There are numerous options on the market for social listening software that promises to help digital marketers glean otherwise hidden insights from public social media content. The available features and analyses are as varied as the prices which range from free to thousands of dollars per year.
In politics, data about voters’ opinions is critical and millions of dollars are spent every year on polling, modeling, and voter ID work. While more data is always better, in the case of campaigns with limited resources, is an investment in social listening software worth it?
What Social Listening Measures
Social listening software gathers data from publicly available sources and, in some cases, pay for additional access via a tech platform’s API. Depending on your social listening tool, these sources can include social media, blogs, comments, forums, review sites, and wikis.
For campaigns, we’re most interested in what voters are saying about candidates and elections on social media. Twitter is the only major social media platform that gives social listening tools the access they need. As a result, these tools have a major blindspot when it comes to Facebook and that’s a big problem.
According to survey data from the Center for Campaign Innovation, 60% of voters use Facebook daily, compared to 18% who use Twitter daily.
Social Listening Insights
Some social listening tools offer insights on the data they collect, like sentiment analysis, which attempts to measure attitudes attitudes around a given topic. These metrics vary in sophistication and reliability by price.
The greatest challenge for campaigns seeking to employ social listening software is the volume of content necessary to train analytics algorithms. If you’re running for president, it’s easy to gather the data to build reliable social listening analytics, but the smaller your electorate, the harder it gets.
How To Decide If Social Listening Is Right For Your Campaign
Ask yourself, how would the information our campaign learns from social listening impact our decision making? Get specific about the tactical shifts. Would your candidate and consultants change messaging strategy? Would you spend your budget differently? Would you campaign in different locations?
Most campaigns would be better off investing time and money into email list building and creating online content than with social listening. Some tools are helpful in aggregating relevant metrics, like impressions or clicks, that can be found elsewhere, but the focus of your social media efforts should be on building and growing your owned audiences.
Social listening is a great technology for larger organizations that are trying to make sense of user generated content, but for campaigns with a well-defined audience and clear objectives, there are better investments for growing a digital campaign.