The Global Source for Social Media Researchers

SMRA Blog 

  • 23 Nov 2020 11:18 AM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Blog post from Ann Michaels & Associates ( A research firm that conducts social media research)

    November 23, 2020 by Ann Michaels & Associates

    Competitive Intelligence is something that business has done for decades in one form or another. From mystery shopping to market research using various methodologies, everyone seems to be spying on everyone else. However, many businesses have been slow to consider using social media and online research, for competitive intelligence, as a way to increase market share and to gain an overall competitive edge.

    For the purpose of this blog post, we will zero in on the aspects of using online resources as a way to gain digital competitive intelligence. As artificial intelligence and algorithms continue to perfect, so does the need for good software. Social listening and analytic software options are plentiful and the financial commitment for using them can be huge.

    Listening Platforms, Q4 2020

    According to Forrester, vendors that can provide advanced analytics, brand measurement in visualizations, and broad tech integrations, position themselves to successfully deliver enterprise-wide consumer and social intelligence to their customers (Digimond reports from the study and is named as one of the top software providers).

    Digimind is a Strong Performer

    In 2020, a Forrester’s customer survey found that 59% of respondents incorporate social data into market research data sets, 57% into voice of the customer (VoC) data, and 48% into audience segmentation.

    It is important to mention that while social data plays a significant role, data collection from non-social media data can be equally important.

    Social Media data for competitive intelligence was something we covered in a previous blog.

    According to Hootesuite, social media competitive analysis, includes the following:

    • Identify who your competitors are on social media
    • Know which social platforms they’re on
    • Know how they’re using those platforms
    • Understand how well their social strategy is working
    • Benchmark your social results against the competition
    • Identify social threats to your business
    • Find gaps in your own social media strategy

    Online Research Strategy Steps

    The Importance of Media Monitoring for Businesses on a regular basis with ongoing detailed reporting. Select your brand with at least two top competitors and gather intelligence on a regular basis.

    A Competitor Website is home to a great deal of information that can be used for competitive intelligence. From product and pricing information to new product launches to press releases.

    Review and support sites should be monitored as well. Customers are very vocal online, providing a good deal of detail of product reviews.

  • 20 Oct 2020 12:55 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    When looking at and vetting social media profiles for authenticity, pay careful attention to the photos! 

    OSINT Research & False Positives

    Posted on October 20, 2020 by eChatter


    A great deal of time must be spend on OSINT in order to weed out false positives – good intelligence vs bad intelligence. The degree of reliability and authenticity.  The importance of an accurate starting point is critical when taking your research on a person of interest to the world wide web.

    We will dive into this in more detail in the weeks to come. For now, let’s begin with how to identify a fake photo. Hiding your real identity has never been easier on the web and social media is the scammer’s friend when it comes to this. A photo may be a false positive because while it appears to be the person, in actuality, it is a fake.

    Can You Tell the Difference?

    StyleGanOne is real and one is fake…

    Take a close look at the photos above. One is a real person and one is a computer generated photo. Which is which? Not so easy, right? This is something that all of us in the open source research, law enforcement and private investigations industries will need to be proficient at. A great site to test your skills is Which Face is Real?

    You may wonder how this is even done. You are not alone! Machine learning has been used to customize and generate realistic photos. It is called StyleGAN.

    StyleGAN was originally an open-source project by NVIDIA to create a generative model that could output high-resolution human faces. The basis of the model was established by a research paper published by Tero Karras, Samuli Laine, and Timo Aila, all researchers at NVIDIA.


    What To Look For

    According to Which Face is Real, look for the following things:

    Teeth and Hair: Hair and teeth are very difficult to render realistically. Often teeth are odd or asymmetric. Look for a type of hallo over the hair or other odd imperfections.

    Eye Glasses: Right now, it’s very hard for algorithms to generate realistic-looking eyeglasses. Take a close look at the style of the glasses. Many times one side will look different than the other side.

    Background of the Image: Many times the background of an image is a give-away. Because the concentration is on the face alone, the background may show smudge marks or render unclear.

    When in Doubt….

    Google Image

    If you suspect your target is using a false identity, you can do your very own “fact checking”. Google image will allow you to upload an image to search the web for other images that look just like it.

    One of our recent blog posts discussed this in further detail. Online Research: 3 Tips for Better Results. It is more important than ever to be sure you have the right tools in your tool box.

    PS: If you guess the photo of the woman, you are correct! She is a real person.

  • 25 Sep 2020 3:49 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Our social media profiles and activity can reveal a lot about our personalities. Psychology Today's take on the subject!

    By: Gwendolyn Seidman Ph.D.

    Geralt via Pixabay | CC0 license

    Source: Geralt via Pixabay | CC0 license

    The majority of Americans use at least one form of social media. If you're reading this, you probably use social media yourself and have contacts ranging from people you know intimately, like your immediate family and close friends, to people you've met just a few times or haven't had contact within years.

    What can we learn about people from their social media? Despite opportunities to control what we post and curate an idealized image, research suggests that for the most part, social media profiles reflect people's actual personalities, not idealized versions of themselves.

    The Big Five Personality Traits

    A large body of research on social media use and personality has focused on the Big 5 personality traits, the most widely accepted trait theory. When people are asked to rate how much different traits characterize them, those traits cluster into five groups:

    Personality predicts what people do on social media.

    Researchers studying social media and personality often ask users about their behaviors or log users' behavior and determine what correlates with different personality traits. In a meta-analysis, combining the results of more than 30 different studies like this, Lui and Campbell found several patterns. Extraverts tended to spend more time interacting with others on social media. People high in agreeableness tended not to be any more or less social than their less agreeable counterparts, but they did post more photos. Conscientious people tended to spend less time using social media to learn about others and to play games. High openness predicted the opposite pattern of high conscientiousness – More time seeking information about others and more time gaming. Like extraversion, neuroticism was also related to posting more updates and content on social media.

