The world of social media is vast and full of potentially useful conversations for brands.

On social media, consumers often freely offer what amount to reviews, product insights, and even content marketing for the brands that they purchase from. The only catch is that brands don’t know exactly where these conversations are taking place.

Enter social listening. Social listening tools, sometimes called social monitoring tools, scan social networks (and often other related sites like blogs and forums) for a keyword or key phrase. This could be a hashtag, a brand name, a competitor’s name, or anything relevant to a marketing campaign.

Many social listening tools also have the ability to monitor for sentiment (negative, positive, or neutral) in the mentions of a word or phrase, and can also pull out actionable insights such as major topics and key influencers.

There is a wide range of social listening tools, from free to paid to enterprise solutions, that can allow brands to better understand their audience, their reputation and their products through social conversations.

I met with Amy Vetter, Senior European Digital Insights Manager at Samsung, and Justin Khaksar, Managing Director and Senior Vice President, EMEA & APAC at Crimson Hexagon, to learn how Samsung in Europe uses Crimson Hexagon’s AI-powered audience insights platform to understand what its customers – and would-be customers – are saying on social media, and fine-tune its approach to product marketing.

Tuning in to social

Crimson Hexagon’s AI insights platform is designed to give global brands the ability to access and analyse vast amounts of audience data: social data, publicly available data, and enterprise-held data, which brands can integrate with the platform themselves.

“We have more than 1.2 trillion social posts that are instantly accessible via the platform,” says Khaksar. “Brands can carry out anything from campaign analysis, to brand analysis, through to analysing market trends, competitive trends, or share of voice.”

Vetter added that Samsung uses Crimson Hexagon to understand how its product launches have gone, as well as getting an insight into competitors’ launches. “You can understand immediately what the consumer feedback is; is there a particular feature, for example, that they love – or that they don’t like so much?

“We can then tweak our marketing campaigns based on that data. For example, when Huawei, one of our competitors, brought out their latest handset, we understood that they were pushing the camera and slow-mo. We have that feature on our phone as well – so we could very quickly go out to market with slow-mo videos and showcase that across TV and social platforms.”

Inspirational imagery

Social networking today is increasingly dominated by visual content such as images and videos. Because of this, analysing the content and make-up of text will only get brands so far in understanding what their audience is posting about.

Image analysis is especially vital when it comes to understanding how consumers are using products, particularly gadgets: the rooms they’re placed in, the context they’re photographed in, the ways that consumers are using them and displaying them on social media. For this reason, an increasing number of social listening tools boast image analysis capabilities.

Vetter explained how Samsung uses those capabilities to learn how consumers interact with their products, and thus how to create marketing campaigns that they can relate to.

“We wanted to understand how we could talk to people who are interested in purchasing a TV about TV technology,” she said. “So we learned what themes people were talking about, which tended to be what they were watching – movies and TV series like Game of Thrones, or sporting events like the World Cup and the Olympics.

“We also learned what images they were sharing, because a lot of people take pictures featuring their TV, with #GameofThrones or #TV. Because we’ve got logo recognition, we can tell whether that’s a Samsung TV, versus say, an LG TV. We can tell what’s on the screen. And we can understand how consumers are using their TV sets, and adapt our marketing to that.

“Originally, we were putting up very inspirational imagery – the set is wall-mounted, it’s all very ‘black box’. But that’s not how people want to interact with our products. We understood that they were posting images with a football match on in the background, for example, maybe with the bottom half of their legs in shot, and a beer. And the set was on a TV stand rather than a wall.

“We then changed our imagery to have a 50/50 split between reality and inspiration, and that actually led to much higher engagement with the brand on our social channels.”

Khaksar added that Crimson Hexagon’s AI is able to not only detect the presence of a brand logo, but to analyse the context that logo appears in, allowing brands to understand where and how consumers are coming across their branding, and gain insight into their audience.

“You’ll see your brand in a different scenario; for example, if Samsung is sponsoring Chelsea Football Club, you’ll see it in football, and you won’t just see where the logo appears on people’s shirts, but also learn about the audience that supports Chelsea.”

