Insightful Innovators

Alessia Clusini

Digital Ethnographer and Co-Founder

Trybes Agency

Winner 2024

Alessia Clusini

What is your job title? How do you use social listening in your work?

I’m a Digital Ethnographer and Co-Founder of Trybes: a research firm that specialises in using social intelligence to help companies deeply understand their consumers. We want companies to understand their cultures, values, behaviours, attitudes and needs to build and distribute successful products and services, but also to co-create meaning with them. 

What’s your background? How did you get into social listening?

My background is in fashion, marketing and netnography. It was a great, fun journey to get where I am, and perhaps not a usual one. But my North Star towards social intelligence was always being extremely curious about people and co-designing “out of the box” solutions to help companies understand them: from the 1st ever tool to analyse Facebook communities to pioneering the concept of segmenting people by interests and not demographics, to create an AI-human process back in 2019 (Hybrid Intelligence). 

All of this was possible because of the brilliant minds I was lucky to meet and learn from. 

What’s been the project you’ve been most proud to work on?

I mean, I fall for every project, every time, in a different way. Sometimes it’s the big challenge that a brand is addressing for the first time, or bringing unexpected insights to the stakeholders. This year, what made me the proudest was initiating a big, global brand into a new cultural world.

What’s the biggest misconception about your work?

I think a big misconception is that it’s all about monitoring online conversations. Sure, it starts there, but what really sets us apart is applying social sciences to understand people’s cultures, values, behaviours, attitudes, and needs. And it's about connecting the dots in a strategic way that takes social listening beyond its own offices and into the hands of the company’s decision-makers. Sometimes, this involves incorporating other qualitative methodologies, like IRL ethnography and in-depth interviews.

Any nightmare clients? Why? (No names)

Well, well, well. Of course there are, right? I can share stories over a glass of wine. 

Joking 😀. 

But seriously, what helps us navigate through nightmare client projects is our strong love for collaboration… and for stories too. With a pinch of irony, the most challenging clients often inspire us to imagine the script for the next big Netflix series. 😀

Is there anything that you’re doing with social data that you don’t see others doing? Any missed opportunities?

A big growing opportunity we tested in the last few years is the one of the Cultural Opinion Leaders.
In most companies, the insights teams and their research partners struggle to recruit high-quality research participants for traditional methods like in-depth interviews and focus groups. 

Cultural Opinion Leaders (COLs) stand out from traditional panellists and key opinion leaders. They provide authentic, well-informed perspectives and act as community forerunners and advocates. Immersed in their culture and deeply connected with peers, COLs are genuinely passionate about the research topics. COLs unlock the cultural codes of brands and facilitate a meaningful co-creation process with consumers. This engagement ranges from understanding consumers’ needs, expectations, and brand experiences to co-designing and testing new products, services and campaigns.

So the opportunity here is for social listening leaders to bring COLs to insights teams in their companies, making research more efficient and effective.  

Who has made a lasting impression on you? Any SI heroes?

I LOVE THIS COMMUNITY! All of them. From people like Danny who share their experience on LinkedIn and make us feel understood, to the ones I usually reach out to for advice like Rodrigo. I recently met Natália and Alejandro, with whom we had a super fun chat during and after a SI panel. But the real hero here is Dr. Jillian, who dedicates so much to bringing us together. 

How do you think the social intelligence industry will evolve in the next few years? 

More fragmented and liquid analysis.

We’re facing an increasing tribalisation of cultures and the ever-evolving creation of new niches, plus new media in the landscape. New worlds to explore. At Trybes, we already started Ethnography 3.0 on platforms like Roblox and communities in Discord. But who’s going to observe the users in Apple Vision Pro? And what about decentralized social networks like Farcaster? 

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