May 17, 2023

What is the state of social listening in 2022?

Date & Time (GMT):
May 17, 2023 12:47 PM
Date & Time (EST):
May 17, 2023 12:47 PM

Earlier this year, The SI Lab surveyed 200 social listening professionals within brands, organisations, and agencies from across the globe. We wanted to understand how they’re using social data, the challenges they face, and how the future of the discipline is being shaped. During Demo Day 2022, we discussed the findings of the State of Social Listening report with our panel of experts: Michael Howard, CEO & Founder of Nichefire; Kaylin Linke, VP of Product for Socialgist; Jeremy Hollow, Founder of Listen & Learn Research; and Jackie Cuyvers, CEO & Co-Founder of Convosphere.

The need for standardised best practices

One of the key takeaways from the study is that we need to standardise industry best practices. There are currently no official guidelines or rules around how social data analysis should be done. And, although 3/4 of respondents are feeling confident that their approaches to social listening are supported by best practices, when we look into how people are actually conducting the work, there are a few concerns. Specifically around data cleansing and ensuring the data being analysed is of good quality and is relevant. According to Jeremy, this raises questions such as, are you accessing all the relevant data sources? Do you understand how messy that data is? Do you know how to measure it properly? The variety of data sources and relevancy of the data are key things to look for before buying data. And, if you're buying a sample, you need to know where it comes from - the demographic breakdown, and so on. The social intelligence industry should consider such standards and tools because we are asking businesses to make critical decisions using the insights drawn from this data. It needs to be right.

State of Social Listening panelists Demo Day

A lack of interoperability creates challenges

Jackie, however, is skeptical about the industry’s ability to standardise across complex tech stacks with very little integration between different tools. “How can we have a standardised workflow when we’re exporting from one tool, dragging it into another because they don't all play nicely?” she asks. The tools don't always talk to each other, and often different tools produce different data. Currently, 53% of socia data analysis is done outside of the tools because of this lack of integration. Additionally, only 33% of the people are going to stay with their current social listening tool providers. It’s challenging to create industry best practices when your tools and data keep changing and  don’t integrate with each other well. Kaylin suggests tackling the challenge around standardisation by going back to basics. What is your actual use case for this data? What problem are you trying to solve, or question you want to answer with this particular data set? She explained how social listening professionals tend to be far removed from the people using the data. So, getting clarity on the end use case can help you understand what to focus on in your data set or which data set to work with in the first place. “A part of it comes down to what it is that you’re trying to solve and what is the best data to solve that . Then everything else is, hopefully, helping you do that.”

The role of technology in social listening

Although technology plays a crucial role in the social listening landscape, there’s also a risk of becoming too tool led as an industry. Michael highlighted the mismatch between the expectation of what a tool is supposed to do. “AI [Artificial Intelligence] is here to stay and here to help, but sometimes, there might be that mismatched expectation that AI is supposed to drive the insight more effectively or make it more apparent,” he explained. Instead, users might need to explore the results in more detail to find the insight. He added that technology needs to be for the users, to help them do their job rather than overwhelm them with large volumes of data. “I think how these solutions are going to be developing is around delivering speed to insight in a way that’s accessible and as readable as possible so that way we can democratise that to all these other stakeholders.”

Establishing the impact of social listening

As an industry, another major challenge is around establishing the impact of social listening. It’s still unclear whether social listening teams are providing insights that other teams find actionable. Most practitioners outside of business intelligence are creating ad hoc reports or different teams in the organisation. They provide insights and recommendations based on research or business questions, and leave it to the stakeholders to implement those changes. However, the social listening team often doesn’t receive feedback on the impact of those changes. The panelists suggested having a feedback loop to create better transparency between different stakeholders and social intelligence teams. They also stressed the importance of documenting it, by clearly outlining the objectives and KPIs that need measuring. This can help standardise and democratise the information within the organisation to maintain the feedback loop. There’s still a long way to go for social intelligence to be accepted across the wider organisation. But, to get that to that stage, we need to build trust and show value.

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