5.10 Types of Observation: Social Listening

Social Media apps on an iPhone

Jason Howie: CC BY 2.0

The rise in social media has provided communicators with another excellent technique for using unobtrusive observation for idea generation. Reading over the comments on a Facebook page for a group of fans, or the user comments on a news story on a topic might give you an idea for a fresh approach to covering a story or an issue that you had not even considered.

For public relations professionals, social listening can lead to important insights on issues that might be brewing.  “Sentiment analysis” (also referred to as “opinion mining”) is one of the emerging skills required for savvy PR practitioners.  It requires consistent attention to the online opinions and reactions in different social media platforms.  While there are sophisticated tools to analyze large numbers of postings, even routine scanning can give you ideas for themes or trends that might require attention.

Advertising professionals can use the comments in social spaces to learn more about positive, or negative, opinions there might be about a product (or about the competition.)  These comments can provide fodder for ad copy or inspire a new direction for a campaign.