    In addition, research shows that personality relates to the specific types of content people post, as I detailed in an earlier article. Despite the general tendency for social media profiles to accurately reflect personality, there is evidence that these profiles are less accurate for people high in neuroticism, who are more likely to present idealized or less authentic images of themselves.

    Personality predicts the words people use on social media.

    In a fascinating area of study, researchers have used specialized software programs to analyze the language people use in their social media posts. In one such study, researchers used a computer algorithm to determine which words were uniquely related to different personality traits. Words that predicted high levels of extraversion included "love," "night" and "party" – words that reflect social activity or relationships. Those with low levels of extraversion, on the other hand, were more likely to use the words "computer," "I've," and "I don't," reflecting both a greater focus on the self and a preference for activities involving things rather than people.  Highly conscientious people were more likely to use the words "family," "week," and "weekend." These word choices are indicative of their tendency to plan and focus on family responsibilities. People with low conscientiousness were more likely to use swear words, indicating a lack of caution in what they post. Not surprisingly, agreeable individuals used more positive words, and people low in agreeableness used more negative words, especially hostile swear words. Neuroticism was also associated with using negative words, but sadder, rather than angry.

    Other researchers who mine social media data have used frameworks that classify words into categories, rather than looking at word frequency. For example, researchers might organize words into groups like "negative emotions" or "social relations." Not surprisingly, these studies show that extraverts use more words relating to family and social processes. Interestingly, people high in agreeableness tend to talk about food more but talk less about achievement and money. People high in conscientiousness and openness were both more likely to talk about work. This likely reflects conscientious individuals' greater diligence about work and open individuals' greater likelihood of pursuing work they are interested in or passionate about.

    The content on social media predicts personality.

    Researchers sometimes look at the specific content people post on social media. This can include basic profile features, like the number of "likes," the number of friends, or the number of status updates. Bachrach and colleagues found they could predict social media users' levels of extraversion, openness, and conscientiousness from this information.

    Other researchers have found that what people "like" on Facebook is related to their personality. So their preferences for different music or TV shows, products or websites, or even specific types of content posted by friends all relate to personality. In one particularly impressive demonstration of this, Youyou, Kosinski, and Stillwell used people's "likes" to predict their scores on personality measures. Then they compared this to personality ratings provided by that person's friends, family, and work colleagues. The researchers found that "likes" predicted people's personality better than the reports of people who actually knew them.

    So what can we learn about someone's personality from their social media activity?

    The computer algorithm approaches are powerful and suggest that social media companies could know more about you than you think (that's a topic for another day). But ordinary people can also use the insights from this research to understand their social media friends better. Taken to together, these findings suggest that there are a number of factors that could hint at someone's personality:

    • Extraversion: Extraverts are easily identifiable on social media. This is not that surprising, as in offline settings, extraversion tends to be the easiest trait to guess when first meeting someone. Extraverts tend to have more friends, interact with others more, "like" content more frequently, and use more words that reflect social activities.
    • Conscientiousness: Conscientious people are more cautious by nature, and by most metrics, they engage with social media less than their less conscientious counterparts. And when do they engage on social media, they are more likely to talk about work and family.
    • Agreeableness: Agreeable people tend to post more photos. They also tend to opt for more cheerful language, whereas those especially low on agreeableness gravitate toward particularly negative and hostile terms.
    • Openness: For people high in openness, their social media use is likely to reflect their interests. They spend more time using social media as a way to seek information, to talk about their work, or to play games.
    • Neuroticism: Neurotic individuals tend to be more active on social media, much like extraverts. But unlike extraverts, they tend to express more negative emotions in their language, which makes sense given the propensity to experience more negative emotions. And they are especially likely to try to present a more idealized version of themselves.

    While you can't totally judge a book by its cover, or even its social media profile, our social media profiles may reveal more about us than we think.

  • 14 Aug 2020 8:36 AM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    SMRA pick of the week: Can we look to social media data to uncover threats & vulnerabilities? Newest research from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory shows startling results. 

    by Erik Costlow, Principal Product Evangelist on August 13, 2020

    New research from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) Data Sciences and Analytics Group shows that 25% of vulnerabilities appear on social media before the National Vulnerability Database (NVD). And it takes an average of nearly 90 days between a vulnerability being discussed on social media and the time it shows up in the NVD.

    Vulnerabilities on Social Media

    The reasons application vulnerabilities show up this often on social media before they get logged in the NVB are multiple. For developers just starting out in their career or those learning about a specific piece of software, they may not know that something is a vulnerability, that vulnerabilities need to be treated differently, and/or how to report vulnerabilities. In some cases, they may not know if the “issue” they found is a true vulnerability. Naturally, they look to the tools they regularly use when connecting with other developers—social media channels like GitHub, Twitter, and the various forums and discussions housed on Reddit.

    Sometimes, developers may submit a potential vulnerability for discussion with other developers on one of the above social channels, and neither they nor the maintainer takes the time required to report it in the NVD. This makes sense: Developers are measured on the amount of code they write and the velocity of release cycles—not on the number of vulnerabilities they find and report. For “hobby” open-source developers, working on a project is fun; reporting vulnerabilities in a bureaucracy is not.

    But for those who rely exclusively on the NVD to identify new vulnerabilities, the risks of the wait can be significant. Indeed, once a vulnerability is made public, cyber criminals heed notice and attacks targeting that vulnerability are soon to follow. Relying solely on NVD data and using corresponding reports to decide if/when to upgrade a library create problematic blind spots.

