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But what about the “lurkers”?

With access to quality data, a flexible tool and a dedicated team, millions of conversations happening on social media can be turned into insights for brands. Businesses see the value and are getting involved, but social media monitoring is not without its naysayers.

Recent pieces of research suggest that a “silent majority” or “social lurkers” – i.e. those who consume content rather than actively participate in online conversations – comprise 70-90% of a social media users overall. Therefore, a commonly cited drawback of social media listening is that classic approaches only allow for analysis of opinions and commentary generated by the active few. It is somewhat understandable that there are concerns about insights that are based on a mere 10% of users, who may, according to some, be just opinionated loudmouths.

From the outset it important to keep in mind that online comments differ from traditional word of mouth in that they can be quickly accessed, read and re-referenced by a much wider community. Consumption of online content and commentary no doubt impacts offline behavior and shapes overall brand perceptions. There is, therefore, and always will be value in understanding opinions published online about your brand, product, or service, regardless of the fact that active commentators may not be representative of your entire brand community. In addition, and this is important, opinions don’t carry the same level of influence. Some active commentators may command a particularly high influence among particular communities, making it even more important to understand their points of view.

So what can be done to get a more holistic understanding of a brand’s online community (active and passive users, alike) and its spheres of influence?

Firstly, as mentioned, we should continue to listen to what’s being said, but we must also move beyond this to delve into how users are connected and who they are connected to. Studying these relationships can not only tell us more about active participants and who current influencers are, but also about those passive consumers of content who are connected to them and their interest areas and brand affinities.

GfK’s Social Media Network Analysis is a pioneering approach that has been developed to do just this by seeking to understand relationships between all types of social media users. The psychographic information collected can enable marketing and communications plans to be more accurately tailored and targeted with a brand’s entire digital community in mind.

For example, the Network Analysis approach would allow detailed examination of a brand’s social media followers or fans – regardless of how often they post. An understanding of your community’s interests may reveal your next advertising campaign idea and other brand affinities could point to sponsorship or partnership opportunities. On top of this knowing who your brand influencers or ambassadors are could be vital for new product releases and dissemination of digital content to generate online buzz or virality.

Integrating other data sources with traditional social media listening can also help us to profile and understand the different types of social media user. Web and social media content about a particular topic is first pinpointed and collected via social listening. Then, by matching exposure to this content across our robust panel*, we can unpack sociodemographic information for those consuming content about a brand, campaign, etc. There’s no doubt that knowledge of the age, gender, income, etc. of those consuming information about your brand on the web will better equip you to optimize campaigns and enhance media plans.

So, to all the naysayers out there, social media research is more than just classic social listening. More advanced techniques and data integration makes social media data work harder, creating more useful digital insights.

*Panel integration available for select markets only.

For more information please contact Maryann Huynh at maryann.huynh@gfk.com.

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