Samsung uses this information both to understand its consumers, and also to fine-tune its marketing and create imagery which it knows will resonate with its target audience. Vetter explained:

“A really good example of this in action is that with our phones, we were obsessed with taking pictures of them laid flat on a table – that’s fine at launch, when you first bring a phone to market, because people need to know what it looks like.

“Two, three months in, people have already been to the shop, they’ve held the phone, they know what it looks like. So instead, we can have our marketing reflect what people are using their phone for now. We can understand that people are using the phone to take pictures, maybe of an après-ski, or on the beach; and we can go out and mimic that type of imagery to resonate with our consumers.”

Using these tactics has led to much higher brand engagement for Samsung, and the company has also increased its posting volume across social channels, often adapting its approach depending on the regional market and the kind of interaction that consumers there favour.

Smart alerts and trend monitoring

For sentiment analysis, Crimson Hexagon’s platform uses alerts, which monitor for significant changes in the conversation: smart alerts will monitor topics that the brand has decided to track, and flag up any big changes in sentiment, whether that be a sudden peak in positive sentiment or a sudden surge in negative sentiment.

The predictive alerts system, on the other hand, can identify trends that the brand hasn’t set out to track but which the platform’s AI has determined might be relevant. “For example, if you’re tracking the U.S. presidential election, and there’s a big surge of interest in one of the candidates, even if you haven’t set the algorithm to track that candidate, you’ll receive an alert about it,” said Khaksar.

Vetter added that Samsung has trained the algorithm to detect sentiment in different languages, teaching it to associate the words for different products with positive, negative and neutral terms.

Even more usefully from a conversion standpoint, Samsung can use the AI to detect purchase intent. “We can pick up when people are talking about wanting to buy our product, for example, “I love the new S9 – I’m gonna buy it!” or “I’m tempted to buy the new S9”. We can also detect the ‘wait-and-see’s, the people who are saying, “I like it, but I’m not sure whether I want the S9 or the iPhone 10”.

Social listening analysis allows Samsung to detect purchase intent from would-be consumers.

“Then you’ve got the ones who have actually purchased it, and are saying things like, “I’m in love with my new S9” – or have even just used the hashtag #GalaxyS9 or posted a picture of the product. We can train the monitor to know that this section of people are purchasers, and this is how they feel about the product.

“It’s also useful for filtering out people who don’t actually own the product who are complaining about it – they have less relevance to us than those who have purchased the product and are experiencing an issue. This makes it a lot easier for us to understand what the true issues are with a product.”

This capability is incredibly useful not just for marketing, but for customer and tech support. Vetter described how tuning into the social conversation around Samsung’s products helped them to correct a technical issue:

“When we first launched the S8, I was asked in a meeting whether the red tint on the display was a ‘thing’. I typed in “Samsung red tint” [on Crimson Hexagon’s platform] and confirmed that yes it was, and we were soon able to deploy a software update that got rid of it.”

“It’s all about training the algorithm to scale the human interpretation,” Khaksar summed up. “Our alert system is about finding that needle in the haystack – it’s a global focus group.”

The ROI of social media

Where does Samsung plan to take its social insights from here? Vetter revealed that Samsung is planning to take on a marketing challenge which has stumped brands for nearly a decade: determining the ROI of social media.

One way it plans to do this is by using Crimson Hexagon’s platform to assign a ‘Net Promoter Score’ (NPS) to consumers who interact with the brand on social media.

Normally, an NPS is assigned to consumers who respond to the survey question, “How likely are you to recommend [brand] to a friend?” with a number on a scale from 1 to 10. This number indicates how likely they are to promote the brand – their Net Promoter Score.

Samsung intends to use the insights from Crimson Hexagon to assign this score based on social interactions and how enthusiastically a consumer interacts with and promotes Samsung’s products. This will help Samsung to hone in on the return on investment that social media is delivering for the brand.

“Our focus is on understanding those audiences across social, as well as on understanding competitor insights,” said Vetter. “By using this kind of technology, we can get data on consumer feedback within minutes of a product launch – whether it be our launch or a competitor’s. We immediately have access to what our audience is thinking and feeling.”

social best practice guide