The Key Ingredient to Better Social Listening

By Eric Anderson


Social media. The term itself can provoke groans as often as it does excitement. To many, it means staying up to date with friends and family, including posting cute pictures of kids and pets and getting lots of likes and comments. To others, social media is a time sink that threatens to replace face-to-face human interactions.

Social media is all of this and more. People are just as likely to share an update on their latest dining adventure as their opinions on political candidates, favorite movies and latest fads. In fact, when you include all user-generated content (tweets, Facebook posts, forum posts, blog comments, etc.), it is evident that consumers are willing to share their opinions, perspectives, values and beliefs on virtually ANY topic – and they do. Anyone can say anything they want with the click of a button – whether true or false, positive or negative.

Obviously, social media’s influence can’t be denied or ignored. More importantly, when considered through this lens, social media is really about the “voice of the consumer,” and it is a powerful source of data to better understand consumer perspectives and needs. The implications for manufacturers, retailers and brands are significant. Understanding what consumers say and the sentiment (positive or negative) of what they say is one thing, but fully leveraging voice of consumer data can also help drive brand growth. This type of social listening can identify unmet consumer needs, fine tune marketing channels and messaging to address consumer confusion over product benefits and alternatives, and provide early insight into consumer reactions to product launches or potential public relations nightmares.    

Many CPG manufacturers and retailers already leverage social listening to monitor consumer sentiment of their brands – there are dozens of free and fee-based tools available. Unfortunately, most existing solutions only tell part of the story. They can explain what consumers are thinking and saying online, but one vitally important piece of information is missing: how is this online chatter impacting consumers’ actual purchase behavior?

Linking voice of consumer data and analytics to what actually happens at the store helps CPG marketers make social data actionable and connects it to real business outcomes. If you don’t know how online conversations are impacting your sales, you don’t have the full picture. Similarly, if you don’t spot which trends translate to increased sales, you are at a disadvantage to your competitors. 

CPG companies spend nearly $5 billion annually on digital advertising, which means many wasted dollars if they invest in the wrong media, wrong audiences, or the wrong message. Also, product innovation is a powerful part of brand growth, but four out of five new products fail to gain traction in the market. Social listening combined with robust retail performance data can help you better identify and prioritize new products and features for key customer segments.  

There are three key aspects to consider when evaluating your current or future voice of consumer listening solution:    

  • What are you trying to achieve? How do you plan to use insights, i.e. drive more effective media buying, product innovation, monitoring for public relations issues? How will understanding consumer sentiment help you do that?
  • Is your social listening partner just a data provider or do they bring specialized experience in your industry to the table? Do they understand your brand and category as well as key trends, customer buying behavior and different purchase channels?
  • Does your social media solution help you connect what’s being said online to what’s happening at the store? Does the solution help you drive brand growth or connect to your desired business outcomes? Without robust retail performance information, you can’t know the real-time sales implications of all the chatter, good or bad, online.

Social media and voice of the consumer monitoring has become an important tool for business intelligence. Articulating your key goals, having a partner that understands your industry, and being able to integrate social listening and analytics with actual point-of-sale retail data will help put you on the path to growth – online and off.    

If you want to see how IRI links social listening to what’s actually happening at the store, email me at

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