Social listening’s growth and evolution have progressed quickly in recent years. The way we’re using the data is creating more opportunities in a marketing context than ever before.

Using social media to your advantage is a common brand goal these days. The platforms provide an ‘always on’ focus group, never shy to provide opinion, warts and all.

But as the technologies continue to evolve and brands and their agencies become more adept at gleaning meaningful insight, what are the top five opportunities that social media listening brings to the marketing table this year?

1. Look beyond commentary to analyse behaviours

Anecdotal comments can be useful, and it’s relatively easy to track recurring subjects, but it’s also worth analysing how users behave and react in different social spaces.

This can be used to refine content plans, trial different ways of using copy and pictures to drive repeated and long-lasting engagement.

Several monitoring tools provide insights on platform use time, and although data is often uncharted for niche sites hosting loyal communities, expect the breadth and depth of audience behaviour data to improve. 

2.  A picture can still say 1000 words, but…

The rise and dominance of imagery within social media is another relatively new field and one which data providers currently have a hard time supporting.

Excluding specialist sites like TOTEMS, social listening platforms are currently limited in terms of the coverage they can provide for sites like Instagram.

As it’s now owned by Facebook, this is likely to be an ongoing issue, but the need for multiple monitoring suites doesn’t only incur extra costs, but it adds barriers to the way we monitor data and present it back in a streamlined manner to help refine ongoing strategy.

This year, expect the major platforms to work hard to rectify ‘picture blindness’, providing useful data to feedback to content teams who select the nature and number of imagery. 

3. When it comes to privacy, honesty is the best policy

Last year, Twopcharts reported that 5% of all Twitter accounts were protected, and while comparative Facebook stats are tricky to track, we know this figure is considerably higher.

Protected profiles are masked to many monitoring tools and with the rising popularity of Snapchat, which is very much about user privacy, the platforms and analysts will work hard this year to get a handle on all the social media chat going on behind closed doors.

With Facebook and Twitter, deeper insight can be unlocked by marketers prepared to release the purse strings and book ads but the data is often ‘broad-brush’ and it’s not easy to drill down to reach specific opinions and trends at a brand level.

In 2015, I expect to see more brands being up-front and honest with consumers who engage directly with them. In return for being able to access personal details and track useful comments, brands will need to make it worth consumers’ while and stick rigidly to the deal by not bending or infringing any privacy rights once they’re in place. 

4. Partnerships to shine a light

The evolution of social media monitoring has presented opportunities to delve deeper into data streams than ever before.

Different technologies are working together (or acquiring each other), for example with Hootsuite, to inform content and community management strategy.

With more partnerships in place, teams will be able to use singular dashboards to analyse and respond. 

5. 2015 could be the year we finally join it all up

In isolation, data from social media monitoring is useful. But it’s even more revealing and powerful when it’s integrated with other CRM systems.

Social data is being used on a more widespread scale to segment people who, according to traditional segmentation, are demographically identical. If the brand is an online retailer, it’ll also have a wealth of analytics data to overlay and marry to customer records.

This takes investment, but forward-looking brands are now seeing tangible and attributable value to support the business case, not just in terms of improving the relevancy of messaging to boost conversion, but also in improving targeting to reduce wastage.

Would love to hear what you think…