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

Community Management and Content Collation

The Community Management team are responsible for engaging with content posted onto Group, Food, Insurance, Legal and Colleague social channels. Engaging directly with any responses, whether positive or negative, means we have a great insight into what our community is talking about.

sophie blog 1

This is why it’s vital we communicate with business units to have notice of what content is going out, giving us the opportunity to input suggestions based on current conversations with the community. Having this collected view of content being posted from all business units also helps us to ensure that we have the right amount of support to cover possible busy hours.

We’ve recently changed the process of content creation with certain BAUs, working with them in idea sessions and meeting regularly to go over upcoming content. These weekly meetings help us to also gain insight into what results the business units want to see. This could range from a post designed for the community to share or direct questions aimed to provoke conversation. Knowing this helps us to manage the conversation effectively and makes sure we have enough time to prepare responses and brief our team.


We were involved from an early stage during the production of #NostalgiaFM informed on all details that could affect our way of working, from how many posts were being promoted throughout the day, to the tone of voice the team were aiming for. Having this information helped us prepare brand responses that would engage the sophie blog 2community as well as plan possible surprises and delights to send out on the day. Overall this helped us to successfully engage in 700 positive conversations.

At the end of 2015 we improved our content scheduling by using Trello and Outlook Calendar in a more efficient way. Each week we check in on what all BAUs have planned and input this information into a Trello board. Having this integrated with Outlook ensures the team all have the ability to check the weeks’ activity from the diary on their phone. This agile way of working is simple but effective and helps us access the information we need on the go.

Sophie Newton, Social Media Community Manager – @thatssonewt