Listening to Social Media Carefully to Gauge Consumer Sentiment

Companies keep trying to learn more about how their consumers think, and these days, social media monitoring sites are a big part of how they do it, according to a recent Bloomberg story. While the story says online data will still play a large role in intel-gathering, it quotes Emarketer Inc. to highlight the fact that advertisers are set to up their social-media site spending by 24 percent next year.

“Companies need to acknowledge that this social dialogue will occur whether they like it or not, without their ability to control it. But they can choose to participate in it,” Debbie DeGabrielle, chief marketing officer of Visible Technologies, is quoted as saying.

The story looks at the role information can play in helping companies take the pulse of product decisions, and the speed at which it can provide a gauge on reactions. For example, it points to Gap’s logo redesign, which after negative reaction, the company “pulled the plug on” a week later. It quotes Marka Hansen, the Gap brand president in North America, in an Oct. 11 statement. “We recognize that we missed the opportunity to engage with the online community.”

Though traditional market research in survey form or focus group could be limiting by predefining the conversation topics, monitoring social media isn’t fail-proof, either, the story adds.

It quotes Sandra Fathi, president of Affect Strategies, a New York-based PR, strategic marketing, and social-media firm, who warns against just listening to the loudest voices online, especially because social media often draws those with extreme viewpoints.

“Companies can be mislead by listening too closely to those voices on either end of those extremes.”