Vegans are noisy: And other useful social stories for your creativity

Katy Howell, CEO of social media agency Immediate Future, is one of the most innovative and creative leaders in the digital industry and NDA’s monthly columnist.

Vegans are noisy on social media. Not just during Veganuary either. They talk and talk.

2m+ UK conversations in the last year alone, with slightly more women than men (not by much) posting; and conversations are happy, celebratory and filled with virtuosity. As you would expect, eh?

But, peel back the obvious data, and you uncover that this noisy ‘small’ (apparently 1% of the UK is vegan) group prefer to chatter on a Friday. Their favourite emoji is the seedling and Veganuary posts are down year on year, because Piers Morgan was responsible for driving the high volume of posts in 2019.

OK, I’m not really writing an analysis on vegan social posts. I wanted to demonstrate how bloody interesting social data is. I love it. It often  affirms expectations, but it also throws up insight that makes you think in a different way. Social intelligence is creative.

Unfiltered, messy, chaotic creativity

Social data is just beautiful. You can squeeze out a few demographics such as gender and location. But that is not what’s interesting. It offers up the manna of behavioural insight. Unfiltered, unconstrained, human behaviours. Social is littered with nuggets of insight into attitudes, values and associations.

Unlike performance data, there is depth to social intelligence. It takes time to find the useful insight – and like a detective you run down blind alleys and into rabbit holes until you stumble upon small treasures. Glittering insights that spring from the chatter to allow you to find the creative hook in the typically homogenous buyer personas.

Because, quite frankly, social data is the key to unlocking creativity. It’s the sparker of ideas, the springboard to develop concepts that not only let you approach a problem from a new angle but enable you to create with your audience and relevancy at the centre of your thinking.

Much is made of the fact that data is stifling (some headlines suggest full out murdering) creativity. That may be true when it comes to bounce rates, conversion metrics or the shameful collection of vanity social metrics. It’s not the case for social conversation data.

Social insight aids creativity, but not if that insight does no more than skim across the surface – top line analysis is never enough. And therein lies the challenge. To uncover these nuggets, you need the right tools, the right approach to analysis, an experienced marketing head and a better way to share the insight across the business.

Dig, distil and dump

Still the large proportion of B2B brands think of LinkedIn as the go to social channel. On the surface, the data shows that this is where most business audiences are consuming. It only becomes apparent when you ask the right questions, that these audiences are not there every day.

In the world of tech, research shows C-suite buyers tend to go to LinkedIn once or twice in 60 days. A brand targeting in social needs to play long term (a 6 week campaign may miss the customer), and cap frequency. You need to know this behaviour – not just the obvious data insight.

You need to dig into the data further still though. Recent Guild research reveals much more in terms of opinion, attitude and values of the LinkedIn audience. 59% feel LinkedIn is about recruitment, and 48% state it has become cluttered with sales and marketing with 28% saying it’s full of spam.

The LinkedIn audiences’ purpose is not the brand marketers’ purpose in using LinkedIn. Marketers need to understand this data insight before planning campaigns. It will help shape your strategy, but it also shapes your creative. How can you not appear to be spam, how can you engage an audience where your product or service may not be the priority.

Mining all this data can throw up a lot of data. Too much sometimes. Be ruthless. Cut out the stuff that affirms what you know. Look for the information that adds flesh on the bones of your audience picture. Be brutal in picking the priorities your creativity will focus on.

I have to confess, it is at this stage, I collaborate with co-workers.  After looking at all the stats, I find myself wedded to elements that are irrelevant and can’t see what is valuable and what is not. Whether you do this alone or as part of a team is up to you. Either way, you have to cull the insights and dump the distractions to find the unexpected disrupters that will inform your creative ideas.

It’s a no to stats, graphs and weird icons

Gah! I hate graphs. I don’t think I am alone in not wanting to sit through 120 slides of stats and charts. To inspire creativity, you need to be visual and you need to evoke emotions. It’s examples that paint the picture. Whether that is a snip of a tweet or the story of the journey your audience takes to discuss a topic or an issue.

The art of using data in creativity is to be creative with the data in the first place. Tell your team, or your client, the human story behind the numbers. After all you are looking at what people are actually saying . You have the evidence in front of you – screen grab those Tweets and TikToks and share the narrative.

I love that Brandwatch call their analysts ‘social data journalists’. Because that is what you are when you want data to be your creative foundation. You need to tell a story with it. Bring the insight to life and allow your creative teams to explore more than the facts. You need to feel the data, imagine and visualise the customer and create hypothesise you can explore further.

Data from social is an underrated marketing tool. It is the colour to your creative that is hard to get anywhere else in such abundance. So get your social intelligence working hard for you, explore it deeply and make it the flame to your inspiration – it will light the fuse of creativity!

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