Using Social Analytics for Rapid UX Insights


This article was written by Josh Verseput, SVP – Digital Analytics at Material.
Consumers expect brands to deliver frictionless usability, streamlined navigation and clear value propositions – and brands with subpar user experiences have a lot to lose. According to PwC, more than a third of all customers would stop doing business with a brand they loved after just one bad experience.
Years ago, consumers would just go elsewhere, but now they’re eager to share their experiences – good and bad – with others. If you want to build experiences that meet consumer needs, it’s crucial to listen to peer-to-peer dialogue to understand your customers and their expectations. Social listening will enable you to be more agile as you improve your user experience and reach your business goals.
At Material, our expert UX researchers deploy the latest AI, machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) models through the lens of our scientific principles to distill millions of conversations into a clear set of insights, implications and recommendations. The result? We’re able to examine overlooked issues, develop more responsive experiences and drive greater engagement and conversion across your omnichannel experience touchpoints.


1. For social listening, not all platforms are created equal 

Unlike other platforms and their famous owners, Reddit rarely makes the news, but the headlines within Reddit offer a treasure trove of valuable insights that can help brands improve their user experiences and brand reputation.
Our clients are often surprised to learn that the deepest social conversations (and the most powerful insights) happen on long-form platforms like Reddit, parenting discussions and lifestyle forums. Conversations tend to be shallower on traditional social media channels like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, where character-count limitations, hashtags and quick-reaction like/dislike actions predominate.
Rants and raves on social media posts aren’t particularly helpful because they express delight and frustration, but rarely the root causes. When you want to go deeper into consumer needs, brand perceptions, active brand advocacy and whitespace innovation opportunities, you need to listen to in-depth discussions. This allows you to surface what’s working well (for you or your competitors), what’s not working well and what to do about it.
When we unify social listening data and consumer insights with digital experience tracking from our partners Medallia and Qualtrics, we’re able to shed immediate light on share of voice, pain points and opportunity sets.


2. Social listening reveals UX flaws and successes  

Social media monitoring allows you to respond quickly to a customer complaint and is a useful tool in crisis management, but social media listening goes much deeper.
We recently turned to social listening to identify challenges for a fashion retailer struggling with waning ecommerce performance. We quickly discovered that the website design, sub-par app layout and cluttered navigation made it nearly impossible for consumers to find (and use) relevant discounts. This created friction for many, limiting the capacity for paid media to drive fruitful digital interactions and ultimately sales conversion.
That said, a small contingent of very loyal customers had figured out how to navigate the website and access the sales promotions. This group is vocal in their advocacy for the brand, despite acknowledging the difficulty for the average shopper. The company’s poor user experience was leading to high bounce rates and plummeting customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, driving away potential customers and harming existing customer relationships.
We analyzed website data and real-life user behavior and compared those findings with relevant conversations mentioning the brand name on Reddit. Using social listening in tandem with web analytics helped us quickly pinpoint friction points in the customer journey, enabling the client to refine the user and customer experience accordingly.
It’s key to remember that social listening can reveal not just negative sentiment but what you’re doing right. Reddit reviews are trusted because consumers believe they are written by a real person, rather than a paid reviewer (as is common on other platforms), and that there is no algorithm promoting influencers or favoring some customer feedback reviews over others.


3. Social listening validates a competitive analysis  

Social listening is invaluable when conducting a competitive analysis, because it reveals how consumers are talking on social media platforms about rival brands, pricing and new products. In the case of the fashion discounter, for example, we needed to learn how consumers viewed other brands in the broader market for online apparel shopping. What are they looking for? How do they want e-commerce brands to list sizes? Which brands and platforms are nailing it? What are industry trends? How can size guesswork be eliminated during the customer journey?
We use our proprietary Online Promoter Score (OPS), a key element of our advocacy framework, to conduct competitive research. OPS measures the number of people recommending a brand over competitors. Online advocacy is the only metric shown to have a statistically significant correlation with changes in market share, sales or customer acquisition. We’ve used OPS to successfully predict business results for clients in the financial services, smartphone, CPG and automotive industries.


4. Social listening helps define segments

At Material, we often employ social listening to refine and illuminate our segments and personas. Strategy and insights, data and analytics and integrated marketing teams are then positioned to design CRM and messaging tactics that will resonate with the discrete needs, motivations and occasions for each of the most promising segments.
For one quick-serve restaurant client, we developed a social listening strategy to immerse ourselves in the dimensions that drive restaurant preference. We then deployed a hybrid segmentation combining transactional data, geolocation data and consumer motivations to build strategically differentiated (but actionable) segments. To reach that new demographic, we’re integrating the segmentation directly into our client’s customer data platform and tracking digital behavior to empower our media planning teams to create winning campaigns. By measuring media engagement, we’re able to deploy real-time scoring algorithms to facilitate next-best-offer and next-best-experience tactics to maximize lifetime value through growth in occasion frequency, average order value and customer tenure.
Our preliminary social listening was the first step towards helping the client optimize the digital experience, which we’ve complemented with personalized marketing campaigns and content strategy that traverses every customer group.


5. The human touch is still essential 

When you hear the word “rich,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Someone’s wealth? The taste of a dessert? Sarcasm? Something else? This isn’t uncommon: think of words like “cool” and “sick.” Linguistic experts offer the necessary human touch to really parse out the meaning of relevant keywords. While our social listening tools (which include our proprietary natural language processing, machine learning, personality detection and emotion engines) enable highly accurate sentiment analysis, our strategists complement our social media analytics by deriving authentic meaning and actionable strategies for words and feelings expressed in online conversations.
This ensures that our listening efforts surface authentically representative and actionable insights that translate into discrete UX and business strategies for our clients.


In conclusion: stop asking, start listening 

While asking questions is, of course, an invaluable element of research, sometimes it’s helpful to stop asking and start listening to really learn more about customer sentiment expressed around mentions of your brand.
Social listening is an agile, cost-effective method that reveals brand awareness and identifies growth opportunities by paying attention to voices in the market. From first-time users to power-users and Gen Z to Boomers, our global social listening capabilities reveal an optimal path forward for brands to reach their target audience, create an impactful marketing strategy, ensure product development in on track and improve KPIs. Our capacity to evaluate brands and experiences longitudinally reveal where a brand sits and how it got there. We learn which areas warrant increased focus and which established pillars of online brand advocacy are critical to maintain.
Want to learn more about online listening, user experience research and how Material uses them to create business outcomes? Click here.