    Reporting Vulnerabilities in Real Time

    There are several ways to report application vulnerabilities:

    Ways to Report Application Vulnerabilities

    One approach is to submit a formal Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) claim to the U.S. National Vulnerability Database (NVD). A CVE is an official designation that requires a fair amount of time and work from someone to review and verify the claim before it can be announced. All the while, the risk associated with that vulnerability is out there for cyber criminals to exploit as it awaits CVE recognition.

    The upside is the veracity of CVEs, which go through a gatekeeper to keep out the noise from incorrect reports or misconfigured systems. But there are no requirements around reporting vulnerabilities to the NVD. It is a voluntary process that many developers simply do not bother with. Thus, while CVEs are helpful, they only provide a slice of the total number of vulnerabilities that exist.

    Another way to report vulnerabilities is to participate in a bug bounty program, one that is directly offered by a software developer. In terms of visibility of potential risks, the bug bounty process is not as transparent as discussions that happen in social media public forums. Many companies feature bug bounty programs, and some governments sponsor bounty programs for critical open-source technology. Further, while defect reporting can initiate a direct conversation with the people who created the application, a lot of companies do not offer bug bounty programs. Finally, as with the NVB, the process may take time to investigate—exposing other users of the software to the associated risks.

    Reasons Why Social Media Captures New Vulnerabilities

    These are some of the reasons why social media is seen as an effective method for certain types of vulnerability reporting. There is essentially no barrier to entry. It is an open and public conversation—stored on record for further input and reference. On social media, if I discover a potential vulnerability, then I can send a tweet targeting a specific project manager or join an existing thread in an open-source community forum to get answers. Social media offers instant access and a much faster format for initiating a discussion with the right people. And the risk associated with each specific problem can be tracked at large.

    GitHub, in particular, is the world’s largest community for discussing source code—it is one of the primary locations where developers go to talk about their projects and compare notes. GitHub is huge and very influential—and it is still growing. In fact, the entire community for OpenJDK (open-source implementation of the Java Platform) recently moved over to GitHub from Mercurial. Nearly half of the time, a vulnerability discussion starts on GitHub and then moves over to Twitter and Reddit.

    The PNNL report also shows that human-generated social alerts are a lot more effective than those that are machine generated. For developers, it seems they want to hear from other developers and not simply automated machines. Automated alerts help on regular tasks like building reports. However, human attention on vulnerabilities reduces false-positive distractions and enables developers to remain focused on writing code. The takeaway is that developers will pay less attention to a bot-generated alert unless a human has taken time to look at what the bot has to say about a vulnerability and determined that it was significant.

    Is Open-Source Code More Vulnerable?

    The reason open source is so prominently featured has nothing to do with open source being less secure or more secure than custom code. It is really a question of quantity: There is a lot of open-source code available—and it continues to grow. Due to cost, convenience, and time to market, developers use a lot of open-source components in their applications. Indeed, software today is often built from as much as 90% open-source code—including hundreds of discrete libraries in a single application.

    Some additional findings in the PNNL report focus on vulnerabilities in open-source code. Research shows that 80% of code bases include at least one open-source vulnerability, with commercial code bases containing an average of 64 vulnerabilities.

    High usage means more proliferation of the existing vulnerabilities within open-source code. It is the same reasoning behind the fact that most car accidents happen close to the home—because that is where people spend their time. And the risks of open source are not just in terms of application security but also licensing complexities. As a result, developers need specific ways to track open-source issues in real time—waiting for a CVE to be publicly identified is not sufficient for eliminating these risks from their systems.

    Security Instrumentation Is More Effective Than Social Media  

    For developers, there are several ways that organizations can benefit from social media when it comes to application security. It starts with the basics—watching the way that people talk about their software to see if there are any conversations taking place that contain sensitive data. But as far as analyzing posts for vulnerabilities about different libraries or frameworks, there are probably too many conversations concurrently occurring for developers to effectively sort legitimate vulnerabilities from a sea of false alerts or general chatter. Gatekeepers like the NVD help filter out a lot of this sort of noise when vetting CVE submissions.

    Rather than monitoring social media reports, organizations should dedicate their energy toward developing robust security programs that can actually monitor and protect their systems. This includes activities such as hooking sensors into software to gain telemetry about security incidents, integrating security tools around a security information and event management (SIEM) solution, and developing a bug bounty program so that a broader community can report issues to you.

    To understand what systems are actually doing, organizations need sensors and telemetry information to observe their applications. Whether trying to decrease “mean time to reporting” or “mean time to resolution,” developers need detailed information about how applications actually operate in order to diagnose the problem and find a solution.

    Relying solely on external identification of vulnerabilities is always going to be slower and more generalized than being able to watch what is actually happening to an application in real time. Having sensors in place within the application code offers the highest level of visibility for understanding what is going on inside the application. The reality is that it is unlikely anyone will submit a CVE about a vulnerability within a piece of custom code. But sensors and telemetry data from within application runtime offer insights that inform developers on what vulnerabilities exist and which ones are most critical.

    That ability to observe application runtime also empowers developers to automate what comes next in most circumstances—whether sending alerts or taking a remediation action to prevent an exploit from successfully compromising an application. Or, when an attack against an application in production targets a CVE that is not actually present, security teams should just ignore that particular attack signature (thereby reducing time spent on false positives).

    For more on vulnerabilities identified through social media, check out my interview on the Inside AppSec podcast—“When Application Vulnerabilities Are First Reported on Social Media: Strategies and Recommendations.”

  • 28 Jul 2020 11:55 AM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Lance Concannon Lance Concannon, Marketing Director, Europe June 30, 2020

    NOTE: We spoke to several social media managers at large brands and agencies about the impact of working in social on their mental health. Quotes in this blog post that are not attributed to an individual are from those who wanted to participate in the discussion, but preferred to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the topic.

