The 2nd P of social listening – PEOPLE are more than just customers

The 2nd P of social listening – PEOPLE are more than just customers


In the effort to rationalize social listening, I’m using the 5 P’s system that refocuses the listening process on what really counts in social media. My previous posts deals with the slightly tedious yet important first P: PRODUCT. It’s about understanding what is the object(s) of your search and prioritizing your data collection (among many other use cases).

The second P is probably the most important since this is precisely what social media is about: PEOPLE.

PEOPLE, and not just CONSUMER.

We hear too much about VOICE OF THE CONSUMER, ERA OF THE CONSUMER, … and even though it’s not completely wrong, it’s very restrictive and leading most of the time to counter-productive strategies.

Even though our world is often seen only as a consumerist world with the sole motto “I buy therefore I am”, people (the connected one) see themselves as people first, not as buyers.  The social media revolution is the era of people having individual voices, a spin-off of the Warhol “prophecy” come true.

People connect with their peers, ask or give advice, complain, … well, the list is almost endless, and purchase decisions are just a part of the time spent online.

I don’t deny the reality of business and revenue-driven objectives, but when it comes to social media, we should see revenue more as a byproduct of success, and not be blindsided solely by that big dollar sign. And the other way around, organizations are not charities and cannot have a whole part of their communication strategy left to web idealists. So science (or data science) should be leading the new communication strategies.

It’s easier said than done. When considering people, there are tens if not hundreds of thousands of possible variables to describe an individual, or a group of individuals. Renowned statistician  Bradley Efron mentioned that we’re in the 3rd era of statistics, which is scientific mass production. The deluge aspect doesn’t only apply to data, but also to the questions to be answered, with thousands of potential hypotheses to be tested.

So the key thing here for the social media manager is to provide for a complete and tidy dataset, the complexity and large quantity of variables must go along with a clear and comprehensive taxonomy/labeling.

Since we ‘re in the era of people (and all AI disciplines seem to announce a next era of smart machine/enhanced human combos), we should try to understand people better. I’m aware of the impossible task and probably the arrogance in trying to do so with storytellers and scientists of all ages bringing great contributions, but my purpose here was to integrate in the 5 P’s system a reflection part on some social classification systems already existing, and how they can help us understand things better.


In spite of what we often hear, the way marketers understand their audience and conduct their market surveys won’t disappear, neither will demographic profiling and marketing segments. They have the advantage to be intuitive, make complete sense and be extremely simple for anyone to understand. But we have to be aware that the way we understand the market segmentation until now is just one out of millions of possible extrapolations.

Big data is not just about the volume of observations, it’s also about an almost infinite number of variables being available and that go beyond the good old-fashioned data processing the human brain is performing until now.

We’re just at the beginning and we will still discover new ways to correlate unexpected variables to the way our audiences behave.


“To be” in Spanish can be the verb “ser”, those are things that do not change, what defines you over time (physical description, strong character traits) and “estar”, or the condition of a moment (got a cold, be between jobs, …).

This is an important point when collecting data and recording personality “clues” in the appropriate keys of your dataset. Also when trying to understand human behavior with some models. When looking at the Plutchik’s emotion wheel for instance, those are emotions of the moment, in a given context, it’s in the “estar” scope. Although some


I’ll go quickly through a few well-established models to try getting more understanding of the task at hand when trying to understand the people of social media.

  • Maslow pyramid of needs
  • Storytelling concepts such as character archetypes and needs, I’ll base this mostly on John Truby’s “Anatomy of Story”, which I find to be one of the most hands-on authoritative book.
  • Plutchik’s wheel of emotions (although this will be more used in the PERCEPTION section)
  • A profane listing of principles in psychology.
  • And in contrast, the fairly limited CRM segmentation of customers that exist today. All financial info is there with a great deal of details, maybe a couple of background and behavioral elements, but that’s it. And that’s where organizations miss out on the social media revolution, by focusing solely on their understanding of what will bring them a quick revenue instead of understanding and exploiting the data out there for a more sustainable relationship with their ecosystem.


In addition to a somewhat pontificating content, there is some very concrete use of spending your time reading this, and the articles coming up next.

1 – Starting point for your communication strategy:

Your audiences drive and define your listening strategy.

So if you’re lost when auditing or starting your social strategy from scratch, or daunted by the vast task, defining your audiences will be a good starting point.

And there can be more types of audiences that you suspect. You’ll find a few examples below.


The list can grow really long and as it gets more fine-grained, and a good social media manager caters to all audiences. The overall process could look like this:


  1. New creative ways to understand your audiences

The buzz word the past few years is “disruption”, and the next generation of “disruption” must be data-based, taking into account a maximum of human-centric factors. Since we have to cluster things in some way, understanding what to cluster will be only as good as the variables you inform. That’s where the work of researchers and artists can help discover new ways to understand audiences.


  1. Build a better persona

We’ll come back to this, but it’s impossible for a corporation to mimic a human person, which would be key to have an equal to equal conversation in social media. But being reminded the many aspects of human nature through the prism of existing models can trigger new ways to shape your social corporate persona, and make informed decisions.


  1. Make your data scientists happy

Data scientists can work miracles, but it comes with tidy data. You have to imagine a spreadsheet: each variable is a column, each row contains an observation, and one table per observation entity (with at least one column cross-referencing to other tables).

It’s not easy when dealing with human nature and semantics, but everything you record under another format will be only difficulty used. Again, going out of the scope of the current CRM entries and understanding better which human variables you can obtain will put you in the right direction.


  1. Focus your social listening and engagement strategies

We’ll see soon that the list of audiences and your analytics can grow very fast as we get more fine-grained into human factors, leading to something a human brain cannot process that easily. Some techniques like SVD (singular value decomposition), PCA (principal component analysis), or other techniques, will distillate for you what really matters and help prioritize your social endeavors where you can unveil new audience patterns. This will have a strong impact not only on your communication, but also your offering and how you should act as an organization.

That much being said, I’m moving now to the first part of my expose, Maslow and the social media paradigm (coming up in a few days).



We’ll look, through the prism of the pyramid of needs, at several types of persons: the offline human (the classic Maslow pyramid), the digital human (the connected man of the present and the enhanced man of the near future), the corporation, and the employee of the corporation.

Thanks for reading through the last lines of this post, and feel free to reach out for any comment, or share any insights you have on the topic.


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