It was a sunny Wednesday morning when I had the privilege of attending a BrandWatch conference at Kensington Roof Gardens. Although I sadly cannot share the beautiful weather or the setting, I can summarise some of the key points. The main part of the discussion was around the future of social listening:

  • With 3.2 billion images shared every day, image analysis will be the next big thing for social listening. This is already being offered in social listening tools, but in the future the technology will allow for descriptive (the ‘what), diagnostic (the ‘why’), and predictive (the ‘what next’) analysis. With predictive for example, an image of a bottle of coke where the background is a supermarket will highlight a purchase as the ‘what next’. Perhaps one day we will be analysing anything from video to what people are saying in the streets!
  • It will soon be the case where ‘private social platforms’ (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. – as opposed to Twitter) will open up and provide anonymised data. This will allow organisations to identify groups of users, improve targeting, and potentially be a way of accessing more valuable influencers – i.e. friends and family instead of only celebrities or other well-known people of interest. If you’re trying to get to a potential customer, what better way than to use their trusted family and friends as influencers… right?
  • Speed to insight will increase as social listening (and other tools) crunch data faster allowing for more relevant reactive action. BrandWatch highlighted here how they have spent a lot of time rebuilding their platform to be faster, which is why there hasn’t been a huge amount of visible product innovation lately; but now with an improved platform they are building a roadmap of new updates to improve the product (… to be continued).

Following the above future talk, there was a presentation by someone from Boots UK (a health and beauty retailer). They were at the start of their social listening journey, but something I liked from the presentation was the idea of isolating and categorising the components of your brand, and using those for social listening queries. For example, Boots UK would look at mentions of ‘Boots’ in combination with ‘Meal Deal’ because this was a core part of their business.

In my opinion, the current challenge of social listening is the volume of content being produced. With ever increasing social users, posts and uploads, the technology needs to get smarter and the importance of machine learning in this area is evident if it’s going to answer more of our business questions in a useful way.

What will the future hold? Let’s find out!