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06 JAN. 2017

SBE: Monitoring Online Brand Presence through Social Brand Equity

Melyssa Koh

Brand Strategy Director, Singapore

The Digital Marketing Beast

Airbnb has been awarded Gold in the Instagram category by the Shorty Awards – an award that honors the best people and organizations on various social media platforms. Staying true to their brand proposition of “Belong Anywhere”, Airbnb uses their global Instagram (@Airbnb) as a platform where they create and curate wonder and awe through storytelling that is rooted in humanity, showcasing real people’s experiences with Airbnb.

Airbnb is certainly not the only brand that is leveraging social media platforms as one avenue of its integrated marketing plan. With the rise of social media platforms, as well as technology advancement in the likes of virtual reality, augmented reality, html 5, geo-tagging and IoT connectivity, ample opportunities have opened up for brands to engage and interact with users online.

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Airbnb's Instagram account

With social media marketing remaining more cost effective than traditional advertising mediums, and as more and more global netizens flock to their favorite social media platforms to digest, disparage, praise and adore their favorite brands, what used to be an effective avenue of marketing is becoming noisier by the minute. As brand builders, how do we avoid ad-hoc, hit-or-miss campaigns, and ensure that digital marketing efforts evolve with social sharing platforms and the user’s ever-changing preferences?

Making Digital Marketing and Big Data Work for the Brand

It is important to note that digital marketing or social marketing should not be an isolated function. These are actually subsets within the overall umbrella of brand marketing. Hence, one must avoid the mistake of jumping onto the digital marketing bandwagon without an integrated cross-channel marketing plan that is aligned with the overall brand proposition. While a focus is indeed on engaging the consumers, we also want to make sure that we are engaging them in the right direction so that perceptions formed around the brand are steered towards the brand idea that we have set off with.

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Key considerations of digital marketing analysis

Advancement in technology is a double-edged sword. While it enables brands to reach out to consumers via more interesting and dynamic touch points, it has also allowed consumers to comment and engage in discussion of the brand with immediate sharing, reviews and complaints 24/7 around the clock no matter where they might be. With all the unprompted discussion revolving around brands on blogs, forums and social media platforms, the World Wide Web has actually turned into a massive consumer research ground. This is commonly known as social listening, a process of searching the web and social space to analyze what is being said and discussed around a certain topic. Big data social listening, coupled with quantitative analytics, when correctly analyzed, can help you to evaluate the effectiveness of your past marketing efforts and brand performance. These insights derived from past performance in turn form a feedback loop for your future branding and marketing initiatives.

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User-centric evaluation of online branding efforts

5 Mistakes to Avoid in Digital Marketing Evaluation

Before you rejoice over the fact that you are already tracking or evaluating the performance of your digital marketing efforts with Google or web analytics, below are 5 common mistakes that marketers tend to make. 

1. Irregular Evaluation

The need for regular monitoring of the brand performance is often underestimated, with focus left to only major events or campaign in a given year. Evaluation of digital marketing falls upon metrics tied to campaigns and media buy in the likes of exposure, potential reach and number of shares. This only sheds light on fragmented campaign-related results that the marketing team has to piece together with other evaluations, if any, to get an overall brand performance. Brand-building is a consistent effort whereby every incident and interaction with the brand matters. Two well-performed major events over 4 days are not going to entirely compensate for the slip-ups the brand has over the rest of the 361 days.

2. Quantity over Quality

In the constant pursuit for improvement, brands tend to set KPIs and metrics and seek to grow these numbers. This may result in artificial performance-boosting of the brand. For example, an increase in number of mentions might not necessary mean an improvement in the brand performance; when we start to analyze the content of these mentions and actually realize an increase in negative sentiment in discussions of the brand.

3. Low Relevance Content Pushing 

Be it tactical messages or strategic brand messages, you will also want the consumers to find these messages to be of a high relevance fit to them. High relevance content has the power to strengthen loyalty, engagement and advocacy while run-of-the-mill standard messages do just the opposite. Pushing out of pre-determined content that has been planned 6 months in advance, rather than listening to the types of content that appeals to the target audiences is not going to help increase relevance. Looking only at quantitative tracked metrics is certainly not going to help either. This requires a deeper analysis into the content that people are talking about, be it in the category that your brand is in, or general social culture trends.

