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As the year winds down and we march towards 2020 (and cue all the vision/2020 puns that unclever businesses will likely concoct, coming to a corporate strategy Powerpoint near you), one of the trends we’ve spotted in audience habits is the trend towards private, “velvet-rope” communities. We dug into this trend in-depth in our Social Networks 2020 research paper; for now, let’s explore a key marketing analytics technique you’ll need to make your marketing effective in 2020: blended listening.

What is Blended Listening?

Blended listening, or blended monitoring, is the combination of multiple audience data streams into one integrated view. Today, marketers do quite a lot of listening:

  • Social media monitoring and social media listening
  • Traditional TV, radio, and print monitoring
  • Reviews/chats/groups monitoring
  • Forum and blog monitoring
  • Search engine query monitoring/popular searches
  • Email marketing performance monitoring
  • Web analytics monitoring

We have our eyes and ears on the many channels that make up the omnichannel customer experience today…

…but all our data is scattered everywhere, in different silos, agencies, people, and teams.

  • Our social media teams operate on completely different data than our SEO teams.
  • Our SEO teams don’t collaborate at all with our PR agencies.
  • Our ad teams don’t see any of the email marketing team’s data.

The list goes on – and each silo wall that goes up between our different marketing operations area is a wall blocking growth, performance, and revenue.

Blended listening is the process of breaking down those walls. When we use blended listening, we amplify the impact of every marketing channel.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Okay, where do I buy it?”

You don’t. You can’t. Blended listening isn’t a piece of software that you throw at a problem. Blended listening is a methodology, a process.

How To Get Started With Blended Listening

Think of blended listening as the data equivalent of a pot luck lunch, where everyone brings their favorite dish to share. Blended listening is the process of everyone bringing their data together to form a comprehensive picture of what’s on our customers’ minds.

What data might that include? As noted above:

  • Popular articles, including key topics and words/phrases
  • News media content about or by our customers
  • Videos, podcasts, and other rich media that are popular with our customers
  • Search queries our customers are asking search engines
  • Social media content, posts, replies, and comments by our customers
  • Emails that resonated strongly with our customers
  • CRM data, customer support calls, emails, etc. – all direct communications to us from our customers

Even if you never use any kind of sophisticated technology like text mining, machine learning, or AI to process and connect all this data programmatically, just the act of sharing it with other people, teams, and agencies in your company will confer enormous benefits. If the ad team hears that customers are talking about a new trend in social media, they can work it in carefully to their creatives. If the social media team hears that a specific keyphrase is hot in SEO, they can build it into social media posts.

The list of ways each team can share and use other team’s data is nearly endless.

So how do you actually get started? The easiest way is to have a weekly standing meeting with the data team leads for each department/group/team bringing data to share. Make it a congenial, collaborative environment – serve food and beverage if possible, so that it feels less like a regular meeting and more like a workgroup.

Have each team lead share their data in advance of the meeting, ideally a day before, so that people have time to peruse it and come with questions.

When the meeting starts, each person has 5 minutes to present just the highlights: something they found curious, unusual, or worth noting. For example, the social media data lead might share something like “We noticed an unusual number of people sharing a meme of people running through the desert this week, in relation to the Area 51 event”.

After each person has shared, discuss and form an action plan of how you’ll adjust your marketing with the findings.

Blended Listening With Data and Analytics

Once an organization has adopted the necessary process and cultural changes to make blended listening a reality in practice, it’s time to kick things up a notch. Sharing data collaboratively in meetings addresses the human insights necessary to succeed, but after the easy successes, you’ll want to think about automating some of the data sharing.

You can, using customized code and technology, marry different types of data together and look for patterns in the data across channels. This kind of blended listening is very advanced – it does require a healthy technology infrastructure and clean data, but is how you get everyone on the same page proactively, rather than reactively.

Here’s an example. In our social media monitoring for Advertising Week NYC, we noticed a few related phrases we hadn’t thought of or seen before, like demographic transformation and deep data.

Blended Listening: An Essential Digital Marketing Analytics Technique for 2020

Figure 1. Advertising Week major themes, produced by Talkwalker

When we took those starting terms and used SEO tools to explore them, we found a treasure trove of related topics, most notably the demographic transition model (DTM).

Blended Listening: An Essential Digital Marketing Analytics Technique for 2020

Figure 2. Major search data on keywords, AHREFs

Suddenly, we have a whole new world of content to explore: the use of deep data (vs. big data) and demographic transition models as they apply to marketing and advertising.

From this, we could run predictive analytics to determine when each topic will be of interest to our audiences, or look for mathematical applications and implementations of the DTM that we could adapt for marketing purposes:

Blended Listening: An Essential Digital Marketing Analytics Technique for 2020

Figure 3. Example demographic analysis software package for the R programming language.

From just a few marketing tools and data points, we could build an entire campaign.

Recap: Blended Listening is About People and Process First

What will it take to bring blended listening to your company? It could start with food and beverages for your connected marketing teams and functions once a week. Buy a few pizzas and some beverages, and ask everyone to bring in that week’s customer-focused data for everyone to share. Once teams get a taste of sharing data (especially in a way that benefits them), blended listening will take root and you’ll take your first step towards dramatically improved marketing impact.


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Also published on Medium.

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