    This has been a tough year for a lot of people, and we’re only halfway through it. But today, on Social Media Day, we want to talk a little about the mental wellbeing of our colleagues who work on the front lines of social media.

    People who don’t work in the business might scoff at the very thought of social media being a tough job, but think about it for a minute. These days, when people are angry with an organization (or even a person) the first thing they’ll often do is fire off an angry message on social media, even if it’s completely undeserved.

    “I think the Yorkshire Tea example is a good one. ‘Sue, you’re shouting at tea’ is a sentence I will never forget. They voiced something a lot of people feel when managing accounts, that there is a real person behind the account, who is having to read all the criticism, puzzle over how to address it, and ‘accept it’ all, despite only being a representative of the company. If you wouldn’t say it to someone in person, maybe don’t type it in all-caps and send it to a company.” – Social Media Manager

    There’s something about the anonymity, or even just the detachment, that social media offers which makes a lot of people feel it’s OK to post hurtful, rude, often outright abusive comments with very little justification. Now imagine it’s your job to read and respond to those kinds of comments, while maintaining a measured, professional attitude under sometimes extreme provocation. That’s got to take a toll.

    Another aspect of social community management that people might not be aware of is that you have responsibility for dealing with all kinds of inappropriate material that gets posted on the brand’s channels. This can be as simple as comments containing bad language, or much worse.

    “There’s also the darker side of community management, for example, for some clients, I have seen a lot of uncomfortable and inappropriate content being sent, so being exposed to that was difficult too.” – Social Media Manager

    Putting aside the grind of dealing with that kind of negativity on a regular basis, working on the front lines of social media can be a stressful job. Before any senior executive is allowed to speak to a journalist, or otherwise act as a public spokesperson for a company, they have to be coached on what to say, work with public relations executives to fine tune the message, and take media training to prepare them for difficult questions.

    That’s because being the public voice of an organization is a big deal, and just a single poorly judged comment can have a direct impact on the public reputation of the business. When you’re representing a brand what you say matters and you need to be careful to get it right, all the time. And that’s what social media managers do all day, whether they’re posting content or responding to comments, they’re being the public voice of a brand.

    Annie Andoh, Social Media Manager at London’s V&A Museum says “It is one of the few professions where feedback is so swift and at times relentless as the barrier between what you produce and the audience is so fine. Whatever your role is, from a community manager, to content creator or to strategist, you are under a lot of pressure as ultimately you have to represent the brand in the best way you can.”

    Given that it’s often a job done by younger professionals, it’s a lot of responsibility and a lot of pressure. On top of always being careful to manage the tone and content of posts so that they match with the expectations of the brand, they need to keep one eye on their analytics to make sure they’re hitting engagement targets. Just like any other job, there are KPIs and targets that need to be met.

    But a lot of people don’t consider social media as a “real job” – it’s just posting stuff on Facebook and Twitter – so those who do work in the industry can feel as though their challenges are not taken seriously by others.

    “The majority of people have a social media presence now, so they think they know exactly what your job is. There is definitely more understanding, especially in the last few years with the rise of digital marketing and acknowledgement that social media is a powerful tool, but everything from the mental strain involved to the resource needed for the job is underestimated.” – Social Media Manager  

    This year, of course, the situation has become more difficult for many people as they have been required to work from home for extended periods of time, removing the emotional support that can come from sitting in an office with colleagues who are on your side. Being able to call or message a friendly co-worker can help, but it’s not quite the same as spending the working day in the same office with them. And when your office is also your home, it can be difficult to draw that line of separation that allows you to switch off from work at the end of a tough day.

    How to Protect Yourself

    So, if you work in social media, what can you do to protect your mental wellbeing in the face of all these challenges?

    One common piece of advice for coping with negative comments is to remind yourself that the person is angry with the brand, and not you personally, but that doesn’t always work. If you love your job, and you’re invested in the work your organization does, it’s hard not to be affected by those kind of attacks, even if they’re not directed at you.

    “By representing a brand online for work you do become very invested in it, and thus you do feel hurt by a barrage of criticism about it. Reading criticism of something you’re passionate about, whilst you’re in your own home, adds another dimension to the impact social media management might have on your mental health.” – Social Media Manager

    To get some real, practical advice on how people working in this business can safeguard their own mental health, we asked for some tips from Doctor Jillian Ney, a leading Digital Behavioral Psychologist, who specializes in social media:

    Dr Jillian Ney

    All across the internet, social media managers and content moderators are facing burnout and fatigue, in some more extreme circumstances even PTSD. The mental health of these people has only started to be discussed in the past couple of years.

    Triage Reports: figure out what content and conversations is a priority. It’s one of the biggest challenges faced by social media managers and content moderators. Having clear guidelines on what is critical, a priority, or simply background noise can help.

    Task Switching: when possible break up your day by switching tasks. I realise it might not be possible for everyone, but potentially something to raise internally. You can’t be effective or keep your spirits up when you’re only responding to engagement every day. Moderation, live engagement, crating reports for instance.

    Analyse the Comments: when you’re dealing with all this engagement and there are complaints it can be hard not to take them personally or be influenced by constant negativity. One way to help overcome this is to spend time analysing the types of interactions coming through and what they are about. For example, is 25% of the online interactions about a service disruption or common failure? These types of things can be fixed further upstream so you don’t have to handle them. This type of analysis also provides critical feedback to your company and you can better see that you should be taking criticism or negativity personally.

    I think we need to start to have more conversations with social media managers about the affect of their roles on mental health and start to better develop roles and processes that lower the impact. We know that social media has an influence on behaviour, that’s why money is invested in the platforms, interpersonal influence in social networks in huge.

    From a brand perspective, the people who are engaging with the content all the time are likely to be impacted too. We’ve seen more stories about the impact of moderating content from platforms Facebook and even Reddit, we also hear about everyday people being affected from social content. We now need to go further downstream to social media managers for brands and organisations to really understand the impact on mental health.

