By Hannah Chapple

Q: Why have we seen companies increase their reliance on social data?

A: Today there are more social signals than ever. Consumers are sharing comments, their interests, thoughts, and more online generating an incredible amount of unprompted consumer data at our fingertips.

The Problem: Social Listening Bias

Trying to make sense of the deep end of social data is complicated. One way we’ve seen businesses try to make sense of this data is by investing in social listening.

If we watch and listen to what consumers are saying in real-time, we’ll paint a more accurate picture of them, right? Wrong.

Social listening is biased. Our online persona is frequently different to who we are offline or doesn’t show us in our entirety. Furthermore, only a small percentage of those online ever actually engage or vocalize their thoughts, interests, and beliefs – the consumer insights that companies crave.

I’ll use myself as an example. If you comb through my social feeds (and please, don’t feel you have to) you’ll find my comments and a flurry of articles shared on all things marketing. While I am interested in this stuff, yes (it’s my profession after all), it is not the complete picture of who Hannah is as a person.

The Solution: Interest Based Segmentation

One way companies can figure out who their consumers are and what they want is by leveraging interest-based segmentation – where individuals are clustered and segmented into naturally-occurring, unbiased clusters, by looking at who or what they choose to follow. Instead of focusing on the vocal minority, at Affinio we consider following patterns and interest data to be paramount to listening or traditional research methods.

The Reasoning: Silence is Golden

Following and connecting with other people is a fundamental property of social behaviour. It is also a silent action. Conversely, social biases might keep individuals from being honest about their interests (who they follow) or what they talk about in person. The takeaway: you wouldn’t know everything that I’m interested in just by looking at what I say, but you would understand my interests by looking at who I follow.

By focusing on how an audience is connected (analyzing their shared interests and affinities), interest-based segmentation gets to the very heart of the consumer. Instantly, companies can identify who and what their audience cares about, even if they’ve never vocalized it. Or if they have, this method validates that finding. This approach focuses on the honest relationships consumers have built and maintained and lets marketers understand their audience as human beings and not one-dimensional data points.

You can find out more about our approach to segmentation here.

By Hannah Chapple, Marketing & Content Coordinator, Affinio