What people want
By Eugene Borisenko, Senior Account Executive – Chicago
Nick Marshall, a successful ad exec from Chicago, woke up one morning and realized he could hear what women were thinking. He was exposed to the full array of inner workings of female brains, no matter if they were strangers, colleagues or family members. In plain speak, Nick asuddenly became witness to a real-time stream of unstructured verbatim data from about half of the world’s population.
This scenario is a plot of What Women Want, a romantic comedy starring Mel Gibson, released in 2001. To some extent, the situation is similar to where many companies found themselves during the advent of social media, witnessing an entire new dimension of data pertaining to their businesses without much of a plan of how to utilize the multitude of social conversations in the cyber space.
In the movie, Nick quickly harnesses his new gift for personal benefit. He advances his career by jeopardizing that of his female manager. He threatens his colleagues. He has an amorous adventure with an attractive barista and does not call again. He further irritates his already estranged teen daughter by being unreasonably overprotective. All in all, Nick’s clairvoyance leaves a trail of hurt feelings.
The fact is that social media conversation among consumers is powerful. It provides a great deal of insight and predictive power. Consumers are also learning that someone out there is tuning into their content and want to communicate. Hence content marketing, thought leadership and intelligent engagement with customers have become the top goals for digital marketers worldwide.
Let’s think about the next layer of insight that social media may provide. Beyond satisfaction with products and service, generally measured with sentiment metrics, people talk about their wishes and desires. Specifically, they talk about future events, where distilling the unstructured verbatim content can prove extremely valuable for marketers.
Thanksgiving holiday, the holy grail of seasonal promotions, is about seven weeks away. Consumers are increasingly talking about taking advantage of sale prices after the turkey feast… but when? Black Friday has been the business day for retailers for decades, so let’s take a look around the conversation around Black Friday.
Notice that, while searching for “Friday, Thanksgiving, sales” keywords in close proximity, the results show that the center term of conversation is “cyber”. And here is the most viral sentence in the digital traffic:
It seems that online sales are becoming more prominent and favored by consumers, and the tug of war between brick-n-mortars and retailers is on. To validate our hypothesis, let take a look at the share of voice and popularity between the two big days in blogs and forums, where most serious shoppers discuss their experiences.
Here is the picture over the past 30 days:
Here is the same time period last year:
The gap in discussions revolving around Black Friday and Cyber Monday is reduced by 7% in blogs and 13% in forums compared to the same 30-day period in 2011. Furthermore, we notice a lot more trend alignment between the two conversations this year, with spikes occurring in unison, unlike some clear divergences last year. This tells us that Cyber Monday is on the consumer’s mind just as much as Black Friday, and most importantly, definitely more than it was a year ago.
The goal of this blog post is not to advise retailers on how to allocate promotional budgets and human resources during the Thanksgiving weekend. It is to illustrate that digital conversation makes it possible to understand what people want. Thorough analysis of the data can further help marketers to plan for the future and communicate their plans to their customers, thus becoming an active participant in their path to purchase.
When Nick Marshall realizes that telepathy does not have to be a one-way street, he re-brands himself. He confesses to his wrongdoings. He helps his daughter at a difficult moment and re-ignites their relationship. He helps promote a colleague who has been striving for recognition of her talent. He becomes a communicator whose life has become richer because he has learned to listen, think and converse in a meaningful way, even after losing his magic.
As companies around the globe continue to embrace the power of growing social content, the amount of available data will continue to pile up. Listening to what’s becoming important to consumers should prompt marketers to think about the future, plan their business strategy, and talk about the plans with their customers. In the social age, transparency and success go hand in hand.
Editor’s note: Community Manager Sheldon Levine is in New York for the next two days at Pivotcon. You can follow his tweets at @40deuce.