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Social Exploration: Discovering the Person Behind the Purchase

As the power of the consumer grows, many brands are struggling to capture a holistic understanding of who that person is, what he/she cares about, and how he/she makes purchasing decisions. Thoughtful use of social media leads to a better understanding of the person behind the purchase and a strengthened relationship with the consumer.

Social media is king when it comes to customer and brand engagement. It enables brands to engage in two-way communication with their audience, an opportunity that traditional media has never offered. Consumers empowered with the ability to rapidly communicate ideas through social media are capable of creating influential trends within any industry — just take a look at what’s “trending” where you are right now.

But as the power of the consumer grows, many brands are struggling to capture a holistic understanding of who that person is, what he/she cares about, and how he/she makes purchasing decisions. Deep social media listening and analysis can help brands uncover motives behind trends, gain a clearer understanding of customer voice, and identify actionable opportunities to connect with fans, prospects, and potential industry influencers. Thoughtful use of social media leads to a better understanding of the person behind the purchase and a strengthened relationship with the consumer.

Understanding the motives behind a trend or purchase decision is essential for brands trying to develop new markets or create competitive products in existing ones. For example, Brandwatch took a look at various conversations within the food and beverage industry.

Using our social analytics platform we found 32,732 public Facebook and Twitter conversations (see figure below) specifically focused on healthy eating, which shed light on the nature of the movement and emotions driving health-conscious consumers. Through a social media lens, we could see that the majority of people engaged in these conversations chose healthier options to benefit their general health, while others discussed body image, temptations, and exercise as contributing factors. The 12 percent of social users who focused on body image suggests that for some health trend followers, the underlying motive is actually an ideal body. Temptation foods, over half of which mentioned pizza, also indicated an emphasis by consumers to select healthier options and their internal struggle to actually do so. By associating products with underlying motives unearthed by the analysis of such online exchanges and motivations, food and beverage brands can capitalize on well-ingrained consumer interests. 

It is important that brands recognize how the consumer, tone, and underlying motives of conversations may differ across online platforms. These differences provide brands with a clearer reflection of the brands position within the industry. An analysis of over 900,000 conversations surrounding beer brands in the United States reveals that while Guinness and Heineken (72 percent) make up the majority of the overall share of voice, craft beer brands Samuel Adams and Lagunitas dominate the conversation on blogs like BeerAdvocate with 76 percent of the share of voice (see figure below). The data suggests that while Heineken and Guinness are the mainstream favorites, blog discussions focused on craft beers hold significant weight amongst devoted beer enthusiasts. The interests and underlying motives of consumers often differ across regions, demographics and even websites, and deeper analysis of social media can unearth discrepancies and help brands identify with their target consumers. 

For many brands and products, consumer interest may be affected by campaigns, world events, seasons, or the time of the day. Starbucks’ annual Frappuccino Happy Hour is a great example of a well-timed campaign capitalizing on consumer motives. By offering half-priced Frappuccino’s in May, Starbucks’ campaign successfully brands Frappuccino’s as a summer beverage by generating significant buzz around #FrappuccinoHappyHour at summer’s start. As illustrated in the figure below, the Starbucks’ Frappuccino campaign generated serious conversation in early summer months as social mentions spiked sharply in April and remained throughout the month of June. Starbucks does an excellent job of branding its product and capturing a considerable portion of the seasonal market by recognizing consumer behavior and seasonality.

In a similar vein, brands have also attracted conversations by associating their products with socially relevant events. For Robinsons Squash’d, advertising agency Iris Worldwide identified a key topic that would activate UK consumers’ passion for Wimbledon. In a 40-second advertisement, they pitted former British tennis star Tim Henman against the mother of Andy Murray. In the video, the two tennis icons faced off for naming rights on a grass court. Cleverly bringing the audience to action, the advertisement calls for votes for #HenmanHill or #MurrayMound.

By identifying a strong underlying passion for tennis, creatively aligning their brand with Wimbledon and timing their campaign alongside an annual spike in chatter, Robinsons Squash’d more than doubled their mentions for that week. By tactfully connecting traditional media to a social media movement, brands can simultaneously generate brand awareness and cultivate an online community. As evident from the case studies above, by identifying the opportune time, motive and platform to engage with consumers, food and beverage brands can foster new leads and expand or strengthen their social community.

Social media gives businesses the ability to build strong relationships with their consumers and online communities. This is exceptionally true in the food and beverage industry. Brands in this industry can be better equipped to comprehend their consumers’ underlying motives or interests by analyzing conversations surrounding any given trend, brand, or product.

What, how, and when people eat and drink is a highly personal activity, that often elicits an emotion-driven response. Using social media listening and analytics to understand how, on what platforms, and at what time to engage customers is essential to understanding a brand’s customers and audience. That type of social intelligence is the key to any successful campaign. 

By Will McInnes, CMO of Brandwatch