4. Business-focused Instead of Customer-focused 

While many brands are said to be customer-oriented, many of the internal processes and mindsets have not shifted to one that is truly customer-oriented. Evaluation of brand performance is based on business-focused metrics like sales conversion rates and number of shares instead of seeking insights based on customers’ pain points, desires and experiences with the brand. The key is to know your customers’ needs and preferences and translate them into highly relatable, human-oriented experiences in the digital space. Knowledge and evaluation of the right metrics and data inputs set you on the right track towards being a love mark that is embraced by your customers.

5. Limitation of Data Insights to Marketing & PR

Very often, departments within an organization lack closer collaboration: they do not share data and insights with each other. Many digital marketers focus on tactical short-term applications of insights derived from digital marketing effectiveness evaluation to further improve future marketing and PR initiatives. But discussions of your brand on the Internet are definitely not limited to how your advertising campaign is being received: discussions also revolve around customers’ purchase, usage and after-sales service experience, or simply on the brand’s product design and features. Big data social listening analysis can help you in all dimensions of the brand, from product and service design, to service at retail front and users’ perceptions and comparison of your brand vis-à-vis competitors. 

A New Way to Evaluate Your Brand Performance in the Social Space: Social Brand Equity

Instead of having multiple tracking and measurement evaluations that either give you a fragmented picture or have little linkage to your brand, invest in something that empowers you to build your brand – Social Brand Equity.

Social Brand Equity is a measure of brand equity that your brand has accumulated over time in the online social space. This Social Brand Equity value varies over time depending on the interactions and experiences that consumers have with your brand over time. To help companies in brand management, brand equity can be further broken down to four main pillars – Differentiation, Relevance, Esteem and Influence. 

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Four pillars of brand equity

Adopted from the traditional brand equity model, Social Brand Equity takes into account the unique characteristics of the social media space that begets changes to how each pillar should be interpreted and measured. In a nutshell, each of the pillars of Social Brand Equity is a study of the following:

  • Differentiation: Is the brand known for a distinct feature of personality?
  • Relevance: Is the brand meaningful? Are consumers able to relate to brand?
  • Esteem: Is the brand well-liked and respected?
  • Influence: Is the brand influential in its reach and changing consumers’ behavior?

The true value of Social Brand Equity comes not in the form of quantifiable ROI or KPIs for the marketing department, but as a brand management tool for the whole organization from a consumer-oriented approach. It evaluates your brand performance in the Internet social space, owned and earned media, through both analytics metrics and qualitative analysis of the types of discussion revolving around your brand versus competitors. 

With this knowledge of past performance and insights derived from consumers’ discussion, it forms a closed loop, empowering various functions within the organization to strategize and adjust future implementations. 

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Digital marketing feedback loop

Below are some examples of which big data analysis tools of the Social Brand Equity could empower the team:

  • Identification of appropriate KOL(s) or influential hate-fan(s) of the brand
  • Identification of discussion surge and discussion topics
  • Identification of complaints and pain points pertaining to service level
  • Understanding of what types of product and product features interest groups are talking about in your category
  • Competitors’ social activities tracking

Suitability of Social Brand Equity Tracking for Your Brand

Brands have been tracking brand equity for a long time through consumer focus groups and surveys. While it provides a targeted evaluation of the brand, it can be costly to implement holistically for brands on both extremes of the spectrum –international brands with presence in various countries due to the scope required, and small brands with limited budget due to the price of properly designed research methods. Social brand equity tracking is then a good alternative or complementary method for brand equity tracking, especially for consumer brands with a huge volume of discussion on the Internet and social media spaces. 

Key Differences Between Traditional and Social Brand Equity

Traditional Brand Equity

  • Data inputs from consumer focus groups and quantitative surveys
  • Number of respondents depends on survey size & scope
  • Data inputs subjected to biasness and survey fatigue
  • Could be costly when implemented globally

Social Brand Equity

  • Data inputs from big data social listening
  • Vast quantity of mentions
  • Data are unprompted, natural responses from consumers
  • Minimal limitation posed by geographical reach

Conclusion

No detail is too small, and when it comes to brand experiences, it is accumulation of small details that build a strong brand experience. While we focus on big picture strategic business direction and brand building, we need to zoom in to monitoring and evaluating the small details to inform the bigger picture. Forget about evaluating only the key campaigns or looking at just analytics metrics that do not give you implications to brand building.

Re-thinking how you can leverage the world’s largest “focus group” means empowering your team to build and directly monitor brand equity. Every individual and comment matters – whether it’s an honest stickler who vents that your glass should notify the waiter when it’s empty, or a nostalgic dreamer venting for the original layout in an OTA journey that’s garnered thousands of shares. The Internet is big: make sure your tracking method is bigger.

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