compelling content. Netnography is the future of marketing and will ensure we always have our finger on the pulse.
CARMEN MURRAY COMMUNICATIONS