May 4, 2021
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Is Your Social Listening Limited by Selective Hearing?

Why You Should Approach Social Data Like a Social Scientist

Social media analysis is nothing new for today’s brands. Platforms that promise to harness the potential of the social web have been around for some years now—each offering a host of capabilities and case studies showing how their tools can be leveraged to unearth insights with meaningful business outcomes. In practice though, social data often goes underleveraged or siloed into something that ends up only being useful to digital and social teams.

Oftentimes, these social media data streams are used primarily to track owned and earned content, monitor brand health, and leverage product and category information to find trends applicable to a particular business. While these are all worthwhile applications, there is potential to leverage social data for so much more.

Instead of thinking about social media data from a market research or business perspective, challenge yourself to approach it from the perspective of a social scientist. In other words, don’t think of it as social media analysis—think about it as social listening. The social scientist doesn’t see engagement metrics and brand mentions, they instead see a massive qualitative dataset filled with millions of individual responses to questions like: What’s on your mind? How are you feeling today? What do you care about? What do you need help with? And what is important to you and why? These are powerful questions about consumers at the human level, and these humans have thoughts on just about every subject imaginable.

Why would a brand want to know the answers to questions like these? Because, thanks to the mobile and digital era, the very way that people “consume” has radically changed.

Commerce now happens anytime, anywhere—and so does marketing. With the shift from a traditional retail and mass-targeted advertising environment to one that seamlessly blurs commerce, marketing and life all together on single personalized (or micro-targeted) screens, brands have new questions to ask. Not only do they need to know whether a consumer would be willing to buy their product, they need to know where and when that product best fits into a person’s broader lifestyle. Additionally, because people have become so accustomed to ignoring what’s irrelevant to them, brands have fewer opportunities to successfully interrupt their lives with a marketing message. Instead, brands need to understand where they have permission to connect. Social listening can help us identify and comprehend these intricate contexts.

Another benefit to social media listening is that you don’t have to find people to talk to, they find you—and they do it because they want to. Learning what about your category or brand is motivating enough to get people to want to share their thoughts and feedback can unlock powerful insights on how to best reach and resonate with them—and other consumers as well.

So next time your brand has an innovation or growth challenge, try leveraging the social science side of social media. Get curious and listen for what people care about and what makes them tick—not only as consumers—but as humans. Doing so may unearth your next big opportunity.


Interested in learning more about how you can leverage social listening to inspire clarity and grow your business? We’d love to help! Download our Social Reality one-pager or contact Cherri Prince today.


Catherine Salzman is Director, Social Science & Analytics at Seed Strategy where she uses her 10+ years of experience across strategic, media and research disciplines to illuminate vibrant stories that compel action and inspire clarity.

Edited by Adam SiegelIn addition to being the Editor of The Accelerator, Adam is VP, Creative at Seed Strategy where he draws upon his diverse experience in advertising, research and innovation to craft breakthrough creative and winning concept copy.

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