    Dr Jillian Ney

    Digital Behavioural Scientist

    The Social Intelligence Lab

  • 22 Jul 2020 5:25 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Customer Experience Update 

    Interesting article on the connection between customer service and social media. 


    Instagram social media

    There used to be a time when businesses would fight for expensive billboards in prime locations to get their advertisement to as many people as possible. Those days are long gone!

    Although billboards still exist, companies can reach a far larger audience by tapping into the emerging influencer market than they ever could in the physical world. Your customers now expect you to be active on social media, so they can easily reach your customer service representatives through sites like Instagram to get their concerns and complaints resolved.

    Benefits and challenges of using social media as a customer support tool

    Having an active customer support system on various social media platforms means your customers can reach you directly. Solving your customers’ problems quickly and efficiently will strengthen their trust and gain their loyalty. It also increases the likelihood that your existing customers will recommend your brand to other people and promote your brand through social media shout-outs and reviews.

    Remember that a positive word of mouth is essential, as 85% of the people look up online reviews when thinking of buying something. Seeing an endorsement of your product or service on social media will get them to buy from you and not your competitors.

    But keep in mind that using social media for customer service also comes with certain challenges. You require more followers on your accounts and pages to stand out. Your customer support representatives have to be trained to respond to everyone’s queries promptly and solve their complaints in an empathetic manner. The idea is to look like a trustworthy brand and be one with helpful people to provide customer service.

    When Instagram users are browsing through products, they may send a lot of inquiry messages. Many times, these messages don’t end up in a purchase. Learning how to maneuver through various types messages is essential to make sure you’re answering customers’ inquiries on time and managing your customer relationships in the best way possible.

    How can Instagram growth service improve your customer service

    A straightforward way to use social media as a customer service tool is to get help with tasks that can take up a large chunk of your time. While you manage the actual brand and provide customer support, an Instagram growth service like SimplyGram can help grow your Instagram account.

    Instagram marketing services make your Instagram profile accessible to your customers, so they can reach out for support wherever needed. On top of that, growth services get your posts to reach your target audiences and engage with them on your behalf and a lot more!

    Using a professional Instagram growth service is a great way to provide customer service to a targeted audience and eliminate the time-consuming daily tasks. An organic Instagram growth service can give you peace of mind and save you time and energy that you can spend on other essential tasks.


    The world of social media works very fast, presenting you with both opportunities and challenges. Your customers want quick solutions to their problems, and social media, if used correctly, can turn this challenge into an opportunity. The good news is that an Instagram growth service like SimplyGram can help you cater to a more extensive customer base and provide quick and better solutions. Getting some help from professional social media marketing services can make a world of difference in how your brand performs overall.

  • 13 Jul 2020 6:58 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Always great to see how social media can be added to traditional market research. This article was published in Social Media Today, and written by Ann Smarty. 

    Social media marketers are always looking for ways to diversify their tactics, and engage more and more of their followers more often.

    After all, it's getting harder and harder to get your customers' attention on social media, as they're bombarded by clickbaity headlines and highly targeted ads.

    So how do you cut through that noise and get your messaging noticed?

    Integrating question research into your process may be the tactic that you're looking for - here's an overview of the why and how of utilizing common queries into your approach. 

    Why question research?

    Knowing which questions your target customers are asking is useful for many reasons, including:

    • It helps you better understand your target audience and their struggles - When you start collecting and curating niche questions, you'll also find yourself relating to the people who are asking them - for some reason, seeing a full-sentence question can often make it easier to picture the actual circumstances behind asking it
    • It improves brand reputation - Answering popular questions across multiple channels will naturally attract customers who are seeking answers. In addition to this, providing timely answers to customers’ questions will win their hearts, and help turn them into brand advocates
    • It drives action - Questions have long been known to be effective action-drivers, which is why so many commercials start with a question. When hearing a question, we instinctively look for an answer, and that’s the type of attention a marketing message needs to prompt engagement

    Establishing your brand as a key source of knowledge on a topic can be a great way to maximize performance, and question research can play a key role in this effort.

    So how do you do it? First, you start with the right tools...

    Where to find popular niche questions?

    In order to answer key questions, you need research tools which can highlight common queries being posed online.

    Buzzsumo Question Analyzer keeps its own index of discussion boards, and it will show you popular discussions around your topic:

    Buzzsumo questions

    Text Optimizer, meanwhile, uses semantic research to extract niche questions, and analyze them based on popularity. You can select any question and get Text Optimizer to extract related concepts for you to add into your editorial calendar:

    Text Optimizer questions

    Answer The Public extracts questions from Google’s Suggest results, and organizes them by question word for a mind-map-like visualization:

    Answer the Public

    How to integrate question research into your social media marketing?

    Once you've run your query through the above tools (and also got together with your customer support and sales teams to generate more ideas based on them), the next stage is to integrate these findings into your actual social media marketing process?

    Here are a few ideas on how to expand your content efforts based on those results:

    1. Ask and Answer Questions in Your Updates and Photo Captions

    This is pretty self-explanatory - get your team address the key questions you've identified within their social media updates.

    When asking questions on social media, you want your followers to actually take the time to answer you, so stick to questions that are:

    • Timely - These revolve around a current trend, seasonal event or a hot topic.
    • Open - These promote open-ended discussion (yes/no is not enough for an answer).
    • Easy - These questions don’t require too much analysis, and invite impulsive or emotional answers. Don’t make it too hard to come up with an answer. Invite your followers to share their own experience - but it may be worth considering staying away from political or edgy topics. You want a discussion, not a fight. 

    Here’s an example of a simple question, well asked:


    Asking your question in the overlay of your social media image is even a better idea. This will make your social media updates even more engaging and shareable.

