The Role of Social Data in a Global Health Pandemic

The Role of Social Data in a Global Health Pandemic

by: Julia Schroeder

Back to the drawing board.

That’s where many brands have headed as a result of COVID-19. With a rapidly evolving global health pandemic that impacts nearly every part of day-to-day “normalcy,” brands have been forced to throw out their crisis playbooks and grapple with what they can do to shift both short and long term business strategies.

And for good reason. There are few blueprints that show how the pandemic will impact consumer mindsets and behaviors long-term — but we do know that consumers are acting differently now than they were pre-pandemic. From openness to advertising to shifting spending priorities, psychology research tells us that consumers are engaging with brands differently than they did pre-COVID-19.

But, like the pandemic itself, consumer mindsets evolve daily – sometimes hourly – with the ever-evolving news cycle. Brands may find it difficult to pinpoint how and when they should pivot their strategy with the lack of up-to-date research and consumer intel.

That’s where social data comes in. At Methods+Mastery, we see social conversation as the world’s largest real-time, unfiltered and unprompted focus group. There’s much we can learn about people through the lens of their public conversations. From how they talk, to who they are influenced by, to the media they share, online chatter is a treasure trove of consumer insights – but only if navigated and analyzed with care.

In a recent example of this approach, Methods+Mastery conducted social conversation research on American consumers and their relationship with financial institutions during COVID-19. By analyzing key voices, topics, behaviors, and trends, we found that:

While we learned a lot looking at macro US social conversations, we wanted to dig deeper to really understand the similarities and differences between US audiences.

Using our proprietary “proxy” audience methodology, we further segmented and analyzed social conversations by three distinct audience groups: High-Income Earners, Middle-Low Income Earners, and Technology-Interested Consumers. Our goal was to see how different financial statuses and interests could impact conversations about financial institutions. By viewing general conversations by audience segment, we are able to compare and contrast their opinions, behaviors and consumption trends against the general population.

These audiences made up 11% of the total US Twitter conversation about COVID-19 and finance – but each demonstrated entirely different mindsets when it came to financial institutions. A small fraction of the unique audience conversation trends that we found include:

Banks and financial institutions offer a ubiquitous service. While almost everyone will use and interact with one at some point in their adult lives, individual consumer experiences with them will vary depending on life and financial events. Through this research, we learned that there are specific ways banks can consider tailoring their interactions with individual customer stakeholders, including:

  • Curating marketing materials that provide financial literacy education for customers less-familiar with personal finance.
  • Partnering outward communications with external financial experts to provide forward-thinking economic projections.
  • Upping customer service representative training to better answer the questions and meet the demands of customers most in need.
  • Pivoting existing rewards programs to provide benefits that consumers can actually use during lockdown.

Social data isn’t a crystal ball – but when approached correctly, it can offer rich, real-time consumer insight at scale. This intel can and should shape marketing strategies for the better, enabling messaging to clearly resonate with your target audience.

More than ever, brands and companies should consider social data as a tool to better understand how their target audiences think, feel and speak during this unprecedented time. From messaging, to partnerships, to whole-sale product and business decisions – social data can be a consumer intelligence beacon in an otherwise murky sea.