Social Intelligence: an Opportunity for Loyalty Marketers

Social intelligence is a burgeoning opportunity for loyalty marketers to leverage, according to Barry Kirk, VP of Loyalty Strategy, Maritz Motivation Solutions and Yazir Phelps, Director of Client Services, evolve24.

During the Loyalty360 webinar on May 8th, 2014, “The 2014 Loyalty Social Survey: Connecting Emotion and Sentiment to Brand Loyalty Analysis,” Kirk and Phelps discussed the survey with attendees and pointed to social intelligence as largely under-utilized category of “big data” now available to marketers.

But, Kirk said that critical to leveraging this social data is not only knowing what consumers are saying about brand loyalty, but also better understanding the reasons why and the emotions driving them. It requires moving from simple social media “monitoring” to a discipline of deep analysis of social data to uncover actionable insights.

“Social intelligence is giving us additional insight as to what to go test,” Kirk said. “Conversations are happening in these other areas that we’re not looking at as much and need to look at more. We need to dig deeper into that data and understand what were the conversations that drove that particular behavior. This is one additional data set.”

At the 2014 Loyalty Expo, Maritz presented the findings of a landmark new “social intelligence” study of the U.S. loyalty landscape, providing intriguing and revealing loyalty insights from the world’s largest focus group–the American consumer.

This first-of-its-kind study for the loyalty industry analyzed consumer conversations across the digital social grid (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums, social news outlets) to ask:

What are the major topics about loyalty that consumers are engaging in on social grid?

What are consumers telling each other is top of mind for them when considering brand loyalty?

What do these conversations reveal about the major areas of opportunity and risk for brand loyalty initiatives?

What role do the new measures of “Emotion” and “Sentiment” play in analyzing what drives customer loyalty? 

“As marketers, we want to see where those synchronous conversations are happening around our brand and for our customers,” Kirk said. “There is really rich big data to work with. Consumers really don’t trust brands the way they used to. Who do they believe? They believe each other.”

Social intelligence needs to be multi-dimensional before marketers can act on it, Kirk said.

What do consumers care most about when discussing brand loyalty?

Phelps said a variety of conversations exists around brands, ranging from religion to giveaways, tradition, coupons, politics, television−things that are part of their everyday lives.

When social conversations are prioritized around brand loyalty, the rankings are tabulated by Emotion + Sentiment + Volume + Velocity + Influence.

Phelps said social media is the largest source of consumer insight, but only 17% of companies are strategic about its usage.

How can we use social to feed insights into loyalty strategy?

Social intelligence is the mining of conversations in the social grid to provide insight into what consumers are saying to each other and the level of emotion and sentiment associated with those interactions.

But a decline in trust globally is a problem. Globally, trust in business to do what is right is only at 50% while trust in business leaders to tell the truth is just 18%.

Social intelligence data is finding out what customers are sharing and feeling. Gathering that data leads to the following questions:

What’s the volume & sentiment?

What’s the emotion?

Who’s moving the message?

How fast is it moving?

Phelps said the study comprised more than 65,000 conversations from Oct. 1-Dec. 31, 2013. Content in the study was aggregated from publically
available blogs, forums, Facebook, and Twitter. The study analyzed the food and hospitality industries.

Kirk said the most attractive social conversations for brands to monitor include high emotion and positive sentiment.

“The breadth of topics corresponding to loyalty references is complex,” he said. Consumers don’t separate brand loyalty from the rest of their lives. The best loyalty conversations will be holistic.”

Kirk and Phelps said there is no more B2B or B2C. Human-to-human is the way for loyalty dialogues to move forward. The breadth of brand social conversations can include pop culture, healthy living, beliefs and traditions, and coupons & deals.

In both industries, there are many factors that register as high emotion/positive sentiment and they offer the biggest opportunities to make an emotional connection with consumers and influence behavior. Tradition, for example, is one of those.

Identify those areas you can influence, Kirk and Phelps suggested.

You can’t win in all of them, so pick the ones you can be best at,

Then dig deeper, learn more from what consumers are saying

Invest in incorporating those areas into your loyalty strategy.

Phelps said most social loyalty conversations are taking place on blogs and forums.

The level of emotion for the different topics in the loyalty landscape is consistent across channels with the exception of Twitter. Twitter skews highly neutral. Blogs and forums exhibit the highest volume of conversations accounting for over 85% of the volume in hospitality, and over 65% in CPG.

Here are some other key recommendations from Kirk and Phelps:

These channels are powerful and should not be ignored. Gather intelligence from these channels and aggressively seek opportunities to influence the conversation.

Keep your finger on the pulse, measuring your positioning on a regular basis.

Consumer perception is dynamic and you need to understand what drives the shifts in it.

While what matters to consumers may not change every month, the actions you take (or don’t take) affect how consumers feel about your brand or program.

You need to continuously measure the effectiveness of your programs in touching what matters most to your customers and dig deep to understand what is working and what is not.

What’s more, here are some Social Intelligence Best Practice Tips:

Snapshot in Time Principle

Keep refreshing!

Focus on the Positives

High sentiment/emotion/volume

Make SI part of your consumer insight strategy

An organic data set to integrate with your structured customer data

“This is still really new to the loyalty space,” Kirk said. “Encourage people to work with social intelligence in the loyalty landscape to raise the acumen.”

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