Effective consumer research is a cornerstone of successful branding. If you want to connect with your customers and draw the attention of a new audience, it is crucial that you understand the public perception of your brand. The key is listening to the consumer. In the past, companies had to rely on consumer research methods such as focus groups and phone surveys to engage in this sort of listening. But as social media platforms have come to dominate the conversation around brands, a new kind of listening has become possible. Thanks to powerful AI technology, consumer research has entered a new era of advanced social listening tools.

What are social listening tools?

Social listening tools are software used to analyze online conversations. In consumer research, social listening tools could be applied to conversations about a brand, topics in the news that are relevant to the brand, or to conversations about a competitor. These tools comb through social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit to identify brand-relevant trends and consumer insight.

The goal is to provide a big picture view of how your brand is being discussed on social media and other online platforms, so you can spot anomalies and create brand strategy that hits market gaps and speaks to your target audience. Social listening tools direct consumer research to topics that your customers care about and to platforms where they are discussing those topics.

Social listening is often conflated with social monitoring. These two processes work together in consumer research, but they are distinct. Social monitoring involves the recognition of specific events, such as a viral customer complaint, rather than searching for general trends. This approach uses social listening tools in a more focused manner that can be particularly helpful for crisis management. But in addition to helping with social monitoring, social listening tools can be a helpful means of identifying broader trends and targets for further consumer research and brand strategy.

Next-generation consumer research powered by AI

Social media generates ongoing online discussion that is a potential source of vast amounts of consumer data. But when it comes to consumer research, the question is: how can a company wade through this massive pool of data to find the relevant consumer insights? The answer is AI.

AI is the key to the effectiveness of social listening tools because it can analyze large amounts of data from social media and other online sources using methods such as text analysis, image analytics, and natural language processing (NLP). One particularly effective AI-based social listening tool is sentiment analysis. Sentiment analysis involves analyzing social media posts or other text-based content to identify phrases and terms that indicate approval and disapproval (known as polarity), or that indicate emotions such as anger, disgust, excitement, and surprise.

NetBase Quid AI is a prime example of how this cutting-edge social listening tool is changing consumer research. Thanks to sentiment analysis, NetBase Quid users can gather and analyze data on consumer feelings and group that data to generate actionable consumer insight.

Because NetBase Quid uses social listening tools to analyze sentiment not just toward a brand, but also toward brand-relevant current events and competitors, companies are able to execute branding strategies based on an integrated, well-informed perspective of the online discussion that matters to their target audience.

NetBase Quid AI has unique aggregation and visualization capabilities to make understanding complex data easier. This streamlines consumer research, so it extends beyond the mere gathering of data and results in the implementation of clear, well-informed strategies. For example, NetBase Quid’s audience segmentingfeature can draw on sentiment analysis to analyze how feel-alike segments respond to specific news and events. This gives you the opportunity to create messaging around content your customers care about. Or you can use audience segmenting to identify groups that share your customers feelings and opinions toward relevant events but aren’t yet aware of your brand. 

The future of consumer research

As advanced AI-based social listening and data analytics tools such as NetBase Quid become more widely adopted, consumer research will only get more accurate and more effective at delivering strategies that give consumers what they want. The backdrop of online discussion in our daily life is no longer something new. In terms of consumer research, we are entering a new era not just because consumers are talking more about brands online, but because we now have the advanced social listening tools to better hear what they are saying.