Social media influencers help to boost trends into mainstream conversation, but rarely do they create a trend. Trendsetters wield significant power, as a group or as an industry.
A significant and measurable shift needs to occur for something to be labeled a “trend.” In a blog post last week, we explained how predicting trends with social data isn’t quite possible yet, but with the right data set, you can jump on a trend before it’s noticed by one of your competitors.
How does a trend start?
This depends on the factors that created the need for a new trend.
Social Changes: Women’s fashion was dramatically changed forever after they were forced into the workforce during WW1 and WW2. Corsets were not practical for physical work, and neither were the large dresses popular in the Victorian era.
The bikini came as a result of changing social norms for women, and on the heels of WW2 when material was being rationed.
Technological Advancements: Since the industrial age, we’ve been innovating quickly. The music and film industries are unlikely to forget online piracy founders Napster and Limewire.
Apple, Netflix, and Spotify have adapted quickly, offering legal streaming and downloading services.
Some trends won’t be as long-lasting as the examples we’ve shown above. But the message is clear. Unless you’re watching for trends, you’re going to miss them, and someone else will be there to take your brand’s place.
Social Listening: Two Steps to Trend Identification
First you need to know what you’re looking for, and then come up with a way to measure your findings without predetermining the results. This is easier said than done: How do you look for a trend without knowing what it is?
1. Identify Your Target Demographic
You should have performed quite a bit of research already on your target customer. What are the key characteristic that define them as a group? Are they single, employed, millennials?
Find out which social channels your customers are using to engage with each other.
Once you know where your customers are engaging online, and the defining things that make up your target demographic, you will have a solid foundation for the next step in your research.
2. Collect Data Published By Your Target Customer
You don’t need to collect every single tweet ever published by every Twitter user. You can limit the data you collect to a date range, a demographic (gender, and/or age), and location.
Narrow into conversation with the topic of your market research. It can be as broad as an upcoming seasonal shopping trends, or as narrow as granola bars in the breakfast category.
Pro Tip: The broader your classification in your initial search, the better chance you have of identifying a trend. Let the data guide you, rather than trying to predetermine your result.
The best way to identify common threads of conversation is to look at the word cloud to see the most popularly used words. Then to narrow into these words to see what people are saying in their comments.
You can also identify trends with themes to segment data, like top flavors or scents. Sentiment analysis on this data will give you some insights into whether these themes are mentioned because they’re loved, or because they’re hated.
Once you’ve identified trends, you need to take action on them, and measure the response to your marketing campaigns and product launches.