Consumers Are Talking. Are You Really Listening?

By Todd McClimans, Media Center of Excellence, IRI

In today’s fast-moving social media landscape, social sentiment and commentary can often take off so quickly that brands may have trouble adapting their campaigns and shifting their marketing in response.

The importance of social listening and responsiveness has only increased since the COVID-19 pandemic. According to eMarketer, while the amount of time adults spent on social media increased by an average of 13 minutes a day in 2020, social media use in 2021 is expected to be even higher than during the height of the pandemic, with consumers averaging 1 hour and 35 minutes per day on social media sites.

Social media is also becoming increasingly important across all demographics. As the same report noted, this year will mark the first time that the number of social media users ages 65 and older will exceed those ages 55 to 64, and they will outnumber users aged 18 to 24 by 2023.

By monitoring social media with the help of IRI’s social media solutions, you can answer three key marketing questions related to your customers and social media:

  1. Who should I reach to maximize the effectiveness of my marketing?
  2. What messages will resonate best with my target audiences?
  3. Where can I best reach my target audiences?


Sentiment can be used to understand the attitudes of consumers discussing your research target. Here’s one example from an IRI Single Topic Deliverable report on Instant Pots for calendar year 2020 – YTD 2021, ending 10/1/21.

A Case Study in Comfort Food

We recently worked with a major CPG company to find these answers for one of their key products, a legacy comfort food brand, by listening to and analyzing what people were saying about the product on social media.

1. Who should I reach to maximize the effectiveness of my marketing?

We determined that posters matched overall buyer profiles for the brand in being lower-income, less educated and from larger families. This indicated that buyer audiences are engaged with their brands on social media.

A large percentage of category posts came from Gen Z users who weren’t the head of household or purchaser of the product. Gen X showed the highest purchase intent, likely due to living in the same households.

The Takeaway: Gen Z and Gen X were the key audiences for this brand to target on social media.

2. What messages will resonate best with my target audiences?

Social activity showed that consumers in the category since the start of the pandemic had experienced more joy and comfort. Loyal users of the product discussed their positive emotions and themes at much higher rates than non-loyal posters. These brand-loyal posters also discussed positive emotions and ideas related to experiences with others, whereas non-loyal posters focused on basic needs (feeding kids, how the product’s made).

Others posting about the brand expressed surprise over the quality of the product’s taste in addition to focusing on its experience and craftmanship. Posters about a competitive brand, on the other hand, expressed anger about out-of-stocks and a lack of discounts for that brand.

The Takeaway: Social content aimed at loyal buyers should emphasize this product’s improved quality, trying new recipes, and how the product brings comfort and joy to families. Messaging to new and competitive buyers should focus on the product’s quality taste, affordable price and reliable availability for tonight’s dinner.

3. Where can I best reach my target audiences?

On social media, the category and the competition were seeing more discussion during the pandemic on Instagram and Pinterest. The brand had the highest share of discussion on Twitter but lagged a competitor on Instagram and Pinterest.

The brand also faced more negative sentiment than a key competitor on Instagram. And several key segments for the product were heavy Instagram users.

Amazon shoppers were saying more positive things about the category more frequently, while Walmart was seeing a similar increase in frequency.

The Takeaway: This brand should shift more of its media budget to Instagram and also prioritize retailers with media platforms, such as Amazon and Walmart.

By listening to consumers online, this major CPG legacy brand was able to reinvent its social media efforts. It learned which audiences were most important, what messages would resonate with them, and where they could be found on social media.

Consumers are providing free information on social media about CPG brands that was never available before. IRI can help you answer these three key marketing questions for your brand and optimize the power of your social media marketing.

Reach out to your IRI representative or to learn how you can start identifying the people who are most invested in your brand and create messaging based on their interests and where they are most likely to listen, online or off.

How can we help you supercharge growth and profitability?


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