    Tools like Placeit can help you create your own style, and put together new social media graphics in minutes:

    Placeit social media images

    2. Host Live Events (Twitter Chats, AMAs, etc.) Around Those Questions

    If you discover interesting questions that you feel your customers may want to discuss, you can host a social media event to address it.

    You have a wide array of choices here, including:

    3. Monitor Questions, and Provide Answers Where You C

    Finally, this one should be handled with a degree of caution in order to ensure that your brand doesn't appear spammy or desparate. As such, I wouldn’t recommend automating this - but it has worked for me very well, especially when I'm looking to get a new site or a new project off the ground.

    Twitter enables you to search for and monitor questions: Add a space and a “?” after your keyword query, and you’ll prompt Twitter to show tweeted questions. You can monitor these questions using multiple columns inside Tweetdeck:

    Monitor questions

    If you do decide to chime in with an answer to any of the tweeted questions, stay away from being too promotional. Focus on being helpful:

    This approach can go a long way in establishing great niche connections:

    Answer questions Twitter


    On top of everything else, question research will help you and your team better understand and relate to your target audience. This will result in more informed marketing decisions, more effective buyer persona building, and increasingly targeted content.

    And by implementing your findings into your marketing process, you may also see immediate results, like more comments and clicks.

    Follow Ann Smarty on Twitter

  • 30 Jun 2020 3:27 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    SMRA's pick of the week from our friends at Talkwalker! What a great example of what social media can tell you. Great job guys!! 

    Talkwalker Blog Post:

    By Dan - June 30, 2020

    The coronavirus and the following economic turmoil has shaken businesses to the core. When the dust settles, and we adjust to the ‘new normal’ there will be brands that hold strong, and those struggling to survive. In this blog, we look at how the crisis impacted the world’s 50 most popular brands, and why that love could be the key to their survival.

    11 ways to build love for your brand

    The Brand Love Story

    In our latest report, the Brand Love Story 2020, we analyzed 781 global brands to identify the 50 most loved brands on social media. Brand love is an effective strategy for engaging your audience, improving advocacy and loyalty.

    But now, we’re going to look at how vital it is for cushioning your brand during a global crisis, and why having a strong relationship with your community ensures you can maintain fiscality during an economic downturn.

    The world’s 50 most popular brands

    When we look at our most loved brands, we can see that corona mentions peak on March 23.

    How world's 50 most popular brands survived the pandemic - COVID-19 Mentions

    The mentions of our 50 most loved brands alongside COVID-19 mentions over 6 months.

    This peak was when countries around the world engaged lockdown procedures, with a slight delay as brands took the time to adapt to the changes. To look at the impact of corona on these brands, we’ll take a look at data from two periods:

    • Before coronavirus. July 1 2019 to December 31 2019. A 6-month period before COVID-19 struck.
    • During coronavirus. March 1 to May 31. A 3 month period when the implications of COVID-19 were fully felt. During that time, at least 10% of total brand mentions per week included mentions of COVID-19 related topics. Before that date, it was 3% maximum.

    The tone of conversations changed ‘during coronavirus'. Joy was less prevalent in the 2020 mentions, with a drastic rise in disgust and fear.

    How world's 50 most popular brands survived the pandemic - Emotions over time

    Once the impact of COVID-19 started to hit, joy decreased, while digust dramatically peaked.

    Across the world, conversations became more somber, for both these loved brands, and overall. The pandemic, economic woes, isolation, job losses, and deaths, changed how consumers talk about brands. And how brands talk about themselves.

    And yet, the love these brands previously built for themselves shone through. The peak on March 23 was vastly positive.

    How world's 50 most popular brands survived the pandemic - Overall sentiment

    Although the emotional context of the brand mentions decreased, sentiment for our loved brands was still high.

    With many of those mentions packed with love related keywords. Yes, there was a crisis, and these brands had to react, but overall, they were able to mitigate the damage. And actually receive additional praise for their handling.

    Take a look at some of the most loved brands to see why...

    How loved brands are staying ahead of the competition

    Why the love for Nostalgia is boosting Lego’s success

    Lego was our most loved brand at the end of 2019 - with 2020 still bringing them positive results. With many people in lockdown, they turned to Lego to provide entertainment for all the family.

    Lego averaged 860,000 mentions per month ‘before coronavirus', but 983,000 mentions per month ‘during coronavirus'. An increase of 14%.

    This increase in mentions ties to an increase in demand. Sales of the construction toy peaked on eBay.

    How world's 50 most popular brands survived the pandemic - Lego sentiment changes

    Comparing our ‘before coronavirus' and ‘during coronavirus' periods, there was an increase in positive brand sentiment.

    Comparing the two periods, both negative and positive sentiment levels increased. Negative increases are to be expected, as people increased discussions about a negative topic (coronavirus) around the brand.

    The increase in positive mentions is the important factor here. People engaged with the brand positively, to counteract the global negativity. The brand love Lego had built, meant that people turned to them during the crisis for reassurance.

    Nostalgia is a vital part of this. During a major crisis, people want to tap into familiar things from the past. They literally want to relive “the good old days”. For many, Lego is a brand familiar from people’s youth, and being a construction toy for all ages, it was easy for everyone to turn to for comfort and reassurance.

    Lego supported this with numerous brand led campaigns, connecting with the pain-points consumers were feeling at the time.

    Lego’s #LetsBuildTogether campaign helped families and fans unite with joyful moments and positive experiences. The hashtag was mentioned 27,900 times over the three months, with 377,900 engagements (13.54 engagements per mention).


    Don’t underestimate the power of nostalgia. People will look to remember the good times, and by connecting your brand to those times, you’ll maximize love.

