Planning ahead is crucial for any business. But to do so, you need to spot trends in customer behaviour – and for that you need data. But what happens when your recent sales figures are no longer a reliable predictor of the future?
If your business has been successful during the pandemic, you may be dealing with highly inflated figures. If you’ve been forced to close for long periods you may have big gaps in your data, making it difficult to predict future demand. And even if you fall into neither of these camps – your data from the last year is likely to be atypical.
Of course, you could go back to your pre-COVID data and just skip the past year. But even that might not paint reliable picture – as nobody is sure how customers will react as lockdown restrictions lift. Luckily, there is another source of data that can help give a more immediate view of customer sentiment: social media.
Why you should analyse social media data
In the absence of other forms of recent, reliable data, social media can give you an accurate picture of current sentiment among your customers. What’s more, because social media is, well, social, you can use it to keep tabs on the competition. You can see what your competitors are doing well or badly, and spot trends in your industry.
Another benefit of collecting and analysing social media is that it can give you insights into the demographics and interests of your customer base and help you to target your marketing more accurately. It can also enable you to collate customer sentiment on your products – or on competitor products – and predict which ones are likely to be in the highest demand.
Ultimately, you’ll want to use all of this data to improve forecasts. By understanding your customer base and following public sentiment in real time you’ll be able to make predictions based on data that is a much closer reflection of the current market than anything you’ve collected over the past year.
How to analyse social media data
The data that you can collect from social media comes in two forms. Firstly, there’s data that can be quantified, such as metrics (including likes, impressions and shares), and demographics (age, gender, geographical region) and secondly you have and freeform data such as reviews and comments. The freeform data needs to be classified before it can be measured. Some social media scheduling platforms, such as eClincher, enable you to quickly classify reviews and comments as positive, neutral or negative – so that they become quantifiable.
One major advantage of analysing social media data is that most channels (Facebook and Instagram for example) already provide user friendly ways for you to view your data. However, using a BI tool such as Microsoft Power BI gives you the added benefit of being able to analyse data across all your social media channels in one view – and gives you much greater flexibility in how you choose to interrogate the data. Plus, once you have set up your own customised dashboard, any authorised user can create their own ‘what if’ scenarios and make predictions based on accurate and up-to-date data.