Stop Listening, Start Watching. How Interest-Based Segmentation Gets to the Heart of Consumers

By: Hannah Chapple
In recent years, we’ve seen companies increase their
reliance on social data. Why? Today there are more social signals than ever.
Consumers are sharing comments, their interests, thoughts, and more online. The
result being an incredible amount of consumer-provided data at our fingertips.
The problem facing marketers is trying to make sense of the
deep end of social data. One way we’ve seen businesses and big brands try to
make sense of this data is by investing in a little something called social listening.
If we watch and listen to what consumers are saying in real-time, we’ll paint a
more accurate picture of them, right? Wrong.
Social listening is biased. Many times our online persona is
different than who we are or doesn’t show us in our entirety. And only a small
percentage of those online ever actually engage or vocalize their thoughts,
interests, and beliefs ‘ the consumer insights that companies crave.
I’ll use myself as an example. If you comb through my social
feeds (and please, don’t feel you have to) you’ll find my comments and a flurry
of articles shared on all things marketing. While I am interested in this
stuff, yes (it’s my profession after all), it is not the complete picture of
who Hannah is as a person.
So how do we get to
the heart of the consumer?
One way companies can figure out who their consumers are and
what they want is by leveraging interest-based segmentation.
Interest-based segmentation is when individuals are
clustered and segmented into naturally-occurring, unbiased clusters, by looking
at who or what they choose to follow. Instead of focusing on the vocal
minority, at Affinio we consider
following patterns and interest data to be paramount to listening or
traditional research methods. 

 Image: Interest-based
clusters generated by Affinio
Following and connecting with other people is a fundamental
property of social behaviour. It is also a silent action, whereas social biases
might keep individuals from being honest about their interests (who they
follow) or what they talk about in person. The takeaway: you wouldn’t know
everything that I’m interested in just by looking at what I say, but you would
understand my interests by looking at who I follow.
By focusing on how an audience is connected (analyzing their
shared interests and affinities), interest-based segmentation gets to the very
heart of the consumer. Instantly, companies can identify who and what their
audience cares about, even if they’ve never vocalized it. Or if they have, this
method validates that finding. This approach places focus on the honest
relationships consumers have built and maintained and lets marketers understand
their audience as human beings and not one-dimensional data points.

About the Author: Hannah
Chapple is the Marketing & Content Coordinator at Affinio, the marketing
intelligence platform. Hannah holds a Bachelor of Business Administration with
a major in Marketing from the F.C. Manning School of Business at Acadia