    Also, don’t let a crisis stop you from doing what has worked so well. People need distractions from the issues in the world. Continue to offer the content that people already engage with, just ensure you’re not blind to the crisis going on around you.

    How Four Seasons Hotels’ community efforts are helping it mitigate damage

    For a brand like Four Seasons, the crisis has been a challenge. With travel restrictions and cancellations, it was certainly not business as usual.

    Monthly mentions of the brand increased by 26% from our ‘before coronavirus' to ‘during coronavirus' periods, with 52.3% of those mentions being positive. As of yet, we haven’t seen a spike in mentions related to refunds or cancellations, compared to Airbnb with around 10% of their total brand mentions over the ‘during coronavirus' period related to the topic.

    How world's 50 most popular brands survived the pandemic - Four Seasons Keywords

    Four Seasons Hotels’ mentions were vastly positive - mainly due to one initiative from the company.

    Four Seasons was a loved brand, because of their strong consumer connections and CSR strategy. The company knows it’s vital to support the communities their hotels are part of.

    They opened the New York Four Seasons, to house medical personnel during the peak of the crisis in the city. The first to host healthcare workers free-of-charge.

    This response engaged the local community, and consumers across the world. But this wasn’t a one-off, it was a continuation of the efforts they support. As a moment of positivity in a particularly dark time, it will be remembered once the situation calms.

    A well-thought-out response can have a wide reaching impact.


    Even when things are bad, there are still opportunities to find the good. Even if you can’t see how they will impact your brand immediately. Often, these big, community-focused efforts are long-term commitments, which will pay off in the long run.

    Why Warner Bros.’ audience connection is nurturing consumers for future impact

    The last months have been turbulent for Warner Bros. The crisis has impacted cinemas, meaning delays for many of the big releases for the past few months (and the rest of summer). Yet, there’s been an increase in demand for home entertainment, especially projects from the TV and publication side of the brand.

    For the company, they needed to keep excitement for the brand and its properties ignited, to ensure success for the delayed releases. This meant upping their already successful social media and PR strategy, to maximize engagement. The average engagement in the ‘during coronavirus' period was 30.6 engagements per mention, compared to a before ‘coronavirus' rate of 24 engagements per mention. An increase of 27.5%.

    How world's 50 most popular brands survived the pandemic - Warner Bros word cloud

    Much of the Warner Bros. conversations are dominated by the brand’s franchises, movies, stars and actors.

    The brand knows that they drive love by continually feeding their fan bases with new content, and listening to what their audience wants. During the crisis, while it wasn’t possible to continue with the major releases as they’d planned, Warner Bros. could still be part of the conversations with teasers and snippets.

    They teamed up with Lego to release a special PSA to help children understand the crisis, and finally announced a project that had been in demand for a long time. A Snyder cut of the Justice League movie.

    How world's 50 most popular brands survived the pandemic - Snyder cut mentions

    Demand for a director’s cut of the Justice League movie has been in demand for a while. So when Warner Bros. officially announced it, mentions went through the roof.

    The announcement was something the community had wanted for a long time. And was just what was needed for people to look forward to post lockdown. This unity between brand and consumer should aid the company’s recovery in the coming months.

    Fans and stars are equally excited about the upcoming release - which should help boost the figures of Warner Bros. sister company HBO Max.


    Even if you can’t make immediate sales, you can still nurture your audience. Tease, tempt, inform, so when the opportunity does arise, your customers will be in the ideal place to buy.

    And constantly listen to your audience. Social listening can show you exactly what consumers want. With those insights in hand, you can always meet customer expectations.

    How brand love helps brands remain industry leaders

    Why travel woes have had less impact on loved tourism brands

    With enforced closures and travel restrictions across the globe, the tourism industry has been badly impacted. In the ‘during coronavirus' period, there were 7.3M mentions of refunds or cancellations in relation to the industry. Companies not only faced a shortage of income, but saw huge outgoing cash flow, with varying levels of government support.

    How world's 50 most popular brands survived the pandemic - Hospitality refunds mentions

    Mentions of refunds and cancellations within the tourism industry spiked as lockdown took hold.

    For all airline mentions, 31.2% were negative and only 11.6% positive ‘during coronavirus', compared to 21% negative and 44% positive in the ‘before coronavirus' period. Many companies struggled to cope with the demand for refunds, while juggling reduced staff levels. While the decision to offer vouchers instead of cash refunds also riled customers. It became such an issue, a ranking was set up on who was the worst at offering refunds…

    With 1.8k engagements, tweets like this show how important refunds are to consumers.

    For the two airlines that made the Brand Love Story, Singapore Airlines, and Etihad Airways, the downturn is less noticeable.

    How world's 50 most popular brands survived the pandemic - Singapore Airlines Etihad Airways sentiment

    Even in the crisis, Etihad Airways has more positive mentions than negative ones.

    Etihad Airways maintained their brand love, through their continued sport sponsorship and CSR efforts, while Singapore Airlines (and their sub-brand, Scoot) maintained a transparent communication strategy with their consumers.

    With so much uncertainty during a crisis, brands need to be open and confident in their messaging.

    A similarly hit industry was cruise lines - faced with the same travel restrictions as airlines, with the added risk of ships themselves becoming virus epicenters.

    31% of mentions related to cruising were negative during the ‘during coronavirus' period. But our most loved Cruise Company, Celebrity Cruises, had only 1.6% negative mentions. It was staying afloat in a stormy industry.


    Being a loved brand won’t entirely protect you from a major crisis, but it can significantly mitigate the damage. The built up deposits of brand love help you weather the situation - it takes a lot for a brand advocate to turn into a critic.

    Plus, the methods that loved brands use to keep customers happy during the better times, also work just as effectively during a crisis. The connections these brands have built, help them to adapt the conversations quickly, to diffuse issues quickly.

