Trending Topics: Social listening, Micro-influencers And Metrics, Oh My!

As the New Year starts to pick up speed, communications and PR pros may be hustling to fine-tune their approach to 2019 objectives. Last year’s strategic execution needs a review, and likely a refresh. To help, we’ve identified three growing trends in digital marketing that can bring new insights to your B2C or B2B projects in 2019 and beyond.

Social Listening
As communicators, it’s only natural that we should practice active listening. When we listen, we don’t listen without purpose – we listen to foster a connection. Social listening aligns with the same notion. 

While social listening may be mistaken for social monitoring, the two are not interchangeable. In fact, performing social listening is impossible without a hefty amount of monitoring, because it involves tracking conversations that are relevant to your brand. The “listening” part of the equation comes to fruition when these insights are applied to an overall strategy. So, while “monitoring” might bring in the meat of your data collection, “listening” is an analysis or an action that drives strategic decisions.

Whether you’re practicing social listening for competitive research, influencer marketing (more on that later), crisis management or client/customer relationship management, social listening provides more than interesting observations. By hearing how people talk about your brand out in the digital world, and then turning those mentions into insights, active social listening could help you uncover your brand’s next big campaign idea.

Micro-influencers
We’ve all heard that great things come in small packages, and the same goes for influencer programs. According to Forbes, micro-influencers are individuals on social media platforms with an audience ranging from 2,000 to 100,000 followers. Despite the relatively lower reach (compared to, say, Pioneer Woman), these influencers can be just as, or more, effective in reaching your target audiences compared to macro-influencers with higher sponsorship rates. Here’s why:

- Relatable content. A smaller social media following can result in higher quality engagements with the brand’s target audiences. The more genuine interactions between a micro-influencer and his or her followers, the more trusting and relatable they are to their audience.

- Authenticity. The more you identify with micro-influencers, the more likely you’re going to trust his or her word on products and ideas – which can lead to more meaningful impressions online and, ultimately, thoughtful consumer behavior.

- Two-way conversation. Relating a message in a real-life, story-like fashion translates as more organic than a heavily-manufactured, over-produced advertisement. Audiences like to see content develop naturally in everyday situations. Micro-influencers use relatable daily scenarios like these as a backdrop for seamless product integration.

Quantitative and Qualitative Metrics 
Reporting should never be an afterthought when it comes to successful execution of your next campaign. Since the dawn of time itself, the PR industry has struggled to quantify the success of its efforts with surface level data and stale monthly reporting. This can lead to misguided analysis and, potentially, misplaced investments in future initiatives. 

Since there is no replacement for showing the value in our work, let’s make 2019 the year we toss out advertising equivalency and welcome the ambiguity of PR analysis. Monthly reports and campaign results are better served as integrated, hybrid assessments of qualitative and quantitative criteria.

Measures like circulation, website traffic and active social media engagement should be tracked and considered when evaluating campaign results – however, specific metrics should be chosen carefully by what best fits the objective, then enhanced with qualitative observations like a glowing customer review or snapshots of audience engagement on your social media channels.

All three of these trends have something in common: Blending the right amount of quantity with a high degree of quality. That means proactive engagement with audiences that matter, relatable content from influencers who resonate and valuable analysis that combines raw data with expert insight.

As communications professionals, we are often measured on our ability to elevate and execute client campaigns and messages – to take communications to a higher level of quality and success. The methods to prove our value are ever-evolving, and demand expertise. We should consider that an opportunity.