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Why social data is key for brands in COVID-19

By Kim Wu

With social data, brands have a clearer picture of what customers expect and need in the time of COVID-19.

Listening to and understanding the conversations on Twitter can provide brands insights into how to communicate with customers during these times. 

We spoke with three Twitter data partners to get their thoughts on how much the conversation has changed and what this means for marketers. 

Brandwatch

As people took to their homes to practice social distancing, the conversation changed literally overnight, to stockpiling and toilet paper shortages, their jobs, their loved ones and their own personal health. 

“What’s interesting about the conversation we’re seeing on Twitter is that it gives us insight into how people are feeling and what they are doing to cope,” says Victoria Miller, VP of Global Communications at Brandwatch, a digital consumer intelligence company that specializes in social media monitoring, social listening, consumer, and market insights. 

Conversation around good deeds increased 170% from March 1 to May 14, up from January and February. People in America donated food (18k mentions), made masks for medical personnel (12k mentions), and promoted the message of shopping local (8.1k mentions.) In Canada, volunteering to help the vulnerable and elderly was the most popular act, followed by donations of money, food, blood and PPE. India (English mentions) was also a huge driver of conversation. Their donations were also the most popular charitable act, with 78k mentions. 

“People are dealing with a high level of change and  they’re adapting to new circumstances and taking on new activities. It’s been incredible to watch this evolve through social listening,” says Miller. 

“These insights and the ever changing conversation has helped our customers rethink how they engage and support consumers”, says Miller.

“A lot of our clients are really keen to broadly understand how people are feeling, because striking the right tone with their content, the campaigns and products is so key at the moment,” says Miller. “I suspect that a lot of brands are making changes now that they’ll keep in place permanently.” 

Sprinklr

By March, when COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, Sprinklr, the NYC-based Customer Experience Management (CXM) platform for large organizations, used its AI capabilities to analyze over 600 million Tweets to learn more about the conversation on Twitter. 

“Twitter gives organizations the opportunity to understand the past context of the conversation and insights to help them anticipate how it might evolve,” says Paul Herman, Sprinklr VP of Product Marketing. 

Sprinklr discovered that many of the new and unreported symptoms of COVID-19, like the loss of taste and smell, were initially popping up on Twitter. Many healthcare workers were taking to Twitter to share their frustrations on the lack of PPE, which for government officials, helps them identify which areas are in need of essential resources. 

“It highlighted for companies an urgency to move towards a more holistic approach to customer experience management,” says Herman. “Research is one thing, but research combined with customer care combined with marketing as a holistic function is another.” 

People now expect brands and government agencies to be there for them when the situation improves. To Herman, this means brands and governments need to be where these people are, they have to speak to them in a human way and they have to build trust with them. 

Sprout Social

To Patrick Cuttica, the sheer volume of the COVID-19 conversation and the data it generates represents an incredible moment in the history of social listening. 

“Very few events impact every single industry, every single country and every person on this planet, and so I think what’s really unique is the scale of what these conversations look like and the far-reaching impact it has,” says Patrick Cuttica, Director of Product Marketing at Sprout Social, a company that specializes in deep social media listening and analytics for more than 20,000 brands and agencies. 

While the pandemic has put a pause on live events like golf tournaments and basketball playoffs, networks are filling the sports void with other types of entertainment. 

For instance, Netflix and ESPN’s “The Last Dance,” the documentary series on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, was the most eagerly awaited cultural moment of the summer. But with the NBA season put on hold, basketball fans went on Twitter to plead with ESPN for an earlier release date. It worked, thanks in part to the conversation on social media. “The Last Dance” has now become a cultural event in its own right.

“In the absence of live sports, professional sports teams and events have had to completely shift their overall content strategies on social and beyond during this time. Twitter has played a significant role in that shift, both in the way Twitter data can help inform new strategies and in the way content is distributed and discussed on Twitter,” said Cuttica. 

These current times have also changed how healthcare companies engage with patient communities on Twitter. Sprout Social recently introduced a new product offering within their social listening suite, the “COVID-19 Featured Topic”. This tool gives Sprout customers the ability to “dimension the overall social conversation data set around COVID-19 to understand how it’s impacting their brand,” said Cuttica. For instance, by using this tool, healthcare customers can define potential trends in the use of associated words and phrases like “elective surgery,” “hospital access” or “pregnancy.”

“This would indicate that there was growing uncertainty or concern among patients around the topics,” says Cuttica, “and hospital systems could get ahead of this uncertainty by proactively clarifying via social content.”

Looking ahead, brands should use their Twitter data to help shape their marketing content and stay up to date on the pulse of the conversation. 

“Twitter is an amazing platform for showcasing these stories and driving the global conversation,” says Cuttica. “It could be political moments, cultural events, or it could be something like the COVID-19 pandemic where the entire world’s online behavior changes almost overnight. People come to Twitter to find information, share opinions and create connections during these times, and this makes Twitter data invaluable for brands.”

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