    How loved brands took an unfair share of industry growth

    The lockdown had a massive impact on consumer buying habits. Essential products such as food and hygiene products became priority, with many supermarkets seeing an increase in demand, leading to shortages of some products.

    For many, chocolate became an essential comfort food during lockdown. With mentions increasing from 3.53 million mentions per month ‘before coronavirus' to 4.73 million (+34%) ‘during coronavirus'.

    How world's 50 most popular brands survived the pandemic - Chocolate image recognition

    By using image recognition, we can detect brand images in posts. Cadbury dominated the visual conversations during the lockdown.

    When people turned to the comfort of chocolate, it was Cadbury, the much-loved brand, they turned to first. With Dove coming in second place. Demonstrating again the importance of brand love - the relationship you build now will be there even when times are critical.

    Cadbury was the brand that people turned to during lockdown.

    The same can be seen for major retailers. Whole Foods Market saw their average engagement per mention increase from 30.7 ‘before coronavirus' to 48.4 ‘ during coronavirus'.

    The brand did have to adapt to meet the increase in demand, which brought challenges of their own. Ensuring supply meant increasing staff numbers, while minimizing staff risk. They also tackled brand shortages by introducing ‘senior’ opening hours. Overall, the brand did suffer from some negative press, but because of their established reputation as a loved brand, they were able to shake off the worst of it, with little change to their sentiment.

    Whole Foods was one of the brands consumers missed during lockdown. A clear sign of love.


    In any crisis, there are some industries that will still profit. But for the brands within those industries, there will still be varying levels of success.

    With less choice, consumers will turn to the brands they feel more connected to - the ones they love. That usually means those brands take an unfair slice of the spend available.

    Of course, these brands still have their work cut out for them, managing the challenges a crisis brings. But the effective social media and PR plans they have in place helps them manage these issues effectively.


    Brand love really does make a difference to a brand. During boom and during bust. When you’re facing unprecedented issues, or increased demand.

    By following the 11 methods that the world’s 50 most popular brands use, you’ll nurture a loyal audience that connects with your brand, engages with your messages, and will stand by you even through the toughest times.

  • 22 Jun 2020 6:43 AM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)


    Jim Matorin, of Smartketing and Advisor of the Social Media Research Associate. 

    New World Data Treasure Throve

    By the numbers: Adobe Analytics reported total online U.S. sales increased 25% on average at the end of March compared to early March; grocery 100%. A short-term anomaly attributed to the shelter-in-place phase of the COVID-19 pandemic? Not according to data analytics. The spike in online sales was primarily driven by two demographic groups: Millennials and higher-income consumers. For that reason, this does not represent a temporary shift in consumer buying habits. Smart marketers forecast more consumers will continue to reduce their in-person activities and further adapt to the convenience of digital technologies. eMarketer projects 7.4 million new digital buyers in 2020.

    The surge in online sales during the COVID-19 health crisis generated a plethora of data points. For starters, marketers will undoubtedly benefit from the utilization of AI to analyze their customer data and leverage machine learning algorithms to personalize their future marketing messages. Specifically, by mining the new pandemic treasure trove of online data, marketers will be able to analyze/learn the purchase journey for all individuals. Some examples:

    • Household essentials.
    • Food-away-from-home delivery: time of day, as well as food preferences.
    • Browsing history.
    • App utilization.
    • Devices utilized for entertainment, downloading e-books, social networking, etc.
    • The addresses, both physical and online for each customer.

    Second, marketers will utilize the data to engage with their customers, recommend products, offer dynamic pricing (a.k.a. discounts) to build long-term brand loyalty/trust. Last of all, thanks to AI, marketers will utilize the data to optimize their advertising, thus deliver relevant, real time marketing content to their customers when they are in the digital world.

    In closing, Gartner research predicted at the beginning of the year 2020, 90% of the brands will use some form of marketing personalization. Conversely, they believe most will fail delivering the relevant content their consumers seek. However, based on the increased utilization of digital technologies due to the COVID-19 pandemic, marketers now have a silver lining – a treasure trove of consumer data to connect with their buyers and build long-term loyalty.       

  • 11 Jun 2020 8:05 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    There has been so much talk about TikTok  and as people are quarantined many are using it for the first time. Today, we share a good case study on how to use hashtags in your TikTok campaign. 

    From: Social Media Today


    Andrew Hutchinson


    Are you looking to add TikTok into your digital marketing mix? Wondering how you can tap into the key trends of the platform to maximize your messaging?

    This week, TikTok has published a new case study which provides a basic overview of how to run one of the most successful promotional options on the platform - a branded hashtag challenge.

    Branded hashtag challenges are just as they sound - brands create a specific hashtag linked to a video challenge, which they can then use to expand their messaging by facilitating an interactive, engaging video response campaign. That's not necessarily easy - you can't just come up with any idea and expect TikTok users to follow along. But if you can come up with an interesting, engaging idea, which enables users to provide their own creative takes, it can definitely have significant reach and brand awareness benefits.

    The case study looks at ZALORA, a fashion eCommerce platform in Asia. ZALORA sought to use TikTok to promote its upcoming fashion festival in Singapore, so it worked with TikTok on a branded hashtag challenge to engage the TikTok community.

    "Set to the tune of the campaign's custom Branded Music, ZALORA’s #ZStyleNow Challenge invited participants to flash a “Z” hand signal, which would trigger the guise of an instant outfit change. Plus, it was an opportunity for users to show off their wardrobe and inner fashionista to their world, which gelled perfectly with TikTok's group of young audiences who use TikTok as their de facto platform for self-expression."

    Again, that's not necessarily simple - you need an engaging idea, and ideally music, to get more people involved. And as you can see in this example, ZALORA also used a financial incentive to prompt further engagement, with a giveaway of up to $200 in ZALORA products per winner.

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