Three Unique Insights You Can Get from Social Listening

My last post gives an introduction to social listening and the benefits it can provide to an arts organization. This post explains a few specific insights an arts organization can derive from social listening.

So, you have your social listening data, now what? With the astounding rate at which tweets are published every day, harvesting data from multiple social media sources on your specific organization may get exhausting. If you are not exactly sure what to do with your data, here are a few pointers that may guide you in the right direction.


By definition, sentiment analysis is the process of sorting data into three categories: positive, neutral, or negative. While completing sentiment analysis, an analyst or machine finds types of words in a specific document, and then determines the general sentiment of that document from the different sentiments of those individual words. For example, a review that remarks, “the food was good, I loved it a lot,” will have a positive sentiment, because the phrases “good,” and “loved it a lot” are positive.

While sentiment analysis has the potential to provide valuable insight, there are a few challenges. One problem is that the process does not account for nuances in text. As humans, we do not write things that are completely positive, completely neutral, or completely negative. In addition, writers often employ sarcasm or irony in text that a computer will not understand. There may even be many words that are both positive and negative.

One perfect example would be analyzing the sentiment of a critic that just experienced a performance. There might be positive words, such as “majestic,” “lively,” and “favorite,” but there may be just as many negative words, such as “slow,” “boring,” or “too much.” Luckily, there are pre-determined dictionaries that measure these types of words based on how strongly positive, neutral, or weak they are. In the end, if there are many reviews, tweets, or Facebook posts that are showing up as generally positive or generally negative, it provides valuable insight even if individual reviews are mixed.

Audience Desires

Social Listening can provide the “why” behind data trends. Without social listening, arts managers may see a decline in ticket sales but may not understand what was the cause. Utilizing social listening tools to hear the audience within your specific arts-related discipline combats that uncertainty.

In the recent 2014 Culture Track by La Placa Cohen, Millennials – audiences defined by La Placa Cohen as those from the ages 18-29 – are actually attending, on average, 1.75 cultural events per month. This is more than any other generation. In the same study, Millennials report that social media is one of their primary sources for information about events, and that going alone to performances is a barrier for attendance. An arts organization can infer these types of trends from social media posts, and cross-reference it with other studies. Posts such as, “Anyone want to see this concert with me? I’ve got an extra ticket” or even, “Having a great time at this concert with my friends!” can show that socializing at art events produces a positive sentiment, as well as delivers a great experience for your audience.

However, an arts organization does not have to listen to their specific audience to understand what their audiences want. They can see what other people on social media are engaged in, and can parallel that in their own innovative purpose. However, take caution: after researching what the general audience wants, there must be a strategy to implement that specific technique in a way that the consumer can enjoy it and your art. Having free selfie sticks in the lobby will follow the “new” thing, but if it does not fulfill the mission or have anything to do with the programming, better stay away from it.

Questions and Feedback

General questions and feedback provide huge insights for an arts organization. For example, audience members who went to an orchestra concert may be confused as to why a specific composer wrote a particular piece, or why the concessions stand was hard to find. Performance organizations can use this to their advantage by reaching out to these patrons and addressing their questions. Not only does it give it a personal touch to the customer relationship, but it demonstrates to your audience the organization’s potential to solve problems.

Additionally, this insight can be beneficial to arts organizations that have their own apps. With reviews left on social media sites, organizations can easily analyze the posts’ positive, neutral, or negative sentiment about their app, and react quickly by fixing a bug or an interface issue. They also could analyze any AMT-Lab’s reviews of their app to find what works for their audience, and what would help in the future. Social Listening Examiner claims that by utilizing social listening, you can identify problems early on in an [app’s] lifecycle. If an organization does not utilize social listening, chances are they will not know what to do to fix the app, if they even know what's wrong. This will lead to high user drop off rates, which, according to Capacity Interactive, is one of the top five reasons not to build an app

These three examples are just the beginning of what social listening can do. These simply serve as an example to demonstrate the wealth of information social listening reveals. Whether your goal is to get feedback on your newly designed app, or gauge a general reaction to your 4-month long exhibition, social listening can achieve these goals thoroughly and efficiently. 

Banner image by Rosaura Ochoa, licensed under Creative Commons.

In text Image: Unknown Author: Licensed Under Creative Commons