How listening to social media could influence decision making

Social media is an important space for us to learn more about how our online communities feel about us. By listening to, and sometimes joining in with, conversations about the Co-op we can glean valuable insights about what matters most to our members and customers. And that’s really important in a cooperative.

Talking policy

The Social Media team has begun working with our Food Policy team to group online mentions into related topics. The idea behind the collaboration is that we’ll make more informed policy decisions the more we listen.

We’ve started splitting mentions into the different areas of policy. They are:

  • Agriculture – anything to do with farming and how crops and animals are raised and looked after
  • Diet and health – this one’s self-explanatory!
  • Sustainability – mentions about any impact on the environment
  • Ethical trade – things to do with workers’ rights
  • Safety and legislation with Co-op or anyone affiliated with us

Listening in

Using a social media listening tool called Brandwatch, we’re picking up instances when people are talking about Co-op and our grocery competitors. Brandwatch crawls over 80 million sources, including social media and newspaper websites, looking for mentions based on a set of rules we’ve written called a Boolean query.

For example, the query that helps us pick up conversations and content related to ethical trade about Co-op and our competitors, reads like this:

screen grab from Brandwatch. the rules says:

Writing rules similar to this one for each of the policy topics has helped us pick up 56,378 mentions since the new year. That figure includes things about our competitors as well as things about our own grocery business.

We’re listening. Now we can start learning

We’ve begun to analyse the data. During #FairtradeFortnight in March, Co-op announced our commitment to 100% Fairtrade cocoa in all own brand products from May 2017. The announcement was a big deal and we saw it dominate online conversation related to ethical trade during those weeks. In fact, Co-op represented 50% of the conversation while our grocery competitors combined made up the other 50%.

The orange line represents daily conversation about Co-op and ethical trade so far in 2017. The other lines represent conversation about our competitors and ethical trade. This shows that when it comes to mentions related to ethical stuff which is part of our co-op difference, we really dominate.

graph shows Co-op to have generated far more mentions than competitors from around 20 Feb to 13 March.

It’s really useful to know how people are talking about us and when we come up in conversations. It means we can shape our approach to content and even future policy so we can meet our customer and members needs better.

Genuine feels

We’re going to start looking at sentiment on social so we can categorise mentions as being positive, negative or neutral. Sentiment software, including Brandwatch, can struggle to recognise sarcasm or slang and that means a user’s genuine feelings might not be picked up. We’re looking at ways to stop sentiments being categorised incorrectly so we can feel more confident in the results.

Where we’re going with it

We’re also going to be working with the data science team to see if there’s a correlation between membership recruitment or membership card transactions and spikes in conversation across social channels.

The more we listen, the more we’ll learn. The more we learn, the better the decisions we’ll make for our members and customers.

You can follow Co-op Digital on Twitter and add to the conversation. We’re listening!

Sophie Newton
Social media community manager

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